What I Know Now About Twitter and Blogging That I Didn’t Know A Year Ago

393 Tweets in.

78 Blog posts deep.

About a year ago I took the dive into Twitter and also began using my blog to express what I could not manage in under 140 characters. What I know now about Twitter and blogging is much more than what I knew just a short year ago.

In no particular order, here’s my list:

  1. Twitter has become my go-to source for excellent content. And actually it is content that comes to me through excellent links shared by the people I follow.
  2. Those people I follow and who follow me, I understand, comprise what is known as my Professional or Personal Learning Network (PLN).
  3. It often frustrates me to decipher unfamiliar abbreviations found in my twitter feed and so I try to make sure I spell them out once if I have the space before continuing to use them.
  4. I am excited about tapping into the wealth of knowledge and expertise I have found both within my PLN and beyond.
  5. I love the fact that my PLN is growing gradually. This has allowed me to acclimate in manageable steps. I’m still learning how to use lists to help with prioritizing. That may become important down the road.
  6. Surprising fact: Educators make up one of the largest groups of twitter users. I made it to the party and it has been so worth it!
  7. It’s possible to search for stuff on twitter using the right hashtags. What comes up is often more interesting and nuanced than what a typical Google search might yield.
  8. My blog posts get read by many more people if the links are retweeted by an individual or organization with many followers.
  9. If a link is very important to you, it makes sense to tweet it out more than once and address it to people you value, who perhaps have more and different followers than you have and may retweet.
  10. When you read a controversial article or post, read the comments, too, in order to really broaden and clarify your thinking.  I have sometimes found comments that were better formulated and argued than the original post.
  11. There is space for my input. To my surprise, there are people who are interested in hearing and seeing what I choose to contribute. I would have never have known this if I hadn’t taken the risk in the first place.
  12. Thanks to my PLN I have learned new skills and found all kinds of apps, tools and resources to expand my tech repertoire.
  13. I live under the influence of a “variable interval reinforcement schedule.”  This means that all of this digital messaging via twitter and e-mail is impacting my brain circuitry so that yes, I’m a little addicted.  The occasional yet unpredictable reward of finding a like on my blog post, or a new follower, or a retweet, keeps me coming back to check both the twitter feed and my inbox far more regularly than is actually necessary.  I want to wrestle with this a little more in the coming year.
  14. I have never done a #ff. (Friday follow = people you would recommend following) So I’ll do it here as a year’s worth: @RafranzDavis, @tomwhitby, @plugusin, @theJLV, @TeachThought, @Edutopia, @grantlichtman, @artofcoaching1, @gcouros, @AngelaWatson, @TeacherSabrina.
  15. It has only been a year and yet the learning has been rich, deep, exciting, and compelling.  I’m in. Let’s see what the next year brings.

Taking Control of the Firehose (Or Coping with Twitter Overload)



When I started out on twitter I remember someone likening the experience of information flow to “drinking from a fire hose.” Back then (not quite a year ago), I found it funny. Some 200 tweets later, I take that statement a bit more seriously and wonder if  I would ever willingly choose to literally “drink from a fire hose.”  I suspect not.

So what is my experience of twitter really?  I wonder.

  • I actually like it, use it, value it as a professional and as an individual with a variety of interests.
  • I enjoy the regular stimulus of continually new material: new links to articles, blog posts, photos and videos.  So much novelty, not just every day; every hour of every day. Didn’t think I’d respond to this but the phenomenon clearly has an impact.
  • To my surprise, I have found tremendous evidence of community. Most of the people I follow have some connection to education; many are well known voices in the North American dialogue on K-12 public education. Others have come to my attention through related channels. So politically, professionally and personally I generally feel that I am among colleagues and allies. And understand that I was able to select my way into this network.
  • Numbers don’t mean as much to me as when I took the initial dive. At the outset, I felt a little silly with my following of 1, then 3, then 8. I marveled at some of the folks I followed for both their number of followers (in the thousands) and the number of people and entities they were following (often in the hundreds). Now I can live with “To each his own.”
  • Yet, I ask myself: how does an individual actually follow over 100 sources on twitter? How do you filter all that information and find the stuff that is really relevant to what you want to know right then?  I know there are all kinds of apps and add-ons to help one do this, but still, how much attention can you give to each thing? How much do you gain and how much do you miss?  And at that end of the day, how will you know?
  • The diversity of content, perspective and conversation even within the very tiny slice of the twittersphere which I actually inhabit has felt at once nourishing and broadening.  Because most tweets actually take me somewhere else, I come into contact with authors and topics that I would not have considered or investigated on my own. If I choose, I can delve into the comment section of an article and discover more views (often dissenting ones) which further enhance my picture of the situation and what seems to be at stake. Of all the benefits of my twitter experience so far, ready access to the diversity of content is by far the greatest.

Where I struggle is in coping with a periodic sense of overwhelm. There is so much of interest. So many topics which I would want to unpack and address – and the beat goes on. The twitter stream flows unabated. First responders provoke a discussion which goes on for a short burst of time, only to be quickly subsumed into the next big hashtag thing.  Part of me has learned to let this go, to just scroll on by.  The other part of me stops to write a post that asks: Just what’s going on here?

As much as I appreciate my twitter feed and the familiar faces I have come to associate with great thinking, useful content and quite a bit of genuine feeling, I am learning to set my own parameters for use. They go something like this:

  • Lurk first before you tweet. (Context familiarity matters.)
  • If it moves you and has meaning, take the time to dig a little deeper. And save the link in Evernote.
  • It’s an ongoing party. No one will miss you if you drop out for a few days of fresh air.
  • Even twitter has cycles. If you missed something cool once, you’ll probably get a few more chances to miss it again.

A Few Thank Yous

THANK YOU: Two words that have changed my life and helped me find my better self when I most needed to.

About a decade ago, I made saying “Thank you” a genuine habit a of mind.  While I had certainly used Thank you, please and you’re welcome often enough in the past, what changed was when I found myself able to say it when it felt most difficult to do so: When I was hearing criticism, when I felt defensive, when I was otherwise at a loss for words.  Saying “Thank you” in those situations allowed me to pause, recognize some of what was going on inside me and be open for the other’s full message. As a habit of mind, Thank you becomes my ever present reminder that I did not get here on my own. I have had much help, support and encouragement along the way.

With respect to this blog, I have some initial Thank Yous to share: for encouragement and attention, for inspiration and material, for providing impetus to keep going. First to my friend and colleague, Jalene, who kindly and simply invited me to join twitter this summer.  A simple invitation in my inbox: all I had to do was click on it and start my journey.  So it began.

To one of the premier gateway voices on twitter who has sparked my interest and learning again and again: Tom Whitby.  It didn’t take many links to find Tom’s outspoken blog on matters educational and once I began following him on twitter, my field of vision was widened immesurably. For that I am extremely grateful.  It was also on Tom’s blog that I found material which necessitated a response: I replied and used one of those responses to relaunch this blog.

Through Edutopia Edutopia and Tom, I have been introduced to another host of educator voices whose contributions have inspired and fascinated me: Joe Bower , Bill Ferriter and Elena Aguilar , to name but a few.

To my cohort colleagues and the leadership team of The Klingenstein Center, I owe many thanks for the ongoing encouragement and willingness to take and share my enthusiastic suggestions for great reads and worthwhile initiatives.  In many ways, they formed my first online audience and their influence runs deep.

cburke2012 was the first follower of this blog since its relaunch and I want to say thanks for opening my eyes to this avenue of connection and reciprocity.

Thank YOU for taking the time to read this.  To whom would you say “Thank you?”