Whenever I’m trying to pitch Twitter to a group of teachers who are new to the product, one of the first bits of pushback that I get goes something like this:

I don’t have the time for Twitter!  I’ve got papers to grade and plans to write.  It must be nice to have tons of extra time to waste poking around in useless messages posted by people you don’t know.”

Now, I get it:  Twitter—and other social media spaces that people have embraced—have gotten a bad rap simply because so many people DO waste huge amounts of time in social media spaces.

But I can tell you that if you use it right, Twitter will save you time.  Period.  End of discussion.

Here’s proof:

As a writer, I’m constantly struggling to craft references for the pieces that I’m developing.  And while I’ve used all kinds of online reference generators over time, I’ve never been completely happy with any of them.

I bumped into that same problem on Saturday morning as I was polishing my reference list for my next book.  Specifically, I was wondering why there wasn’t a plugin for my web browser that would generate citations automatically for me.

Here’s what I wrote:




Notice that my message is really nothing more than a vent, right?  I’m not asking if anyone knew of a solution.  I’m not looking for help from a specific person.  I’m just frustrated that something that could be automated wasn’t.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Derek Hatch—an assistant principal in Canada who I’ve never met before—responded within the hour, saying:





So I checked out Zotero and was completely blown away because it does EXACTLY what I wanted it to.

It dumps a bunch of information about online sources into a citation maker automatically.  Better yet, it generates a perfectly formatted final citation that I can slap into my works cited pages easily.

Derek’s share—something I didn’t expect at all—ended up saving me HOURS of time yesterday, as I quickly completed citations for almost 30 sources in about 30 minutes.

Better yet, Derek’s share will inevitably make its way into my sixth grade classroom.  We introduce students to research projects and citations, after all—and putting great tools that increase efficiency into the hands of my kids is what I’m all about.

What lessons can you learn from my Zotero experience?

Perhaps most importantly, taking the time to build a digital network in Twitter—a collection of like minds that you can learn with—will save you time in the long run.

Sharing my need for an online citation generator took me less than a minute.  Reading my message—and then sharing a solution that is darn near perfect—probably took Derek less than a minute.

Crazy, isn’t it?  Who would have ever imagined that complete strangers connecting through streams of public instant messages could add so much value to one another’s lives?

But it’s true—and it’s all waiting for you if you’re willing to give Twitter a whirl.

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