Introducing Twitter to Educators and Scientists

For those of you who are “Twitter is for more than checking out celebrities breakfast menus” converts, let me share some basic steps for helping other educators/scientists catch the vision.
Disclaimer – I am a high school educator and as such some of the dialogue is slanted toward a teachers perspective. Adjust as you need to fit your situation.

  1. Start out by asking if the educator/scientists (Edu/Sci) has ever heard of the WECN (World Educators Collaboration Network) or WSCN (World Scientists Collaboration Network). The answer of course will be “no.”
    1. Tell them – “The WECN/WSCN is a free network for Edu/Sci to share ideas, collaborate, get feedback and find great resources. I use it daily and it is the best tool for collaboration I have yet discovered.”
    2. Continue to elaborate on the benefits you have enjoyed by using the WECN/WSCN
  2. Ask them “Would you like to know the real name of WECN/WSCN? – Well it is Twitter”
    1. After mandibles reconnect with the skull, show the individual or group a running stream of your favorite hashtag – #edchat #scio13…….
    2. When I share this in large groups I project the streaming hashtag on the screen and ask a few individuals to count interesting tweets for the next 5 min. Follow up with those individuals later.
  3. At this point they will begin saying things like “But I don’t have anything to Tweet.” My response “Good, at least you know it.” Most people recommend spending the 1st few weeks on twitter just investigating, no tweeting.
  4. There are 3 modes for twitter use. This is a progression, they will need your guidence. Newbies should only spend 10-15 min on Twitter per day.
    1. Twitter without an account. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AwXs5R6LeA
      1. Anyone can use twitter without an account. Go to www.twitter.com. Use the search box to search any topic, person, twitter ID, or hashtag without an account.
      2. For the skeptics this is a great way to investigate. No one wants to create an account for something they think they will never use.
    2. Twitter with an account but no tweeting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUvxX34QuI8
      1. Once individuals have discovered the value of Twitter, creating a login will help them keep track of the people, topics, and hashtags without the task of searching every time they get on Twitter.
    3. Twitter with an account and tweeting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUvxX34QuI8 Same video as above.
      1. At this point encourage recent converts to start retweeting others ideas.
      2. Replying to a tweet with a followup question is also encouraged. Keep in mind, if the reply is going to an individual with many followers, it may take some time to respond if a response ever comes at all. The fewer followers a Tweep (person on Twitter) has, the increased chance of getting a response. <1,000 good chance, <5,000 so so chance, >5,000 fat chance – results may vary.
      3. As they are retweeting and replying, they can start discussions with those individuals. This will help them gain followers -
      4. Remember: Twitter isn’t about the followers, it is about the connections – You can buy as many followers as you want. What you need are great connections.
  5. Lastly – your Twitter protege might begin to be overwhelmed by the constant flow of tweets.
    1. Explain that Twitter is a waterfall. Grab a cup full of water when you are thirsty and let the rest flow by. Twitter is not email. If you miss some tweets from those you follow, no big deal.


As you share Twitter, oops I mean WECN/WSCN with friends and colleagues, realize not everyone will embrace the value of Twitter no matter what you do. And that is okay.

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About Adam Taylor

High School Science Teacher Nashville, TN
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4 Responses to Introducing Twitter to Educators and Scientists

  1. Matt Russell says:

    Love the post, Adam!

  2. Twitter is a great way to discover new information, to discuss science and to ask questions to experts. Of course, you should give it some time and follow the right people.
    Here’s some help on how to set up a Twitter account and also some help deciding who and how to follow on Twitter.

    Cheers,
    Julio

  3. Another great post from you, Adam! Thanks for the links!

    I work with profs and they like to test the waters before committing to new platforms. Your suggestion to listen in with no commitment is brilliant! It requires little commitment and still fulfills your goal of moving scientists toward engaging online.

    One barrier I often hear from scientists is that they’re time-strapped as it is. They’re perpetually applying for grants, teaching and researching. Their career depends largely on their publication history. I completely understand that argument.

    I’d like to note some examples of collaborations started on Twitter, or perhaps examples of folks who met via Twitter and began cited one another in their articles. I think having those examples will reinforce the value of Twitter to an academic’s career. However, finding those examples is difficult. Has anyone seen any concrete research outcomes generated from Twitter for university profs?

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