I've become the butt of Twitter jokes lately; mostly to those who don't really get it. Which, I suppose, is most people. I'll admit, I do use Twitter and like it very much. It's been a great tool for me to find and keep up with other educators; world-wide. I also follow non-educators and love to hear about news items and updates from sources I might miss otherwise. I've learned so much from those I interact with on Twitter; and I like to think I have something to share there as well. I try to be thick-skinned about the whole thing, but the truth is people can be judgmental. People are quick to say that Twitter is for those with nothing to do and definitely with nothing to say. Even those of us on Twitter can be judgmental of each other and apply labels such as "snobs" and "noobs," based on personal usage preference. Feh! I suppose that's human nature to place people in buckets to make sense of the world.
So in an effort to help make sense of Twitter and the whole Social Networking thing, I'd like to try to explain why Social Networking is much more than simply 140 character tweets!
Twitter has become the 21st Century buzzword for all things social networking. This is such a shame because Twitter is just ONE tool I use to find and learn from others. Social networking is so much more than communicating what you had for dinner. If you follow my tweets, you'll see plenty of those silly tweets; and I think silly, fun tweets are important to building and nurturing relationships. But, you'll also see some tweets about (for example) upcoming professional development for teachers, pros and cons of being part of a company's teacher network, sharing creative-commons photos with others, and so on. Sometimes these tweets then lead to off-Twitter conversations and many times to valuable opportunities, such as:
- Collaborative Classroom Projects - I've set up more than a few teachers here in my district with teachers from my Twitter network from other states/countries where terrific projects between their students evolved. Likewise, I've participated in some awesome projects & live blogging events with other teachers.
- Brainstorming Opportunities/Tech Support - I've received help figuring out how to use InDesign and why my wireless base station wouldn't work correctly - I've helped others proofread some documents and brainstorm some job descriptions they were putting together. While in a meeting at work, we all questioned how other school districts handled something. I sent out a tweet from my iPhone and before the meeting was over, I had almost 20 responses.
- Face 2 Face Meet Ups - Continuing these conversations in person is one of the best parts of Social Networking. By staying connected through the various tools, I'm more likely to hear about the opportunities to meet my network peers in person. I'm looking forward to NECC and the EduBloggerCon where I may get to spend some time in conversation with a few people I've "gotten to know" online.
- Offers to Present - Cindy Lane (@clane on Twitter) and I met through Twitter and are currently working on a proposal to present at next year's FETC and Alan November found me, indirectly, through Twitter (a Twitter friend created a presentation and referenced something of Alan's and mine). Alan then contacted me, said he checked me out (scary, huh?) and extended an invitation for me to present at his Building Learning Communitites conference in July.
- Plurk - Very similar to Twitter; 140 character messages, but much easier to follow the conversations because of the threaded replies. This "plurk" was started by me when I saw a blogpost about getting rid of all textbooks.
- Delicious - This social bookmarking tool allows me to save all my favorites online, so I can access them from anywhere. Best part is that I can choose to make some of my favorites public to share with my "network" of friends who in turn will share their favorites with me. I found this great site by going to my network, and clicked on Craig Nansen's name in my delicious network. Then I went to his "Tag Bundles" then "MacRelated" then "iMovie" and found this: YouTube: Leopard Green Screen
- Flickr - I love using Flickr to back up my photos and by simply sending a link I can share with my friends and family. Flickr has a hidden gem though; The groups feature! By joining a group, all you have to do is tag a photo of yours to belong to the group and then other group members will see your photo when they go to the group feed. In this example, educators who are creating VoiceThread projects can use these images freely because members of the group are adding content for this very purpose. You can create your own groups too. I created this one to share photos from FETC2009.
- FaceBook - Despite how my own kids feel about me being on their turf, more than 200 million people must be on to something. The fastest growing demographic is people over 35! Hint for educators (on how I use FB): although my kids are my "friends," I RARELY post on their walls and except for 2 exceptions, I NEVER "friend" my students or ex-students.
- Ning - Roll your own Social Network. With Ning, you'll find a "FaceBook" with a specific focus. Just go to Ning.com and do a search. For educators, I recommend starting with Classroom 2.0.
Do you use any Social Networks I didn't mention? Do you have an example of a time where someone you "met" helped you out and/or vice versa? I'd love to hear your stories.