There is a catch phrase among educators on Twitter: Lurking and learning. It’s used to describe the first steps an administrator or educator new to Twitter should take. According to Tom Whitby, a retired English teacher turned education professor at St. Joseph’s College in New York, who helped create #edchat, by “lurking and learning,” searching for relevant people, and taking time to see how others engage on Twitter, the initial learning curve will gradually flatten out.
Before getting your feet wet, it’s important to learn the nuances of Twitter. Try exploring different hashtag conversations and see how others reply and connect with one another. There are hundreds if not thousands of hashtag conversations, and exploring many of the popular conversations may lead you to sources that are relevant for you. The “@” symbol allows a user to reply or send a tweet directed at another user. When you see a link or resource that you deem important, try retweeting it, and try to contribute as much as you’re acquiring. Most administrators say they try to balance their Twitter time in half between gaining information and sharing it.
Users can organize their followers into lists and follow others’ lists as well. Administrators, for instance, can create lists for all principals, teachers and administrators. There are a few tools to organize the Twitter feed, as well. For example, Tweet Deck is a dashboard application for desktop and mobile devices that allows you either to maintain multiple Twitter accounts at once or to organize your news feed into lists. For instance, you can see all tweets tagged with #edchat or just your principals’ list.
Eric Williams, superintendent of York County (Va.) School Division, suggests administrators make small and tangible goals for themselves when first beginning on Twitter, such as spending 10 minutes each day reading resources shared on Twitter, retweeting five tweets, and contributing three times per week.
“What’s great about Twitter is it’s an opportunity for people to contribute and check their titles at the door,” says Williams. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the superintendent of a medium-sized district or a huge district; there isn’t a brick-and-mortar hierarchy. You’re open to communicate with anyone.”