Recently, the link to my dissertation was tweeted by Stephanie Echeveste from USC Rossier Online. This tweet sparked a conversation, and she asked if I had any tips for professors who wanted to join Twitter. Normally, I am quick in my response to people on the subject. However, I wanted to think about this, and put my thoughts in a blog post.
The following are my tips for academics who are considering using Twitter for professional development:
Have a Plan
Don't just hop on Twitter and start following a bunch of folks. Understand your reasons for joining Twitter, and create a plan. I suggest you start with what area or concentration you teach. Following people who teach and conduct research in the same areas you do is a great start to building a personal learning network.
The next step requires you to ask yourself "Is there a topic or research area where you need to further develop your knowledge base?" If so, let that also be a guide for you in the people you follow. After wards, think about what drives you; what you are passionate about. This will be the focus of your conversations on Twitter.
Have a Pic and Good Bio
You are a live human being. Let others know that as well. Post a picture of yourself for the world to see. I beg of you to use a picture that represents you well. You don't have to use a picture of yourself in full doctoral regalia or you in a suit or you in your classroom or office. You can actually show a creative and fun side of your personality. Just be sure your picture isn't inappropriate for your workplace, out of the norm for your field, illegal, or highlights activities you wish to remain private.
As for your bio, identify what you want people to immediately get about you. When your name pops up in a search, what do you want people to see? Personally, I wrote my job title, and included a shortened-link to my dissertation.
The only bad bio is one that takes away from the message you want to get across to people. If you want to be more personable and write that you are an avid fisherman who enjoys Renaissance festivals, I say go for it. The only caveat I have is to follow the same rules for choosing a picture (avatar).
Give as Much as You Receive
I can't count the number of resources I have obtained from the folks I follow on Twitter. From lessons plans to Google Apps info to insights from their professional experiences, I am a much more informed educator because of my time on Twitter. That said, as much as I enjoy finding the gems in my Twitter stream, I also make it a point to tweet links I think my followers might enjoy.
What you tweet can be as simple as a link to a journal article you published. You could also tweet out links to conferences you think are worthwhile, research you find on Google Scholar, etc, or articles from your blog. The idea is to give back to your followers. To share the great resources you have at your disposal.
Networking is Sharing
Treat your time on Twitter like you would with colleagues at your college or university or with people you know at conferences. In addition to tweeting out professional resources with your followers, get involved in personal conversations. For example, if you like the Pittsburgh Steelers, talk about them. What you want to do is be human! Man does not live by journal articles alone.
Enjoy yourself and understand that you aren't going to build a vibrant personal learning network overnight. It will take time to develop those relationships, and that's OK. Keep at it and before long, you will wonder what life was like before Twitter.
If you or your department are interested, I am available via a Google Hangout to discuss how valuable Twitter can be as a professional development tool.
Check here to learn more about the USC Rossier Online and its MAT and Ed.D. programs.
About the author: My name is Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. I am a district instructional technologist, connected educator, and digital media learning consultant. I began teaching the educational applications of digitals as the Campus Outreach Coordinator for CAREEREALISMcampus.com. I also spent another two years as the Chief Social Strategist for StrengthsFactors, where I oversaw and managed the company’s social strategy, created and curated content for the company’s Ning, as well as launched multiple projects that expanded the company’s digital brand. Currently, I work with teachers in discovering how they can use a multitude of technologies, such as Google Apps, Compass Learning, ActivInspire, etc., to create an array of interactive and engaging collaborative learning experiences, with a focus on blended learning and connecting students to a global community.
Over the past several years I have presented at a number of conferences, guest lectured, and regularly blogged and produced online content aimed at the educational uses of web tools and social technologies. In my travels, I have met some amazing educators. Along the way, I earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership and Management from Capella University, where my research focused on digital leadership and teachers using a Twitter-supported personal learning network (PLN) to individualize their professional development. And this past year, I worked with an amazing group of educators across the state of Mississippi to organize the first Edcamp in Mississippi, which we did through Gmail and Google Docs.