Networking: The tasks and tools
Now we’ll look at two of the tools we use to stay informed.
First, Twitter. (Just trust us on this.)
Twitter is a quick and simple way to share links and ideas, ask questions, and connect personally and professionally. Many educators use Twitter as an important part of their professional network. It will also be a great way to connect with other Victorian PLN participants throughout the course.
Twitter is a communication platform which allows you to send very short messages (it’s called microblogging). Your posts (‘tweets’) are limited to 140 characters or less – slightly shorter than a text message.
While some celebrities do use Twitter to tell the world what they had for breakfast, for many more people it is a valuable tool for connecting with friends, colleagues, and the wider world.
How to sign up
- If you don’t have an account yet, head to twitter.com
- Choose a username and enter your password and email address. Your username may be your real name (if it’s still available), but it doesn’t have to be.
- You can add information to your profile. You’ll be using this account as part of the PLN, so your profile should be about you as a professional. Upload a profile photo if you wish.
Find people to follow
Twitter allows you to follow people – this means their tweets will appear on your page. Twitter offers several ways to find people to follow:
- If you know the usernames of friends or colleagues, you can add them directly. Start by finding our SLV Learning Twitter account. Enter @slvlearn into the search box and you should find our account. Click Follow. If you can’t find us, our direct Twitter link is here.
- You can search for your favourite authors or politicians or educators – anyone. You might be surprised who is on Twitter and what they have to say (for better or worse!).
- Everyone’s username has an @ symbol in front of it. So our username is @SLVLearn.
- You might like to look at the profiles of other people to see who they are following. Click on a person’s profile, then click on Following to see who they follow. You then follow people from there.
Over on our Bright Ideas blog, we’ve got a range of guides on how to use Twitter. Here’s how to find and follow other people on Twitter:
In addition to following people, you can follow events or themes. Twitter uses a system called hashtags to allow people to tweet about a topic. You don’t have to include a hashtag in your tweets, but include the relevant hashtag if you want to comment on a subject or event so that other people in the discussion can see it.
A hashtag can be broad and simple, such #library or #education. It could be associated with an event such as a conference (#slavconf or #YAmatters), or public affairs (#Gonski). There are Twitter-specific chats such as #TLchat or #edchat, where everyone gathers on Twitter at the same time to discuss topics, or it might be on a subject that is ongoing (#edtech, #ipad), so you just take a peek when you have a spare moment.
Hashtags are about anything and everything, so search for some other topics that interest you – if you follow politics, for example, you might try #auspol, or perhaps you’re keen on #quilting or #reading, or certain TV shows (#QandA or #insiders).
You’ll soon notice that people tweet updates during football games and natural disasters and – hilariously – events such as #Eurovision. But we’re going to focus on ways to use Twitter in your professional persona, as part of your ongoing PLN.
This course has its own hashtag: #vicpln13. If you search for it in the Twitter search box you can see comments from us and other participants. There may not be that many, because it’s just us.
But people from previous PLN courses and other people interested in what we have to share use the ongoing hashtag #vicpln. Below is an example of a tweet that we sent to the #vicpln community when we were writing this post.
Feel free to include the #vicpln hashtag whenever you want to talk to the wider community, and take a look at the sorts of tweets people are posting using #vicpln.
Send out a tweet
To send out a new tweet, make sure you are logged in and then click the Compose new tweet box under your profile.
You might not have too many followers so far, so let’s send out a message to the #VicPLN13 course to get started. To do this, you just need to include the hashtag #vicpln13 somewhere in your tweet.
You only have 140 characters, so you’ll need to be brief. Send out a message like this:
Hi, I’m (your first name) and I’m new to Twitter. I’ve joined up as part of the #VicPLN13 program.
Here are some of the features of the box for sending new tweets (click to enlarge).
The #VicPLN13 people are all very nice so hopefully you’ll get some replies. A few people might even follow you! We’ve set up this hashtag so you can have a play with Twitter, without worrying too much about anyone else seeing it. Have a play.
Watch this brief outline of how to tweet and who can see what you post:
For more videos and Twitter tips, head to Bright Ideas.
A few more hints
- Make sure you spend some time finding some people to follow
- Remember to keep checking back on the #VicPLN13 hashtag to see what people in the course are up to, or plain old #VicPLN to watch what’s happening within the wider network
- We have suggested a few educators to follow. You can find the group here. Click on the Subscribe button to follow all of the people that we suggest, or select the ones that interest you.
- You can also search for keywords and see who is posting about that topic and what hashtags they use: it could be historical events (eg WW1) or scientific research or any industry updates.
- Case doesn’t matter in hashtags, but you can’t use symbols including punctuation marks – just letters and numbers.
A quick note on privacy
You can set your Twitter profile to be private. This means that only people following you will see your tweets, but doing this may reduce how useful you find the site, especially as part of the PLN. For the moment, keep your profile public. If you want to change that after the course, when you’ve got the hang of it, feel free.
A hashtag is not a closed community or group – it’s just a collection of posts on that topic. Your tweets are public, so anyone can find them, especially if you use a word they happen to be searching for.
Please add your Twitter username (which is called your Twitter handle) to your blog post for this week so we can follow you. Or, you can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to the next task – Victorian PLN on Facebook