Twitter: My Personal Learning Network

Twitter is my social media tool of choice. I like it primarily because of its wide range of timely content. With this one mobile app, I can get information about business and finance, culture and human-interest topics, entertainment gossip, food, general news, higher education, learning technology resources, science and technology, top intellectual thought leaders, and travel news. I can also keep in touch with friends on twitter and keep my finger on the pulse of the latest developments by reading twitter’s top ten trends.

Twitter in Plain English by Common Craft:

I construct my identity on twitter by posting a brief introduction about my interests and myself. One of the benefits of twitter is that it requires users to be succinct in the nuggets of information that are shared because we are limited to a specific number of characters. For example, the bio section of a person’s profile is limited to 160 characters. My profile includes a personalized background, photo, link to my personal portfolio site, location, and a bio that reads:

UMn Learning Tech PhD student; bkgd in instructional design; tweets abt distance ed, online environments, tech, writing, pop culture, haiku, & science.

One tweet can be a maximum of 140 characters. When someone posts a tweet that is exactly 140 characters, this is called a #twoosh. It is freakishly fun to try to tweet in exactly 140 characters. I particularly like to post haiku poems about the movies that I have recently seen. For example, this is one of my latest tweets:

Moonrise Kingdom #movie #haiku Wes Anderson gem/ Funny New England summer/ Phenomenal cast #fresh

The hashtags set up words or phrases to be used as keyword searches. They are particularly useful during conferences to create a backchannel discussion. The #fresh tag above relates to a rotten tomatoes movie rating. A fresh tomato means the movie is good and rotten means it is not good. Below is an example of a backchannel at a recent ALA conference.

There are a few norms of using twitter, the primary one being that spam is not acceptable. Unfortunately, there are many fake twitter accounts that are set up to spam adult content. However, these can be blocked and reported as spam. There are several twitter tips that can help new users understand how twitter works and get the most out of it. The most common comment I hear from new users of twitter is “I don’t get it.” Admittedly, it takes a little while to find interesting people to follow or add to lists before the app becomes truly engaging. On some of the advanced user lists such as the Web Innovators list by Richard Scoble, you will see a lot of media including video and images, foursquare maps, hashtags, links, and IM-style abbreviated twitter language.

Here are a few useful twitter tips and information for beginners:

  • It is better to have more followers than the number of people that you follow or an equal amount because the reverse will give you spam stats. This means that when you start on twitter it is better to follow a few close friends to get the hang of it.
  • Spam stats are a low number of followers compared to a high number of accounts that a user is following (for example, followers 10 and following 1,000). This is because spammers follow many people in hopes of hitting accounts that are set up to automatically follow a user when a user follows them. To counteract this effect, it is better to set up lists of twitter accounts. The reason this is better is because having spam stats flags your account so that it will not show up in twitter feeds and this limits your user experience on twitter.
  • Lists are a great way to organize your various interests on twitter. For example, you can aggregate a list of users who tweet about a certain topic and this way, while you are not “following” them, you can still see their tweets in a list. Furthermore, using lists helps you to get more information out of twitter because you can create shorter lists and therefore see more tweets on a topic because long lists limit tweets that you will see.

    • Lists can be set up to be private or public. Public lists can be shared. Listorious is a web site that has a variety of the most popular lists. Anyone can subscribe to the lists on Listorious.

    • Hashtags are a useful way to organize your tweets. These can be used to search on a certain topic. These are also especially useful to use at conferences as mentioned previously.
    • There are a few twitter abbreviations that are good to know: RT means retweet. However, it is actually better to use the quote tweet feature and then remove the quotes and add a comment about why you are retweeting. When you do this often your will need to shorten the original tweet in order to make room for your comments since you are limited to 140 characters. Therefore, use MT for modified tweet if you need to shorten the original tweet in order to add your comments. A direct tweet/message (DT or DM) can be sent to one person privately by using DT @username. Here is a link to other useful twitter lingo and shorthand. Here is a link to the Twitter Help Center that includes a glossary.

    • It is better to quote tweet and add original comments than to retweet. An abundance of retweeting can cause twitter to flag your account as spam.
    • You can use the favorite feature to save your favorite tweets.

  • The advanced search feature can be used to search a particular user’s use of a hashtag:!/search-advanced
  • Trends can be tailored for an individual or changed to include worldwide trends, state trends, or city trends.
  • Twitter can be used to post links to longer personal blog articles related to education. Many news organizations use twitter in this way to post links to longer articles. This makes twitter particularly useful for skimming a lot of information in a short amount of time. Twitter makes the abundance of Internet information more manageable and helps user better able to navigate the digital world and process information.

There have been several articles about the uses of Twitter in education. Howard Rheingold recently posted tweets about ways to use twitter to create a personal learning network (PLN). See How to Cultivate a Personal Learning Network: Tips from Howard Rheingold. Here is another resource from Edudemic about 100 Way to use Twitter in Education by Degree of Difficulty. As computer-based learning and student-centric technology disrupt the classroom as predicted by Clayton Christensen in Disrupting Class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns, flipped classrooms and teachers as tutors will grow in popularity making personal learning networks a vital part of each students customized and personalized learning experience. Interested in more information about PLNs? Here are a few resources about the origins, elements, and growth of personal or professional learning networks and using PLNs.

If you would like to start using twitter to develop your own personal learning network, you can follow me @joliekennedy after you set up your account. You can check out the people that I follow, hashtags, lists, and favorite tweets to get a hang of how twitter works.

Twitter Search in Plain English by Common Craft:

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2 Responses to Twitter: My Personal Learning Network

  1. Pingback: Twitterville « The World According to Wallace

  2. jen Vanek says:

    Hey Jolee. I love this page. I’d like to share it with some teachers that I’m supporting with tech integration.


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