Behold the Power of Twitter

This time last summer I went on my first Facebook Fast, which made such an impression on me that I wrote a post about it and am noting its one-year anniversary. Since that week-long detox from my social media drug of choice, I have been hyper-aware of how addicted I am to Facebook and have tried (unsuccessfully) to break the habit. Even though I have other social media accounts, I don't check them as religiously as I do FB. They don't hold the same power over me as that little blue f. Well, not until last week when I discovered the greatness of Twitter.

I hopped on the Twitter train during last year's Summer Olympics. I wanted to keep tabs on the US Women's Gymnastics Team and my other favorite Olympians, so I finally worked up the nerve to create a Twitter account. Even though people tried to explain it to me, the truth was that Twitter intimidated me. It felt like there were so many secret handshakes that I wasn't cool enough to understand. I couldn't comprehend how it worked--how to tweet and retweet, how to "follow" people. And hashtags? #whattheheck?? And there was no way to "like" anything on Twitter (I've since discovered that little "star" button) or tell if anyone actually read my tweets. As I've stated before, this "Words of Affirmation" girl gets a high off all that thumb love. But my biggest problem with Twitter was the brevity that is forced on me. I don't do brief. 140 characters...that's all you get in a tweet. Facebook allows me to write entire novellas for status updates, and I am a WORDY writer (obviously); I own it. Even though it wasn't the "hipster" thing, I felt comfortable being a Facebook Girl in a Twitter World.

But I reluctantly stepped into the Twitter-verse, and I felt like a foreigner in a new land. I was reading computer code instead of people's opinions on life. So many @s and #s and weird arrangements of random letters (bit.lyxfdz).  I literally had to crack the code to uncover any meaning, and I slowly began to realize that this was a great lesson in learning to "read" all over again. As an educator, I saw this as a chance to wrap my brain around something that didn't make sense to me. So I slowly started to embrace Twitter as a new learning opportunity.

In the beginning, it didn't have the same hold on me as Facebook. I could go days, weeks without "checking" it. Over this past year, I've started "following" more and more people, and as my Twitter Feed has grown, so has my interest. The truth about Twitter is that it's all in how you use it; what you put in is what you will get out. So if you follow fluff, that's what will show up in your feed, which is fine if that's what you want.

I primarily follow authors and educators with a few celebrities and friends sprinkled in; therefore, my Twitter feed is mostly about books, writing, and hot topics in education and libraries (yes, it's the Nerd Feed, and I'm cool with that). But the best part about Twitter is that I can "follow" people from all over the world; I don't have to "know" them and wait for them to "accept" my "friend request", which I think is one big advantage of Twitter over FB . Facebook is like looking out the window of your house--it shows your "hood"--the immediate world around you (or at least that's what my news feed does). Twitter is like standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building and overlooking all of New York City--it shows a huge chunk  of the landscape--the broader view of things that you can't see from ground level.

A perfect example of this is what happened a few weeks ago when Wendy Davis filibustered in Austin. It doesn't matter what side of the political argument I'm on, but Twitter revealed its power to me that night. No TV stations were reporting this news-worthy event; it was all unfolding on Twitter through the eye-witness accounts of reporters and people who were there watching from the gallery. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning and searched the hashtags that were trending on the subject, and I was able to read facts from both sides of the issue. And for the record, there was not a peep about it on my FB news feed other than a few "opinion" statuses the next morning. It was my first experience with getting a stream of live news from a social media site rather than from the TV. It was truly fascinating.

But Twitter really won me over this past week when we started using it with our participants in the Abydos Literacy Institute. We encouraged the teachers in our workshop to tweet about things that they were learning as we taught the lessons. This provided a "back channel" for dialogue. Some people might think this is rude for people to be tweeting while someone is teaching, but as long as they are tweeting on a topic relevant to the lesson, I see this as enhancing the learning experience. Tweeting has added a new dimension to our Institute that we have never had before because teachers can share ideas and resources even after we go home for the day. (You can see our tweets by searching #misdabydos). Our Superintendent even visited our class and sent us a shout out via Twitter:

Every time I go on Twitter, I learn something new from an author or educator that is relevant to my reading, writing, and teaching life.I now believe that all educators should have a Twitter account. You don't have to tweet until you get comfortable, but it is an unbelievable resource for research and ideas, and so many teachers leave it untapped. Here are a few resources that can help you get started (These are links that have shown up on my Twitter feed this week):

The Teacher's Guide to Twitter

The Complete Guide to Twitter Lingo

28 Creative Ideas for Teaching with Twitter 

44 Twitter Chat Tools for the Modern Teacher

And here are some cool links that I have recently found via Twitter that I would never have stumbled upon:

Best Apps for Teaching and Learning 2013

The Summer Slide and the Rich/Poor Achievement Gap 

Who's Killing Our Kids' Love of Reading?

The World's Most Famous Teacher Blasts School Reform

As a librarian to high school students, it made me realize how crucial it is to teach kids how to cull the best from not just their Twitter feeds but from the constant stream of information spewing at them. Of course, most teenagers primarily follow their friends and celebrities via social media, but think about that bombardment of information that they are getting on a daily basis--SO MUCH is coming at them from so many different outlets. It's like NOTHING we experienced as teenagers. So we've got to get in their shoes and teach them how to THINK and READ in the 21st century. And to do that, I think we need to be 21st century learners ourselves.

As I've grown more comfortable with Twitter, I find myself checking it more and Facebook less. After all, I have not miraculously found more time in the day to devote to Twitter; I've just got to be smarter with the limited time that I have. Don't get me wrong--I am not breaking up with Facebook. I still love to peek into the personal lives of my friends, and Twitter will never feed my need for affirmation the way that FB does (Unless I get a RETWEET--that's my new goal). But now that I've discovered the awesomeness of Twitter, Facebook just isn't enough for me anymore.

So follow me (@AmianneB) on the Twitter Train if you aren't already on board.  And I will probably need a Twitter Fast in my near future.

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