I first joined Twitter a little over a year ago because, as an educational technologist, I wanted to understand why everyone was talking so much about it. I remember joining and looking up a few of my friends and began to “follow” them. Then, I started following a few suggested organizations. I tried very hard but I simply didn’t really “get it” at the time. Why was everyone buzzing so much about this technology? I remember thinking to myself at the time that Twitter was nothing more than the status updates that are provided on Facebook. Why should I bother with both?
About a month later when I was at a conference and saw everyone tweeting away, I tried it out again. I saw the importance of hashtags. Hashtags are keywords preceded by a # sign, and seemed to work in like tagging is used within Del.ic.ous bookmarks and my WordPress blog posts. Brilliant! I liked this idea and found it very helpful filtering content. Finally, I saw a bit of why people were finding this tool so useful.
Shortly after that, I really started getting hooked on simply being a consumer of information on Twitter. I felt strongly that I really didn’t have anything I wanted to say via Twitter on a regular basis (or that would/could be meaningful in 140 characters). In fact, I thought most of the content I was seeing was simply insipid. I didn’t care to know what someone was doing throughout the day but I did find that every once in a while, someone would post an article or a blog that I found very interesting. Twitter became a useful tool to aggregate content I wanted to digest.
Around that time, I remember having a conversation with my co-instructor Stacie about Twitter and remarked how it was working really well for me because I could sit at my desk all day and a Twitter aggregator fed me interesting content via my desktop. It was similar to my experience with Google Reader. Stacie stated that she didn’t find it so attractive at the time because she wasn’t tied to a desk and computer all day and didn’t have a mobile data plan. After that conversation, we concluded that Twitter could be useful for those stuck at a desk and/or those folks who subscribed to a good mobile data plan.
However, during the summer, my interest and use of Twitter waned and I eventually abandoned the Twitter ship altogether. I found it tedious to weed through the noise of tweets that went the “let me tell you what I am thinking/doing all day” route to those that delivered really good content.
Then, something remarkable happened this past fall. I decided to give Twitter another “go” after reading all on the literature about Personal Learning Networks (PLN). I realized that I didn’t ever really “get” Twittering because I never understood its true affordances for professional learning. I weeded through my Twitter list and stopped following anyone that wasn’t providing good, thoughtful content. I also looked at who was following me and made sure that any spam-like accounts were blocked and removed. My next step was to search the Twitter accounts of really good tweeters and researched whom they were following. I started following “the pearls” on their lists (e.g., people who tweeted regularly, those folks that were talking about subject matter I cared about). I then looked up authors of books and articles I adore and started to follow them. In addition, I looked at the list of people they follow and selected pearls from their lists (and so on). I scoured the member lists of organizations I was a part of like (e.g.. Educause, CALI) to see if any of the educational technologists listed had twitter accounts. Now that I am living in Saratoga Springs, NY, I researched the local universities to find the educational technologists in the area and looked to see if they are twittering. I want to make connections here and my hope is that through Twitter, I have an avenue to do so.
Something “magical” has happened. The quality of posts I now receive are so much better and useful. There are real conversations going on and new professional relationships and connections are forming every day with new people all around the country/world! Questions are asked and answered. New conversations are starting all the time. Quality resources are unearthed and shared. I now, for the first time, want to be a part of the conversation and understand what I want to say and accomplish. It is not simply about writing 140 characters and launching it into cyberspace unilaterally. It is about a global conversation. It is about connecting with people—really smart people—who are thinking about and digesting the same topics I care and want to learn more about. It is all about growing and nurturing my PLN.