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Professional development: your schedule, your interests, your bed.

Debbie Harris

Professional development: your schedule, your interest, your bed (or wherever else you’d like…)

I am a huge proponent of using Twitter for your own professional development. When I say that to my colleagues they usually answer with “I don’t have time for Twitter” or “why would anyone care what I eat for lunch?”

Allow me to debunk the Twitter myths…

First – you’re right, nobody cares what you eat for lunch and I don’t waste any of my precious Twitter time reading about anyone else’s dining (unless it’s a link to a review to an awesome new restaurant, then, um, I might just go for it).

The “I don’t have enough time” objection is a little more complicated.  I totally understand that you don’t want to get sucked into another time-wasting enterprise (I mean, that’s what Facebook is for, right?). If you’re not careful or efficient, Twitter could become just another time waster.

But, it doesn’t have to be!

This is the beauty of using Twitter for professional development. You can spend as much – or as little – time on Twitter as you want and, if you’re smart about it, you can really get a lot out of it.

Here are a few of my tips for getting the most out of your Twitter time:

  1. Finding information

    If you’re new to Twitter, experiment with searching without even being on Twitter. This is a great way to just see what’s out there, and it’s a terrific way to introduce Twitter to new users. To search Twitter, go to www.topsy.com and put in your search term. I’m really interested in educational gaming, so that’s what I’m going to put in. The search term returns about 440 results, which is WAY fewer than I would get if I were using Google (less is more here).  You can further filter by time frame, links, tweets, photos, etc., and language. This is a good way to get the idea of what kind of information is floating around Twitter.

  2. What is @, #?

    Learn the nuances of tweeting. Learn what the @ means, what the # means and how to retweet in a meaningful way. I’m not going to go into a long explanation here, but I am going to direct you to an informative YouTube video by Josh Stumpenhorst at http://youtu.be/tDUF-qFsEno.

  3. What are Hashtags?

    Find a few hashtags that interest you. Hashtags  (#) are the way to follow Twitter topics. Let’s go back to my interest in educational gaming. There are a few hashtags that apply like #GBL (game based learning) or #seriousgames. I find that, if I just follow those hashtags, I can get lots of great information and I don’t even have to know who’s who in the Twitterverse.
    Once you decide on a couple of hashtags that work for you and you follow them for a while, you’ll start to notice that there are Twitter users who post frequently using those hashtags. Follow them to start with – you’ll probably find that they have lots to say that interests you.
    Good hashtags to find tweets about Jewish Education or Educational Technology are:
    #jed21
    #jedchat
    #jedtech
    #edtech

  4. The best way to read tweets.

    Don’t use Twitter. That’s not a typo, I mean it.  Don’t use Twitter. The Twitter website is pretty bare bones, and in my opinion, it’s not the most efficient way to see what’s going on in Twitter. Check out various Twitter clients including www.hootsuite.com and www.tweetdeck.com (which is owned by Twitter, so it’s not like you’ll be hurting Twitter’s feelings or anything). If you’re tweeting on a mobile device, both hootsuite and tweetdeck have nice apps as well. Clients like these allow you to view lots of information at one time, including the people you follow, the hashtags you follow, and when people mention you specifically.

  5. Make time!

    Promise yourself that you’ll spend 15 minutes a day perusing Twitter, following a few links, and discovering new resources.

My suggestion is that you start with these methods for a while until you get more comfortable with reading and tweeting. Next steps after this would include joining Twitter chats (that’s when lots of people Tweet about a specific subject using the same hashtag at a specific time. Then you can just follow the chat hashtag to see what everybody’s talking about. It’s a virtual conference that you can go to in your pajamas), checking out other people’s Twitter groups and using an aggregator to “publish” a daily Twitter newspaper about your favorite subject.

Last tip – have fun with it. It can be a great way to get information that’s timely and tailor-made for you. For more information, check out my wiki at http://deborahharris.wikispaces.com/PLN.

About the author:

Debbie HarrisDebbie Harris is the technology coordinator at the Sager Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook, IL and teaches religious school at Lakeside Congregation for Reform Judaism. Involved in Jewish education for over thirty years, she received an education degree from Northwestern University with a concentration in instructional media. She is skilled in using and teaching desktop publishing, video editing, presentation and animation software; and consults and presents regularly on integrating technology into Judaic studies. Her students podcast, blog, edit video and create claymations. She co-chaired the technology track for CAJE 33 in Vermont, is a SMART Certified Trainer for SMART Notebook version 10 for both Macintosh and Windows, and a 2011 recipient of the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
 
When not learning, teaching or writing about technology, Debbie likes to craft. While not particularly highly skilled at anything, she likes to knit, do calligraphy, sew, paint fabric and just generally play with fun toys like scrapbooking supplies, watercolors, and anything with texture. She is incredibly proud of her two daughters; Lori, who teaches English at a community college; and Allie, who is a student at Hebrew Union College in LA.
 
Look for her at:
Her website
Her educational technology wiki
Debbie Does Desktop
Flickr
Twitter
Diigo
YouTube
Ravelry

 

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