Friday, October 10, 2008

tt4t_058 Professional Learning Networks, Twitter, and the K12 Online Conference

It’s Friday, October 10th, 2008 and welcome to episode 58 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This morning I presented two workshop sessions about using Web 2.0 tools to expand your Professional Learning Network to local teachers at our Regional Office of Education professional development day. I primarily concentrated on Twitter as one way for teachers to consider expanding their learning network but also mentioned blogs, wikis, and podcasts. If you attended one of the ROE workshop sessions and this is your first time visiting TechTalk4Teachers, welcome, and congratulations on taking the initiative to continue the conversation.

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Too often professional development opportunities are one-and-done workshops that have no continuity or follow-up. For those session attendees, thank you for visting this blog and taking the first step. Feel free to leave a comment, just scroll down to the bottom of this episode’s notes and click on the comment link. TechTalk4Teachers is a moderated blog so you will not see your comments immediately appear until I approve them. This is one layer of protection that keeps inappropriate comments and advertising commercials from being posted to this blog. At the end of this podcast I will provide an email if you prefer to contact me that way.

If you are unfamiliar with Twitter I have provided a link in the show notes to Twitter in Plain English that does a good job explaining what it is in less than three minutes. I also embedded this video in the show notes for Episode 56.

Twitter is one of those Web 2.0 tools that you must use and experience to understand its power. It seems so simple and mundane, yet this is the tool of choice for me for expanding my professional network and has greatly increased the number of people I have professional contact with across the world everyday! Twitter will take some time to fully comprehend its benefits but for me this learning curve has been worth it. I have evolved and adapted my use of Twitter over time as my network has grown. Here are some things to consider if you do decide to setup a free Twitter account:

• Consider your username carefully
• Consider your picture representation carefully
• Consider all postings carefully and treat postings as “living” forever
• Start small, follow only a few individuals until you are comfortable using Twitter
• Agree and abide by the Terms of Service Agreement
• Protect usernames and passwords at all times and always sign-out when finished
• Treat all of your postings as public information (the world can see them)
• Twitter postings are searchable by Google and other search engines
• Twitter has its own search engine that can search all tweets
• Always use the Grandma Rule, if you would not want Grandma to see it then do not “tweet” it.
• Always use the Principal Rule, if you would not want your Principal to see it then do not “tweet” it. (Parents, other teachers, students may also see tweets)
• Only follow people you are comfortable with and that share your interests.
• Twitter is a reflection of society and you may occasionally run into a ”bad apple”. Ignore trolls and unfollow or block anyone that posts anything you deem inappropriate.

If you do decide to use Twitter at school make sure you get approval and abide by all school and/or organizational policies as with all Web 2.0 technologies. Some schools may have Twitter blocked by filtering software so you may need to get approval from the appropriate department at your school to have it unblocked. Some schools may still deny this use and in that case you would not be able to access Twitter at school.

Twitter is a social networking tool so be sure to model all appropriate behavior when using Twitter. You have probably given this lecture before to your students about their use of social networking sites like My Space and Facebook and the same principles apply for all online behavior for everyone. Because all of your “Tweets” are public you need to exercise good judgment at all times.

Establishing your virtual identity with a username and picture is how others will see you through Twitter. Some prefer to remain somewhat anonymous and select usernames that are generic while others do not mind having a public persona and using their real name as their Twitter name. I started out using a generic name but I found that as my network grew that there was value to using my real name. Thus I changed my Twitter account to reflect my real name and now use this account for professional purposes.

Your picture also needs to be carefully considered. Personally I do not like having a picture of my face out there so for now I chose to use the itc graphic as my picture. Some Twitter users even prefer to use avatars or cartoon caricatures as pictures to represent themselves as long as the images are not copyrighted.

Always use good judgment in what you “tweet” to others. A tweet is simply a Twitter posting. Twitter is a social network and tweets can be searched and archived for later retrieval. I prefer to keep my tweets professional and to the point and do not share much personal information. You are responsible for your “tweets” and if they are deemed inappropriate there may be consequences for your personal and/or professional life. Here is a news flash: You are responsible for your actions and there are consequences in life, using good judgment is a necessary skill for all online correspondence. Twitter may not be for you and that is OK. The point is that you make an effort to continually learn new things, you may prefer to read blogs and/or listen to podcasts instead.

You do not even need a Twitter account to see the posting of a Twitter user if you know their Twitter username. To visit my Twitter account you can see what I am doing by going to:

If you do decide to get a Twitter account you can “follow” me to see all of my updated tweets every time you login to Twitter. When you follow someone they may choose to “follow” you back to see all of your tweets.

I have used Twitter for the purpose of establishing my own Personal Learning Network. The idea is to follow others that you share a common interest with and tap into the collective mind of the network. This is a kind of wisdom of the crowd approach. Of course your network is only as good as the people you follow so make sure to “follow” smart people who share your purposeful use of Twitter. Keep the purpose in mind as Twitter can also be a tremendous waste of time if it is not used with a purpose in mind. One danger is that you may follow too many people of a similar mindset and may not have enough diversity within your network. I purposefully follow some that I may disagree with but at the same time respect their opinions as it is helpful seeing where they are coming from and their point of view.

There has never been another time in history where so much information is available to so many people and that is a good thing. Learning to cope with the information overload is another matter. My Professional Learning Network has helped me keep up with new and important developments related to educational technologies. I hope that I have reciprocated and helped a few of them out along the way as well. Everyone has the opportunity to learn more, it does take effort, but the opportunities are out there from all around the world. No matter how poor of a district you come from you can have access to top notch and often free professional development opportunities all it takes is an average computer with Internet access.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

Speaking of learning more and taking advantage of available opportunities my Technology Pick of the Week this week is an online professional development conference that is free for all K12 educators around the world. The name of this conference is the K12 Online Conference 2008 and a link is provided in the show notes.

If you have never experienced the advantages of an online conference I highly recommend that you check this conference out. It is free and offers both synchronous and asynchronous sessions so there is no excuse for not attending virtually.

K12 Online Confernce 2008 – Starts October 13, 2008

K12 Online Conference Schedule:

Here is a quote directly from the K12 Online Conference website:

“The K-12 Online Conference invites participation from educators around the world interested in innovative ways Web 2.0 tools and technologies can be used to improve learning. This FREE conference is run by volunteers and open to everyone. The 2008 conference theme is “Amplifying Possibilities”. This year’s conference begins with a pre-conference keynote the week of October 13, 2008.”

Be sure to participate in this exciting opportunity and get away from the one-and-done workshops you have all experienced too often in the past.

For those of you that are visiting the TechTalk4Teachers blog for the first time I would like to remind you that all past episodes are available on the right-side of the blog, you may have to scroll down a bit to see the archive section, just click on the little triangle symbol next to each month to expand the choices available to see all episodes available that particular month. Also, remember that since I provide transcripts of past episodes you can search the TechTalk4Teachers blog by clicking in the search box located in the top left hand corner of the TechTalk4Teachers blog by typing in a search term. The results will be displayed on screen and you can scroll down the page until you find the information you are searching for.

That wraps it up for episode 58 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have a comment of suggestion please send and email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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