Posted by Jessica Cuthbertson on Tuesday, 02/16/2016
I joined Twitter reluctantly in 2011. As a beginning blogger and a new member of CTQ’s virtual community of practice, I was professionally cajoled into creating a Twitter account (@JJCuthy) and encouraged to “micro-blog” twice a day in addition to blogging standard length posts monthly.
At the time I didn’t understand the value or purpose of Twitter. I wondered what I could read and learn from such a concise platform, and I doubted I could ever compose something of interest or value in 140 characters or less. (English teachers are known for being a bit more verbose.)
But fast forward five years later and I’m still tweeting. It is the place I go most frequently to connect with educators I admire and respect (many whom I’ve never met in person), engage in professional conversations (both formal Twitter chats and informal discussions), and it is one of my primary education news sources (I’ve swapped scanning headlines for hashtags).
Last week at a statewide convening of educators (#LDCwithCEI) participants were challenged to tweet out key learnings and questions as entry tickets to a drawing for door prizes.
So over the course of the two-day convening I tweeted (and retweeted) dozens of quotes, captured photos during sessions, and used the #WhyLDC hashtag as a frame for notes, reflections, and take-aways from the event.
In the midst of all this tweeting my friend and writing project colleague Molly Robbins (@RobbinsWriters) leaned over and whispered, “What are your top three twitter tips?” (I believe this was her polite and professional way of saying, Wow! You really like to tweet, and must be serious about winning that drawing! P.S. You’re cluttering my twitter feed!)
Before I could generate “twitter tips” I had to take some time and reflect on why I tweet (and think other educators should, too). So, thank you Molly, for posing the question and inspiring this post. Here are my three Twitter tips:
Tweeting as a Note-Taking Tool: I use Twitter at conferences and professional convenings the way I used to use a notebook. Distilling key ideas from a presentation or session into tweets helps me synthesize the big ideas and archive key information. With practice, you begin to “think in tweets” and listen for those one-line nuggets that are too good not to share with a wider, virtual audience.
Need a Scaffold? Retweet and Repeat. If you are new to composing original tweets, start by retweeting others. Look for ideas that resonate with you, deserve to be repeated or “dittoed,” or are provocative enough you can build on them or pose a new question. Retweeting is a great way to build your twitter network through following those you retweet often (chances are they will follow you back).
Twitter Chats: The Practice Field for Quantity & Quality. If you’re serious about growing your twitter presence through meaningful practice, join a twitter chat. This format, which generally spans from fifteen minutes to an hour and focuses on a handful of questions tied to a specific topic or theme, will give you ample opportunity to increase the quantity (and eventually quality) of your tweets. Twitter chats feel like responding to short writing prompts publicly and at lightening speed. They provide a stream of ideas and a context for building on others’ comments or generating ideas of your own in response to the questions. (Shameless plug - join CTQ-North Carolina’s chat tonight focused on innovative leadership and teacher compensation, #CTQCollab). Many groups meet weekly or monthly, so over time you will become a regular and can connect with others to expand your network and virtual community of practice.
I used to find tweeting twice a day taxing. Now I try to limit my time on Twitter knowing that the conversations and possibilities are endless, and that time can quickly disappear in the Twitter tunnel. I did end up winning the drawing on day two (the sheer volume of tweets definitely improved my odds). But I find the intrinsic rewards of tweeting as a professional practice enough to feed my hashtagging habit for several years to come.