As far as thirty-somethings go, I’m pretty tech savvy. I spent a few semesters as a computer science major back in the day before ultimately graduating with a degree in Information Systems Technologies. Although my skills are a bit rusty, I am capable of coding using a variety of programming languages, designing and building databases, and doing all sorts of other cool techie stuff. These days my focus is mainly on discovering apps, websites, and other technologies for the classroom. I LOVE technology.
With that being said, until recently I was behind the times when it came to one of the most popular and influential technologies available today. Twitter and I have had a love/hate relationship since I first signed up for the service back around 2009 or so. I loved the concept, but I hated the fact that it made me feel stupid. I just didn’t get it. I tried, but something just didn’t click. Twitter isn’t an intuitive use technology like Facebook or other social media sites. It takes some knowledge to utilize Twitter to its fullest potential. Is it worth the effort for Gen-Xers (or anyone for that matter) to make the effort to learn about hashtags, retweets, direct messages, lists, followers, replies, mentions, profiles, timelines and notifications? Absolutely.
Why is it important to learn about Twitter? Because it’s not going away anytime soon. Twitter has played an instrumental role in political movements around the world, allowed people to connect with celebrities whom they admire, helped users build social networks based on their interests and professions, sent breaking news stories, and assisted businesses in building and maintaining relationships with consumers. Because of these reasons, Twitter is here to stay. Anyone who chooses not to get on the Twitter train may be left behind.
Like I mentioned previously, Twitter is not as easy to learn as other social networks. So how do we learn? Twitter does have some resources available for new users. Visit discover.twitter.com to learn more about the service and how to get started. From this website you can link to a tutorial to learn the basics of Twitter and set up your own account. For more resources go to Google and search for “Twitter tutorial”. There are many videos and guides available online to help you get started.
So, once you get your account set up you may be wondering what to do with it. Everyone has their own personal reasons for using Twitter, and there are many different ways to utilize it as well. Some people choose to use Twitter mainly as a method of receiving information, whereas others use the service to share information and resources with others. My own personal advice would to be set up your account, find some accounts to follow, and then simply observe and read. After reading the feeds of other people it will become easier to jump in on the conversation yourself. Twitter is great about suggesting popular accounts to follow when you sign up, and most websites that you visit will have a link to a corresponding Twitter page so that you can follow people, organizations, blogs, news sources, and companies that interest you.
I personally use my Twitter account for a number of purposes. I don’t tweet a lot at this point, I’m simply too busy. I’m more of a retweeter. I like to follow accounts and hashtags for people who I know personally, local and national news sources, ISU related accounts, bands and celebrities who I like, blogs that I read, and websites that post money saving tips and hot sales. I anticipate that I will become a more active tweeter in the future, but at this point I do a lot of reading and learning.
Another way that I utilize Twitter is as a professional development tool. I follow notable teachers from across the country who provide links to resources, classroom ideas, new ways to use technology in the classroom, and inspirational stories. There are hashtags devoted to new and preservice teachers, teachers from Illinois, grade-specific teaching groups, and subject centered groups. Many of these hashtag groups will have a designated chat time each week or month, or you can simply do a hashtag search to read previous tweets. There is an unlimited number of resources available to teachers who turn to Twitter as a professional resource.
So what’s the future of Twitter? Who knows. Twitter may maintain the status quo in the future, but I anticipate that it, like Facebook, may eventually filter down to include more users of varying ages, skill sets, and interests. Do you remember several years ago when it was unusual to know a sixty, seventy, or eighty-something who knew how to use Facebook? How many do you know now? Will Twitter somehow eventually simplify their service to make it easier for non-techies to use it effectively? Perhaps. Should you wait to see if that happens? Not if you want to stay relevant and up to date professionally and socially.
What are your favorite hashtags and Twitter accounts to follow? Share them in the comments or tweet me at @thamra.
- Photo courtesy of eonline.com