The point: we all know not every educator sees the value in social networking or in some cases the extent to which it actually exists.
The problem: there is a great web of resources & ideas out there they are not plugged into or even aware about.
The Challenge: to open their eyes to what is out there & getting them caught in the web without using drugs, clubs, or pile drivers.
The Solution: oh you didn't think it was going to be that easy did you. In reality the solution is to be as flexible as possible & have a Texas size arsenal of tools at your fingertips in order to differentiate (this is now a better article just by using that word) & meet teachers where they are in order to take them where they need to be.
In order to add to your tool belt, check out these four ways for those hesitant, or unwilling to get a twitter account, to still follow your tweets & valuable hashtags. If you have a twitter account you can sign in on any of these, but you do not have to have one in order to access them.
- Tweet Chat - The simplest of the three, TweetChat, allows anyone to type in a word (hashtag) & search twitter. The hashtag is actually already assumed so you don't even have to really explain hashtags, although if you do there is greater benefit. Start out with #edchat, #edresources, or #edtech. Give them subject specific #'s like #elachat #sschat #mathchat or #scichat. If teachers in your district regularly tweet make sure & create a district hashtag which you can also give to teachers. In Reynoldsburg ours is #RPLC which stands for Reynoldsburg Personal Learning Community. To claim a hashtag (or make sure no one else is using it) go to tagdef & search the hashtag you would like to use. You can also register hashtags at twub (more info on twub below) Finally, if there is nothing either place than test it, if it looks unused define it at tagdef, register it at twub & give it to your teachers to use. This will allow those that don't have twitter accounts to still follow along. Who knows eventually you might win them over if they begin to see it as a valuable resource.
- Twitterfall - More complex than Tweet Chat, but my favorite for using in a class or presentation. Twitterfall gives you the ability to search multiple hashtags at once as well as lists or by location. Again, you do not have to sign in for it to work, so anyone can view tweets or even chats without having a twitter account. It feeds the information live which makes it great for running a discussion & allowing the class/audience to participate. One thing to point out, they have added a nice feature called "exclusions". This is great for entering words you don't want to see pop up, then hide it so the words do not show. Example, during Hurricane Sandy one popular retweet on #hurricane included the F-bomb. Well that could cause some havoc if you had that running during class, so simply put that in the exclusion area & tweets containing excluded words will not be shown.
- Twitscoop - This is the in-between solution for those that want to search more than one # like TweetChat, but feel Twitterfall is too complicated. Twitscoop will allow you to search up to five hashtags under the search link. It does not drop them live like Twitterfall, but it will auto refresh whichever one you have selected. Another interesting feature of Twitscoop is that it shows what is buzzing right now with interactive words that are trending which grow or decrease in size by the amount of times they are appearing in current tweets. Great for (literally) current event discussions, although beware not all words are always appropriate so use at your discretion. Interestingly enough as I write this Congress, fool, & mess are all trending.
- twubs (Twitter Hubs) - Here is where you can register & promote your twitter hashtag, but it also can be a resource for those teachers without a twitter account. Just like TwitterChat you can enter any hashtag & search. The results will pop in a live feed that continually updates. If you have registered your own unique # you can promote it here & even design your page, including links to other websites about your district, class, or organization Check out twubs #RPLC as an example. One note on registering hashtags, there is a lot of info out there about it, but no one can really own a hashtag. The main reason for defining & registering is so others can see it is already in use. However, if push comes to shove you do have the upper hand if you were the first to define & register.
Hope these four tools will allow you or those you work with greater access to the educator's world of social networking. It is an amazing source of resources, ideas, creativity, & motivation. Let's work to get every educator tapped into what's out there.