Twitter CEO Dick Costolo revealed at a conference in June of this year that 400 million Tweets are now sent out each day. So even if you have done you’re homework on how to best use the site and are balancing following a sensible mixture of opinion-leaders, journalists, experts, academics and friends, while also contributing Tweets at a good rate (while staying short of overkill) I’d bet that the real-time, river-like nature of your Twitter feed can still feel like a situation of chaos.
The Twitter Secret
The secret in using Twitter well for your own learning is as much about knowing how to effectively slice-up raw information, as it is who to follow and how to share responsibly. The searchable hash-tag function is the key here. It should not be viewed only as a tool to tell what starlets are blowing up big at what time. It’s a way to tap into the structured debate and conversations that take place just below the madness of the world sharing its thoughts in real-time.
Of course you still have to know what to search for. But Edudemic came to the party this week with its list of the top 50 educational Twitter chats. For those unfamiliar with this concept, the thread of the chat is linked together by a common hash-tag. The chats happen in real time at scheduled points each week; although if you do miss out, the hash-tag search function lets you quickly call up an archival record of what you missed.
There are conversations happening at every level of the education field, and for every interest. The chats provide a superb way to engage with experts and people with common interests, and access thought-provoking materials.
The ideas that these chats raise and advance show that Twitter is for much more than witty bon mots and links. A scan of last week’s #gtchat (discussing issues in raising gifted children) saw a Washington-based psychologist, and a Sacramento parenting blogger, chipping in amongst a pool of parents, teachers and interested individuals. The topic of discussion and materials shared scanned from homeschooling to dealing with ADHD.
#teaching2030 was a particularly forward thinking and thought provoking exchange on education. It spotlighted the Center for Teaching Equality’s new additions to its ‘Teacherpreneur’ program: six teachers across America revolutionizing ideas on globalized learning practices, teacher evaluations, collaborative literacy efforts and teacher development in a modern context. The chat raised interesting, new learning models and focuses for teachers (the thoughts on collaborative teaching made my own school years feel like the dark ages).
I also found an infographic (embedded below) on the changing demographics of today’s college students that was particularly game changing to my own views (25 percent of students are over 30, 27 percent have children).
This chat format is not just for parents and educators, however. The subject material and variety are exhaustive; there’re gems to found by college students and the newly career minded as well.
#campuschat hosted marketing guru Jason Falls this past week, who offered his battle-tested theories on how to use social media to your advantage whether as a learner, job-seeker or educator. I was intrigued by research he shared that showed that social media is exactly as widely used by 12-17 year olds as it is by those 18-24 years old. The guest before Falls was Boston-based public relations professional Brandie Gerrish, who used a recent article about how 24 percent of college campuses are canvassing social media in the admissions process as a jumping off point for a discussion about how teenagers should be aware of their online footprint.
Maybe even most importantly, with 1 in 2 college graduates underemployed or jobless, was #careerchat. Unsurprisingly, this was an especially bustling conversation: resume writing, interviewing well, leveraging a blog… After sampling only a few hours of posts, I could see that it had left no stone unturned.
I would encourage you to dive in. I’ve been engaged with Twitter for a few years now, and I’ve found it to be both a frustrating and captivating tool for real learning and inquisition.
These chats showed me a format in which Twitter can shine, and has been shining, utilizing, organizing and engaging all of that expertise, floating around in all of that noise.
James Robinson is a contributing writer at AcademicEarth, which makes a world-class education accessible to everyone by offering over 450 free online courses from the world’s top universities. You may also read more on this and other topics at the Academic Earth Blog.