Last week I reached a milestone; I got my 100th follower on Twitter. This was followed by a fairly audible “Yuss!” and a fist pump to the air, which resulted in smiles of bemusement from colleagues working in the immediate vicinity. Why was I so excited? Because I am continually amazed that anyone finds my 140-character tweets worthy enough to click the follow button. To be perfectly honest, I used to think that Twitter was a complete waste of time. I already had Facebook status updates and LinkedIn endorsements to keep me busy, so why on earth would I want to tweet? What did I have to say that was meaningful enough to share with millions of strangers?
Starting work at CORE Education has changed my perspective on Twitter and on many other social media tools. A large part of my job as a Learning with Digital Technologies Facilitator is to find what device, app, or extension is current, figure out how it works, and show other educators how to use it to improve teaching and learning practice. But, more importantly, my role is about helping them to understand the WHY?
We live in a connected world where information is our common currency. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are modern market squares, where all manner of cerebral goods are on offer. What differs from market squares of old is that there isn’t any one-to-one bartering in these online spaces; knowledge is offered up, sought out, and passed on in ways that can influence hundreds, thousands, or millions of minds. Knowledge is power. Why wouldn’t you want to harness the power of multitudes of minds?
As an educator, I can reach out through my Twitter, or other social media networks, for examples of how to teach quadratic equations through problem-based learning; or, to learn how other teachers are motivating and engaging reluctant writers; or, to hear what some of the world’s leading minds are predicting in education. But what about me? What do I want to share with the world?
As usual, those questions led to others, particularly; “Who am I?” — not in the flesh and blood sense, but in a digital one. Here’s some questions that I asked to help guide my thinking:
What do I want to do with Social Media?”
- What’s my biography?
- What message do I have?
- Who do I want to speak to/reach out to?
What are my goals for connecting online?
- Raise awareness of X issue?
- Create a personal brand that allows me to pursue or discuss personal interests eg, baking the perfect chewy cookie?
- Create a professional brand that promotes me in a commercial sense eg, consultancy services?
- Grow a network?
- Access free professional learning online?
- Narrow down an area of interest/passion?
How might I build an online presence?
- Select the networks I want to be a part of eg, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Yammer.
- Look for key influencers within that network and see who they follow.
- Lurk, watch, listen, and then engage people in conversations to cultivate relationships.
- Follow trending posts, handles, or #hashtags eg, #edchatNZ, #cenz16, @coreeducation, @netsafeNZ.
Other questions that I have pondered include, ‘How do I maintain some level of separation between the real me and the online me?’ and, ‘Is it okay to blur the lines between my personal and professional self?’ I think that this is something that lots of people struggle with; particularly our tamariki. Here’s a fantastic YouTube video by Kiwi teenager ‘Chase’ who talks about our on and offline selves. Ultimately, whether you blur personal and professional boundaries online is up to you, but you might like to consider protecting your professional reputation. The Education Council provides resources and advice for teachers using social media.
Here’s my challenge to you: What networked communities will you contribute to, and what kind of social media presence will you choose to have?
If you are already using social media, you might be interested in how far your digital reach is extending. Try using the built-in analytics tools associated with many social media tools such as Twitter Analytics, or explore purpose-built apps like Klout that can quantify your impact, and can help extend your digital reach.
So, here am I am, 18 months on, and 127 tweets into my Twitter journey. I’ve been exposed to some incredible knowledge and I’ve begun to develop my digital self. Maybe by the end of next year I’ll hit the 1000 followers mark. Here’s my handle: @Boysie73
Featured image: Social Media CC0