Right another ulearn spent back-channelling. Not that I’m bitter having been at Google Apps conference, the twitter dinner, digital citizenship launch and Teachers Council social media launch it was almost like I was at conference.
Oh who am I kidding.
I spent my days crying into my coffee that I wasn’t having fun with all the cool kids at ulearn.
One of the things I’ve noticed at these big conferences is a whole bunch of people sign up to twitter/blogs with intentions of staying connected. Then they go back to school and all those fabulous connections start to disappear as ‘real life’ gets in the way.
So to help keep the MAGIC of ulearn alive here are some tips for twitter newbies about how to keep those connections going.
1. You’re an egg
Still haven’t gotten around to putting a pic in your profile? Hop to it. Getting followers on twitter is a bit like selling stuff on Trade Me. If you don’t have a pic, you don’t get as many bidders. The same goes for twitter followers. Followers are people who will respond to your questions, retweet your words of wisdom. In short they are your professional house elves.
Your picture doesn’t necessarily need to be of you just something a distinctive pic so others know who you are.
2. You have no bio
Another really easy way to get followers is to fill in your profile bio. Tell me something about you in 160 characters. It doesn’t need to be flashy. Teacher, gym addict, from Christchurch will get you a follow from me. As a general rule I will follow any New Zealand teacher I come across provided they aren’t an egg (see 1.).
3. Say hello!
It seems obvious but social media is all about socializing. If you don’t say anything, nobody is going to talk to you which isn’t really the point. My nztweeps list is full of awesome teachers who love to chatter away on social media so say hello to one of them. After a while you’ve got a bunch of friends up and down the country which equals free places to crash.
4. Keep tweeting
Ok you don’t necessarily have to reach the point of sad sacks like me who check their twitter feeds before they get out of bed. But seriously a tweet a day makes twitter a lot more of an interesting (some would say addictive) medium. Ask a question, post an interesting link, say hello to someone (see no.3).
Hashtags are great ways to connect with people around a shared interest. Conferences use hashtags as a way to bring like-minded individuals together (if you are reading this post, chances are you’ve been following the #ulearn12 hashtag).
There’s a whole bunch of education-related hashtags out there which are great ways to meet other educators from around the globe. #globalclassroom and #elemchat are my favourites. Use those hashtags in your posts, retweet interesting things from the those hashtags, say hello to the tweeters all of sudden you have 24 hour source of inspiration, guidance, collaboration partners and free places to crash.
Bonus for twitter addicts
Right twitterarti (you know who you are) I have a challenge. For every person you sign up, you need to tweet that newbie once a week just to say hi. Lack of interaction I’m guessing is one the big reasons that newbies give up on twitter so lets all adopt some newbies to keep the MAGIC going.
One of the purposes of my blogging has been to been to effect change. I’ve never for one minute thought that me putting my learning out there would shift major mountains but I did and still do think it could be used as model a different way of looking at how we document and develop the scope of documenting professional practice beyond the dreaded ring binder. I love blogs because there is much of an interactive element. I get an audience for my journey far beyond the walls of my school and physical confines of my city or even my country.
But that’s not to say I’ve not wondered on occasion if I should be putting my learning out there for all to see. It does mark me out as a freak in so far as I’m doing something a bit different Moreover it goes against the conventional social media advice given to student and beginning teachers from the powers that be. Where in general the feeling is that teachers should be locking down their social presence and even using a blog for professional purposes has bought up some interesting issues for me. Whether to blog anonymously has caused an enormous dilemma for me that I still haven’t resolved. You might notice I don’t use my full name, post student images nor directly name the school I work for on this blog. These decisions go back to my own set of guidelines I drew up for myself in the early days of blogging.
I never thought for a minute that my geekish tendencies might start to influence others. However a few weeks ago, I got an email asking if I was interested in having my name put forward as part of project on the ethics surrounding teachers’ use of social media. I felt hugely honoured to have been asked as I’m just a first year teacher. Although I might have been blogging for almost a decade but its really been since about June/July last year that I’ve reached any kind of significant audience so I did wonder if I was the right person to be taking part in a group.
Nevertheless the opportunity to help inform the thinking of this project was too good to pass up. I’m sure that there will be more posts as about this project in the upcoming months. But for now I’m pretty stoked to have been put forward and can only hope to make a worthwhile contribution worthy enough of all the awesome advice I’ve been getting from my fantabulous PLN.
This might not be a huge difference in the grand scheme of things and isn’t up there with finding a cure for cancer, bringing peace to the middle east or explaining why the Kardashians ten minutes of fame is not up. But this something I can do with my teaspoon.
It’s now December which means I have just 1 week of this course to go. ZOMG 1 week, 1 assignment and I’m done.
Can I get a whoop while I hand out some cake?
Let’s go for some spiced chai with honey ginger cream this time? Nom, nom, nom.
In the mean time there are blog stats to devour.
November has been a huge month for the blog, busiest yet with on average 1,000 hits a week (though last week it was nearly 1,300!) and I passed the magic milestone of 25,000 visits. There have also been lots of comments and I’ve had contact by people who actually read the website wanting to quote stuff I’ve written.
It all seems a bit surreal as I’m convinced most of the stuff I write is pretty bad (realizing that one of your most popular posts of the month has a typo in the title when you are putting together blog stats is not a good look). But blogging has also been pretty cool experiment. I had no idea when I started this blog people would actually want to read it, comment or even quote me on it.
I wouldn’t still be here rambling if it wasn’t for all the readers out there who suffer through my inane and sometimes whiny ramblings so thank you to you all especially the people who have taken the time to comment. I want to give you all a hug and slice of cake.
Right on to the stats.
Page Loads: 4,491 (150 hits a day)
Biggest day: 22 November (244 hits) just beat out 10 November (240 hits)
Most commented on post: When fear extinguishes innovation – new teachers and social media generated the most comments. However there were interesting comments in The Right Tools for Writing? and The right personality for teaching? posts. Some lovely comments when I wonder whether to stop blogging (thanks PLN).
Top 5 most popular posts (in order of popularity)
- Why #wordpress is better than blogspot (306 hits)
- Should students call teachers by their first names? (254 hits)
- Graduating Teacher Standards – E portfolio (201 hits)
- When fear extinguishes innovation – new teachers and social media (156 hits)
- The right personality for teaching? (120 hits)
Wordpress has now started collecting search engines as one giant term which is now my biggest source of referrals (755 hits). Twitter still beats out facebook in terms of social media referrals. While the Registered Teacher Criteria Wiki generated a bit of traffic through some linky love.
Coming up in December:
- I’m finished
- Doing the happy dance
In the midst of job search season I’ve been spending a lot of time trawling school’s websites. The process reminds me yet again about how we have such weird attitudes to the internet. Having online presence often gets a bit of a bad rap when it is mentioned in the context of student teachers.
One of the most common memes is principals are using facebook, google, twitter etc. as a way to check up on the pasts of would-be teachers as a cautionary tale for applicants. ‘Beware of your digital footprint’ our institutions tells us, ‘watch what you do and say online!’ Very fear-based and unwise advice by our institutions.
But here’s something that any school who is looking for teachers might also want to think about, your applicants are googling you.
What does your school’s digital footprint say to prospective teachers?
For both my placements I put some thought and research into where I wanted to go and was very fortunate to get my first choices both times. What’s more before I go into any school, even just for a visit, I’ll google both the school and the principal. I will also read a school’s ERO report and what the principal has said in the local media, I’ll search for a social media presence, I’ll look around a school’s website and class blogs if they have them. I’ll be honest and say that I will negatively judge a school if its online presence is a looking a bit stale. Having a static website with school newsletters either regularly or haphazardly uploaded just doesn’t cut it in web 2.0.
As a soon-to-be teacher the schools I really want to work for are the ones where I get to follow class blogs and the ones whose teachers are on twitter because they are already starting to engage with me. This engagement gives me a heads up as an applicant to start thinking of ways that I could compliment and contribute to the culture of the school. In short the schools who have an effective online presence are already encouraging me to apply before the advertisements have appeared in the education gazette.
I’m well aware that I’m starting out in the teaching profession as a beginning teacher in a labour market swollen with graduates desperate for work. So anyone who who has had the pleasure of sorting through mountains of CVs from earnest grads like myself feel free to shout out ‘quiet back there in the cheap seats.’ However the employment market might not always be like it is now. What’s more wouldn’t schools want to do more to attract the top teachers by putting their thinking out into the digital space that this generation of new teachers exist in for us to see, think about and, dare I say it, even interact with? It might make sorting through those piles of CVs a little easier especially at the BT level if you’ve already ‘met’ that Beginning Teacher online or ‘seen’ them interacting with your students on your class blog’s comments.
But there’s also something more significant in play.
My friends and I joined facebook way back in 2006/2007. A whole bunch of us had babies around that time. Since then I’ve watched their children grow up on facebook, transforming on my screen from grainy ultrasound images into newborns, toddlers and now they are preschoolers who are starting to enter the school system. The parents of the facebook generation are likely to have vastly different expectations around what constitutes effective engagement than parents five years ago or even now.
What does your school’s digital footprint say to prospective parents?
Interesting article about the use of twitter by US-based educators as a way to shape debates about education reform. New companies like Klout are springing up using algorithms to measure the effectiveness of your twitter and facebook accounts. According to Klout is not enough to merely gain a huge amount of followers and friends, the company also looks for the number mentions and retweets that a user generates.
A score of 100 held by the likes of Justin Bieber indicates that a single tweet can be spread far and wide throughout the twitterverse while at the other end of the spectrum, a score of 1 is considered an individual who lacks effectiveness in social media.
The crazy thing about Klout is that you can look up anyone’s score by simply typing in their username. Have we entered the brave new world where not only is what you say online is up for judgement but how effective you are at using social media?
For fun I looked up my own account to find out that I had a score of 54 and apparently have a ‘specialist’ klout style.
The qualitative feature of scoring seems about right. I use traintheteacher primarily as an account for my learning to be a teacher activities while I have another twitter account for personal use.
However 54 which seems way too high for a twitter account of student teacher that’s been in existence for all of 6 months. Sure enough one of the topics that klout decided I was influential about masters golf tournament. Now anyone who has followed this blog or my twitter feed will never have seen a post about the master golf tournament because my interest and ability in golf extends to the minigolf and that’s about it.
There’s also a useful space for finding out who influences you are and who you influence which perhaps is interesting. Again, I’ve had weird entries come up of people I’ve interacted with once or twice on twitter.
So I’m not sure that Klout is perfect just yet, but I imagine companies who are looking to social media to promote their brand/cause then having their cause retweeted by a person of influence is something that they would likely be very interested in. Before we all get too excited about tools like Klout it is worth mentioning the obvious elephant in the room, klout can’t measure offline influence.
Do you think that social media scores have any use within education?
I tweet therefore I am.
Despite being glued to my keyboard from the day my family went online back in 1997 it took me until this year to really get the point of twitter.
Facebook was easy. All these names and faces from the past could easily be reconnected with by checking friends of friends. Facebook is also a great way of organizing events and keep people I already know informed with what I’m getting up to.
I just didn’t get it.
What could you possibly say in 140 characters that could be of any substance?
Why did I need to tweet when I could say what I needed to on facebook where I wasn’t constrained by a character limit?
But then my life changed.
I went from this:
to starting a new a career as a primary school teacher. All of sudden my social network, which had 1 primary school teacher, wasn’t really fulfilling all my needs and I needed to start branching out. Facebook, which is primarly a vechicle for organizing relationships with people you already know, just wasn’t cutting it.
The attraction of twitter is simple, it makes me want to have drinks with people I’ve never met. Twitter has been compared to the office water cooler but I liken it more to the coffee houses of Vienna (which may or may not have nothing to do with my obsession with strudel). But I digress, twitter is a place you go to share and to learn.
Over time you’ll gradually build a rapport with people which will become part of your Personal Learning Network or PLN. I think of my PLN as an extension of the support I have through my course, people out there to challenge my preconceptions, introduce my ideas and, when needed, act as a personal cheer squad.
So what’s the story with twitter? First up you need to sign up to twitter my piece of advice is to choose as short a username as possible because in twitter you only get 140 characters to get your point across. So the longer your user name is, the shorter the message.
Then you need to install tweetdeck as either a plug-in for chrome or as a desktop application. The reason you need to install tweetdeck is twofold. Firstly a lot of schools block twitter and secondly it enables you to manage twitter a lot more effectively.
My tweetdeck looks a little like this:
In column number 1 are all the updates from people I am following. When one of the people I am following decides to post something: a blog post, an article of interest it comes up in that column. The people I’m following might not necessarily follow my tweets but I’ve decided to follow them because I’m interested in them. Occasionally I might decide (for whatever reason) I don’t want to follow that person any more in which case I will stop receiving their tweets.
In column 2 is edchat. Whenever anyone posts anything that has #edchat it will show up there. Using a hashtag immediately followed by a word in twitter is kind of like using a filter for a search engine. As a result, I don’t necessarily follow everyone who posts with the #edchat but it is a good source of general information, blogposts and newspaper articles on teaching and learning. What is awesome about this hashtag are the weekly edchats that take place for an hour at 9am and 11am on Wednesdays (NZST). Other hashtags that are of use are the #ntchat (new teacher chat) and the #elemchat (elementary chat). There are a whole bunch of different education related hashtags for teachers to follow. If you want to post anything to these chats, then you just post your message with #edchat or whatever chat you want and it will show up for other people (who might not be following you) to see and to share.
In column 3 are my references. In twitter if you want to respond to someone or perhaps direct them to something of interest then you need to put a @ and then the username. So for instance if you wanted to show me an article. you would say @traintheteacher and then post a link to the article. Sometimes someone might a think a tweet of mine is worth sharing so they will hit the retweet button in which case my tweet will be published with a RT in front of it. I try to make a point of thanking anyone who retweets or responds to my message because I think its important to nurture your followers.
There’s also a fourth column where I put my private messages. An important note on private messages, you can only send messages to people who follow you.
Who do you follow and how do you get people to follow you?
@rachelboyd (who I totally recommend you follow) has set up a google doc of New Zealand educators who are active on twitter. Perhaps of more use to student teachers are the educators who are willing to act as mentors to follow on twitter. If you participate in #edchats you might see a person that contributes some interesting thoughts, follow them.
At first I suggest you just read your feeds as they come in. But the fun part of twitter (at least for me) is interacting with people from around the world so if I see a cool post or tweet I’ll respond back at the person. You might have an article that you might want to share, a blogpost or perhaps a thought send it out there. Someone might respond to your post or retweet which means that then all the people following their tweets will see your thought which gains you followers. If you see a tweet from someone else worth sharing, then retweet by pushing the button which sends their message out to their followers. The easiest way to get followers is through having someone introduce you to their followers. That’s how I meet the fabulous Australian student teacher blogger @AshleyAzzopardi from a tweet-out from @Kathleen_morris.
It can take a while for you build up your PLN but once you’ve built up a following your followers become a source of support. I’ve asked my PLN all manner of questions from the seemingly simple (what do you get your associate teacher for a thank you present) to more difficult questions about teaching and learning. Whenever I’ve asked for assistance, they’ve always been there.
With twitter there’s always a new idea to see or a new conversation to be had which is why I will continue tweeting long after I’ve finished studying.
Just 140 characters can say a lot.
I tweet therefore I am.