Sunday, April 17, 2011

Twitter 101

[Sorry for the cross-post, those of you that follow both blogs. I thought it was suitable in both places.]
I love Twitter. After a recent conversation with my aunt about what, exactly, Twitter is, (and realizing that I’ve had this conversation multiple times), I decided to put it in writing. As they always say, if one person has a question, there are probably many others who do too. So, for those of you who don’t understand what the big deal is about Twitter, this is why it is NOT what you think.
What Twitter is NOT:
Twitter is NOT about updates about what you had for breakfast, (unless you can say it in an incredibly clever way). It is also NOT a private, direct messaging service, a la Facebook, email, instant messaging, etc. Though many use it from their smartphones, it is NOT only available on phones, but is also a website where you can tweet from (  
What Twitter IS:
Twitter is a “micro-blogging” service. In other words, it is like a blog, in that all posts are public, and they are listed reverse chronologically, with the newest posts listed first. It isn’t like blogs in that it has a140 character limit.  Because of this limit, tweets are approximately 1-2 sentences and many people and companies use it to post links to longer articles, blog posts, etc. (It IS possible to send direct messages to people, but they still have to be 140 characters or less. Because of this, it is not a common use of Twitter though.)
Due to the public nature of Twitter, it is most useful for keeping track of public organizations and people. You don’t have to know them or ask for permission to follow them. For instance, I follow AirFrance for European travel deals (@AirFranceUS), New York Times for news and commentary (@nytimes), and Jimmy Fallon (@jimmyfallon) and Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) because they are hilarious : - )
However, the reason Twitter is most useful to me in my daily life is that I can follow other people within the education community, many of whom are technology teachers like myself. We all post about things we’re doing within the classroom, open questions we’re considering in terms of educational technology, and other such things. Some of the teachers I know personally, but many I do not. Twitter gives me access to a much wider circle of like-minded people whom I can bounce ideas off of. I also follow some friends from my personal life.
Overall, Twitter is an excellent means of keeping abreast of news and information of interest to you, professionally and personally. There is much more to say in terms of effective ways to use Twitter, details about common abbreviations, hashtags, or trending topics, but hopefully this basic description helps you understand what it actually is and how it might benefit you. And if you decide to join Twitter, follow me @dierdreshetler ! :-) 

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