A Whole New World

Do you ever notice how, when something is on your mind, it seems as though suddenly you stumble upon ideas/information/associations related to that something?   This happens to me on many occasions.  For instance, when we were expecting our first child, it seemed as though all of a sudden the world was full of literature on having a babies, raising children, etc.  It seemed as though many friends and acquaintances were also pregnant, magazine and news headings seemed to be written specifically for us, etc.   Another example is that this past spring/summer, I wanted to learn more about geocaching.  Once I had the idea, ‘out of the blue’ came articles in magazines, news stories on Canada AM, friends who approached me to learn more about geocaching, the opportunity to create a geocache and do some geocaching with my family,  the ‘OK’ from my supervisor to lead a geocaching activity with administrators, etc.  The same thing has happened with Twitter.  I realize Twitter has been around for about four years, but I haven’t paid much attention to it.  After being challenged to create a Twitter account in our ECI831 course, information on Twitter has entered my world.  For instance, I was recently at a bookstore and the first two books I saw upon entering the bargain section were a book titled, “twitterature” by Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin and one titled, “The Twitter Book” by Tim O-Reilly and Sarah Milstein.  Needless to say, I purchased both! 

twitterature” is a fun-read as it is an “amalgamation of ‘twitter’ and ‘literature’” and contains ‘humourous reworkings of literary classics for the twenty-first-century intellect, in digestible portions of 20 tweets or fewer”.  (Aciman & Rensin, 2009).  The authors take a number of classics such as ‘Paradise Lost’, ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘The Iliad’, ‘Hamlet’, etc. and recreate them using common Twitter conventions.     

 “The Twitter Book” by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein offers some practical information and great visuals on why Twitter is such a popular networking tool, how to set up an account, how to use advanced features, etc.  I have summarized a few points I found most useful at this stage of my learning about this social networking tool.

I know we talked about the hash tag in class.   When Dr. Couros pointed out to us what it looked like during an Elluminate session, I thought it looked like (#) what I have always referred to as the ‘pound key’.  I was thrilled to discover that the hash tag is actually just another name for the pound key!    

Why is Twitter useful?

  • Great tool for sharing ideas, thoughts, and comments about things we care about and have expertise in.
  • Being that conversations are in almost real-time, it is an excellent tool for sharing breaking news stories, related experiences, etc.   Remember the miraculous US Airways plane landing on the Hudson river?  People were twittering pictures and information as the story was unfolding.  In times of recent natural disasters, Twitter has been an amazing way for people to track and keep tabs on their loved ones. 
  • Allows you to connect to people in many ways.  Twitter allows you to find out what individuals and groups of individuals are thinking about. 

Although I can see why Twitter is useful, my transition into the world of Twitter has been rather awkward and clumsy, and I am still having some difficulty seeing why people are so excited and enthusiastic about using this tool.  I am new to this world of Twitter and must remind myself of one of my previous posts in which I acknowledged that it is “OK” to “Start Where I Am” in relation to my learning.  I have a very limited digital presence, do not have a Facebook profile, have never used Twitter, etc.  As a result, I decided I would follow a number of the steps as suggested in “The Twitter Book”.  I have signed up for an account, created a profile, and ‘followed’ a number of individuals including the credit-students in our ECI831 course.  I have also used the ‘find people’ link to locate a few individuals I know to add to the individuals I am following.  The difficulty I am experiencing is that not many of my colleagues or friends use this tool.  Through our ECI831 course, I am getting the sense that a number of my peers have connected via Twitter and other social networking tools prior to the course and already have an established network from which to work.  I think this makes it easier to see the power of collaborating, sharing, and creating using this form of social media.  I am learning a lot by observing what others are doing and how they are using this tool.  I am determined to continue exploring its possibilities even though I am not yet feeling the connectedness that others are….   

“The Twitter Book” was helpful in pointing out the Twitter search website which allows one to search for information using various keywords.  It is through this search website that I experimented with a variety of keyword searches.  For example, I located this information when I searched for eci831 

Twitter Search Website Capture

What I noticed in this ECI831 search is that a number of my classmates are already able to use Twitter as a powerful networking tool.  For instance, I noticed one of our classmates created a form for our class which asks people to provide her with information on blogs in the classroom.  Other classmates and mentors have ‘retweeted her post which gives her message more mileage and will provide her with effective feedback for her planned project.  It seems as though retweeting is a key component of Twitter.  In a related article I read called, “Enhance Your Twitter Experience” by Shannon McClintock Miller in the June/July 2010 issue of “Leading & Learning with Technology”, it is suggested that it is important to be strategic in your approach to Twitter by spending about 70% of time on Twitter should be dedicated to sharing other voices, opinions, and tools, 20% of the time should be focussed on responding, connecting, collaborating, and co-creating, while 10% is devoted to idol chit-chat and becoming connected on a very human and personal level.  The article also suggests downloading tools such as Tweet Deck to allow for effective organization of Twitter activity.  Since I am new to the world of Twitter, am trying follow these suggestions. 

In relation to the search feature, I tried performing a few searches on Career Development, Career Counselling, etc.  What I am finding is that there are extremely varied ideas around the concept of “career”.  I am currently following a few different profiles related to career development to see if they lead to something useful.   I am going to remain a ‘lurker’ for a while!  

In reading “The Twitter Book”, I discovered a few Twitter Tips useful to my stage of learning:

  • For help shrinking your tweets down to 140 characters, try 140it which uses commonly used cutting conventions to shorten original posts.  (page 35).  This has been very helpful to me as I am obviously a wordy and can use some help being concise.  
  • Use a service such as bit.ly  (http://bit.ly) to shorten and track the original URL if including a link in a Tweet.  Because Twitter operates on 140 characters or less, long URL’s can take up too much of the message.  Another useful tool to shorten a long URL but also holds true to portions of the original domain name, use Twi.bz. 
  • Twitter is accessible for basically anywhere with the use of a computer, smart phone, etc.  Very cool!

I have noticed that sometimes when I try to sign onto Twitter, I receive a screen saying the service is currently overloaded.  Apparently this happens fairly often and, as an interesting point, Twitter has an image of what they call the “Fail Whale” which pops up when the service is being oversubscribed to.  The image of the whale was created by Yiyink Lu, who originally posted the picture to iStockPhoto.  The co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone, saw it and Twitter made arrangements to use it.  For more information see an interview with the Fail Whale artist at this website

In an article called “Join the Flock” by Hadley Ferguson in the June July 2010  Learning and Leading with Technology Journal, the author speaks of how to build and create a professional learning network using Twitter.  I live in small rural community and, although I have attempted to stay connected with other career practitioners throughout the province, it is difficult to do given time, geographics, etc.  I have often felt the sense of working in isolation despite many efforts to stay connected with other career development professionals.  With the amalgamation of several other small rural school divisions over 4 years ago, I have been fortunate to be able to engage in many face-to-face career development meetings, connect with colleagues using Bridgit, email, etc., but now I think I am ready to investigate additional networking possibilities and am intrigued by concept of Twitter even though I have not experienced much success with it as of yet.  In reading the “Join the Flock” article, I am encouraged at the fact that it mentions developing a PLN takes time and that I have already completed a number of the necessary tasks that will help me on my way to establishing connections on Twitter such as creating an account, learning to follow, watching and listening, retweeting, tagging tweets, etc.  I am committed to continuing to explore this new world.


~ by lewisv on October 31, 2010.

8 Responses to “A Whole New World”

  1. You’ve definitely done your research on effective ways to use the information found via Twitter! It was intimidating to jump in at first, but now, it’s become part of what I do each day. I check out Tweetdeck before I read my work email in the morning. 🙂 Developing a PLN does take time, and it can be discouraging in the beginning. It’s easy to think, “What do I possibly have to contribute?” I can tell that you have a lot to contribute, so I hope you’ll continue to do so!

  2. After reading your post, I decided to find you on twitter and follow you! I also copied the url for this blog and posted it on my school division’s yammer network to try to encourage some of my colleagues to give twitter a try! Thanks for sharing your learning about twitter!

  3. You are inspiring me to look again at twitter. Thank you.

    I have probably already shared this on somebody else’s blog, but my favorite twitterature is by Dave Bonta. He describes the world from his front porch every morning in 140 characters or less. It is pure poetry and I LOVE it!


  4. […] of using this tool to collaborate and share with others.  Thanks to a few mentions to my “A Whole New World” post on using Twitter from the perspective of a new user, I had more views on my blog than I […]

  5. I call it synchronicity. (As a front-end baby boomer, I found that what I become interested in became very popular shortly after because the bulk of the population reached that stage a little after me.)
    I found your article interesting because it mirrored my own experience. I didn’t use Facebook till my cross-continent sister gave me a book about it. I still haven’t read it, but that got me going, and through immersion and the help button I learned enough to have fun. In Twitter, my technical questions were answered at mashable.com, and then through following tweets from other educators.
    The biggest problem I’m finding is that other teachers think that Twitter is frivolous. I recently found the statement: Facebook is a social networking site; Twitter is an information sharing site. In my mind, that clarifies it, but to someone who’s never gone into Twitter, it says nothing. And the potential for professional development floats invisibly in the wifi waves around them.
    Enjoy yourself, and enjoy implementing even a fraction of what you’ll be exposed to. Lucky students!

  6. Why tweet? Twitter has helped me build new relationships that I otherwise would not have in my day to day personal and professional life. It does take time to build your PLN. What’s most exciting is that you are modelling how connecting today is about networking with others. Tweeting is about sharing, growing and being social with others from all over the world. I do admit my tweeting does ebb and flow although I must admit as of late I’m on more than off. My PLN is my most valuable resource.

  7. […] Vanessa writes, “developing a PLN takes time and that I have already completed a number of the necessary tasks that will help me on my way to establishing connections on Twitter such as creating an account, learning to follow, watching and listening, retweeting, tagging tweets, etc”. […]

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