Thursday, June 18, 2009

Friday 5: Twitter 101

I must apologize for the gaps in Friday 5 production! I've had a very busy spring, mostly because I changed jobs about a month ago. I am still working at the University of Chicago, only I am working with a different unit, the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education. This group is responsible for the development of Everyday Math if you are familiar with this elementary curriculum. I will be working on a variety of projects for CEMSE and I'm thrilled for this opportunity. For you, this will probably mean more Friday 5s on math and science topics! 

Anyway, this week's list is prompted by the media buzz surrounding the recent Iranian elections and the influence of Twitter upon the dissemination of information flowing from that region. If you have been living under a rock which many teachers in the US are at this time of year, check out this New York Times article.  

To put it simply, Twitter is a microblogging tool in which you post messages of 140 characters or less. Your "tweets" are only seen by those that "follow" you. Your followers usually are friends, family and/or people that have similar interests. You are prompted to answer a question, "What are you doing?" which is taken literally by many people. Hence, you may run into pretty mundane and pointless tweets from people like celebrity Ashton Kutcher (example: "I hate the after working out feeling like I'm gonna throw up feeling. I hate it, but I love it. lol"). Hopefully, you'll see Ashton as a cautionary tale and you'll learn to tweet stuff that your followers will find useful or at least interesting. 

When used well, Twitter can be the most powerful professional development tool in your education arsenal. I follow many people and organizations related to areas that interest me: education, technology, Apple, Google, global education etc. I use a tool called Tweetdeck to manage all of this, and with Tweetdeck, I can do searches of other tweets on topics that interest me. For instance, I have a search set up for Everyday Math, global education and citizen science right now. I have discovered a plethora of resources and other people to follow through searching. I also like to share what I find, and giving back to those you follow is an important part of Twitter culture.  

At any rate, Twitter is something that you are not going to really get unless you jump in and try it. Explore and stick with using this amazing tool and I think you'll see what all the recent buzz is about. To get started, make a Twitter account and check out the following resources:  

1. Twitter in Plain English - a great video that explains Twitter in a nutshell 
2. 7 Things You Should Know about Twitter -Educause publishes a series of excellent articles detailing new and emerging technologies.  
3. Tweetdeck -Use this third party app to manage Twitter. It's much better than using the Twitter web interface.  
4. TwitThis -Install this tool into your browser's toolbar so that you can share web sites on the fly as you surf.  
5. Hootsuite -This is a great tool for managing multiple Twitter accounts. Try this out once you've mastered Twitter basics.  
6. Twitter Freaks Group -If you get hooked on Twitter and want to learn more about other tools have been developed to harness its power, join my Twitter Freak group and browse the many resources that have been shared to this bookmarking group.