Twitter Profilephoto © 2009 Rosaura Ochoa | more info (via: Wylio)I first was introduced to using Twitter during the 23 Things on a Stick and More Things on a Stick programs sponsored by the Minnesota’s Multitypes Libraries.  Much like the Teacher Challenge, these programs encouraged people to try out the growing technologies and explore how they related to our work as librarians.  By participating, I grew to “know” some of the other participants, at least virtually, and I began to develop my own Personal Learning Network, also known as PLN.

As Wikipedia (that font of all shared knowledge) defines it, Personal Learning Networks “consist of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a Personal Learning Environment.” In them, “learners create connections and develop a network that contributes to their professional development and knowledge.”  Twitter is an excellent platform for cultivating and growing one’s PLN.

Twitter is regularly ridiculed in the mainstream media, in part because it has become a fad among celebrities and celebrity-wanna-bes.  It is true; one can subscribe to some relatively silly, purely fun feeds.  I personally receive one from a local ice cream parlor that tweets when they put out one of their rarer flavors. (More interesting in summer than right now, I grant you.)  But Twitter’s potential for PLN help is amazing.  How, you ask?

  1. Twitter as a back channel—When I was doing PBWorks Camp, we were often participating in live webinars.  Participants would also have open Twitter to comment on the webinar and to discuss it afterwards.
  2. Twitter as community building—Participants in programs such as the ones I listed above and in the Teacher Challenge can interact more quickly and directly as a result of following each other in Twitter.  And for those of us who have few or no colleagues in the same field in the building we work in, Twitter’s impact can be huge.  Suddenly we can bounce ideas off of people all over the world!
  3. Twitter as a resource—I have seen teachers and presenters use Twitter to show the power of PLNs.  One of my favorites occurred when a teacher in one part of the world asked her PLN to tweet back with their time, weather, and location, to help pique her students’ interest in geography.  The ability to get some instant help is amazing.
  4. Twitter as self-promotion—Okay, I know I made fun of how celebrities do it, but Twitter enables us to broadcast to the world that we have written a new post on our blogs.  And if our followers retweet our posts, we build our readership and increase the scope of the conversation.
  5. Twitter as sharing—I love to find and share newly discovered resources on Twitter.  It works just like walking down the hall at school to share with a friend that neat thing I just learned.  Only here the hall is virtual, and my friend can be anywhere in the world.

I have built lists of librarians, of fellow teachers, of friends.  I have learned to use hash tags for children’s literature (#kidlit), for libraries (#library), for the Teacher Challenge (#ksyb).  If you go to a conference or take part in any sort of seminar, a hash tag is sure to follow.  It’s a great way to communicate with your colleagues.

Overall, Twitter is a fabulous resource.  While its characters may be numbered, the potential value to our practice is incalculable.  Please join me as part of my PLN.  I am LibraryLady90, and I would love to explore the practice of education with you.