Building My Professional Learning Network (PLN) via Twitter

This is a follow-up post to my previous entry, How Twitter Changed the Way I Teach


I have been a solid Twitter user for a month now and I feel as though I have made a year’s worth of growth as an educator in that time.  As with any new endeavor, getting the ball rolling can be tricky so I wanted to share with you the steps I took to make the most of my Twitter account.


Step one was to stop following all the celebrities I had previously added to my Twitter stream.  I didn’t care what Kim Kardashian was eating (or not eating) for lunch.  I didn’t care where Michelle Branch was sipping coffee that afternoon.  And I certainly didn’t want all of these celebrities cluttering up my new educational tool.  If you’re not a Twitter user (yet), your Twitter stream is much like your Facebook feed.  Think of how annoyed you get with the status updates of some of your Facebook friends.  Eventually, you might realize you have nothing in common with this ‘friend’ and delete or block them on Facebook.  I wanted to see posts that were relevant and meaningful to me.


Step two: Discovering those relevant and meaningful tweets.  I started by following some of the awesome presenters from the e-learning conference I attended, such as @chriswejr and @thenerdyteacher.  These guys clearly knew what they were doing and how to use Twitter to its fullest.  I used them as a springboard.   I followed some of the people they were following that shared common interests with me.


Step three: I searched for hashtags to follow.  Hashtags are a way for people to categorize what they are talking about.  For example, fourth grade teachers use the hashtag #4thchat when they are talking about something relevant to their grade level and want to share their ideas with other fourth grade teachers.  I found this chart of hashtags that was super helpful to me.  I would follow the hashtag and then start following Twitter users who were providing great ideas relevant to my interests.


Step four:  Alright, so you are following a bunch of people, but how do you get people to follow you?  TWEET.  I try to make it a rule to tweet at least once a day.  I try to make my tweets relevant and meaningful to the people that I want to follow me.  Tweet links to interesting blogs, articles, websites, etc. that might benefit someone else.  Also, participate in Twitter-chats from time to time.  It’s a great time to bounce ideas around with others, find people to follow, and allow others to find and follow you.


My tweets are 90% education related and the remaining 10% personal.  (Ironically, I got several new education-related followers the night that the Blackhawks won the Stanley cup and I couldn’t keep my excitement from my Twitter stream.)  Show that you have a personality and interests other than education, but remember that many of your followers have you as part of their professional learning network (PLN).  They want to grow and learn from you.  They don’t need to know what your cat is doing every five minutes.


Most importantly, to get followers, you need to let go of your high privacy settings and put a description of yourself.  If I see that someone new is following me, the first thing I do to see if I want to follow them back is look at their interests/bio and look at some of their most recent tweets.  If a Twitter account is blocked, I typically don’t follow back.  Similarly, I need to be able to see something about the person.  It lets people know you’re real.  I know that as educators, we are usually all about the privacy.  So, for myself, I made a distinction.  My Facebook continues to have very high privacy settings and I use it to connect personally with family and friends.  My Twitter, however, much like my LinkedIn, is for professional use.  And if you want to connect professionally with others, sometimes you have to let that guard down a little bit.


That was a very long-winded post about a technology that only lets you type 150 characters at a time.  So go forth, fire up your Twitter, and if you need some help with people to follow — check out who I’m listening to (@LindseySickler).




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