Using Twitter

Using Twitter—The Basics, and Participating in #scichat
If you are new to Twitter, you might want to read the section below while your Twitter page is open in a second browser window. You’ll need a Twitter account first (go to Twitter).

Once you get an account on Twitter, you’ll see an easy-to-use dashboard that allows you to send and receive “Tweets”—each a typed thought in no more than 140 characters.  … What? You don’t think you can say something meaningful in 140 characters? Well, here are some examples on education, human exploration, social media, and Twitter from @doctorjeff

In our classrooms, the experience should mirror the interdisciplinary
nature of life, and not the subject of the hour.

If humans were meant to leave our world … we would master the laws
of gravity and motion, and build ships to the stars.

What needs to be the core objective of 21st century #education?
Students capable of critical thinking on demand.

Twitter – it’s far more than telling the world what you had for lunch.
It is the most powerful medium yet devised, so get with the program.

scary pointy. Too dangerous for students to use without supervision.

So when you’re on Twitter and you have this burning desire to get a thought out, or respond to someone else, you type your Tweet, send it, and it goes into a vast “Public Stream” of tweets from ALL Twitter users (there are over 100 Million Twitter accounts!) If another Twitter user, say Bob, has decided to “Follow you” (which is an option on his Twitter dashboard), then Twitter will find all YOUR tweets awash in the Public Stream, together with Tweets from all the other folks Bob is following, and package them into a personalized stream of tweets just for Bob. His personalized stream is provided as a live feed on his Twitter dashboard.

By the way, Bob might have decided to follow you because he did a Twitter search on key terms that reflect his interests (e.g., ‘teacher” or “science”), and you popped up because those terms were in your Twitter bio, or showed up in your tweets.

Twitter does the same for you. You have the ability to follow Bob as well as lots of other Tweeps. Twitter will then package all the tweets from folks you follow and feed them to you as a stream on your Twitter dashboard. You can then tune into your personal stream and strike up a conversation by replying to a tweet, start a conversation at any time, or just throw a deep thought out into the stream for your followers to spot floating by.

Now here is the even cooler part. What if a community of folks all over the planet knew that at a particular time there would be a conversation on Twitter about something interesting. What if the community of folks were … hmmm … teachers of science, and the weekly conversation was scheduled to take place Tuesday’s at 8:30-9:30 pm Eastern Time (1:30-2:30 am UTC/GMT)? Why don’t we call the weekly conversation #scichat.

To make it so, participants in the “chat” would need a continuous twitter feed of all tweets in the chat. Since the chat cannot be dependent on who is following whom, all participants make sure to include a keyword in every tweet. The keyword is called a “hashtag”. It is a word with a “#” in the front, say  … “#scichat“.  Then you just use the power of Twitter’s search function, and in the search box on the Twitter dashboard you enter “#scichat”. Twitter will then search all tweets in the Public Stream and feed you all of those with “#scichat” included.

During the chat, if you strike up a conversation with a number of folks, which means they are also responding to you, then your account name, e.g., “@newbie”, will automatically be embedded in their response tweets. If you want to continue those specific conversations you need to be able to focus on the stream of just those responses to your tweets, and not be overwhelmed with all of the other #scichat tweets. To focus, all you need to do is a Twitter search on your account name “@newbie” and Twitter will then feed you all tweets that include your account name, capturing all responses to you from other participants.

That pretty much covers the basics for understanding how to use Twitter and take part in a Twitter chat. Twitter is truly easy to use.

As you might expect, there is more Twitter functionality, and a number of approaches for maximizing your experience. There are also many third party apps that make it easier to have conversations like a chat. For example, if you use TweetChat as your dashboard, it will automatically put the required hashtag in each of your tweets, i.e., “#scichat”, so you don’t need to worry about remembering to type it in.

Here are some great resource pages for Twitter:

VIDEO: Discover Twitter, Mashable, March 21, 2011
VIDEO: Twitter – Yours to Discover, Twitter
VIDEO: Twitter in the Classroom, CNN, June 12, 2011
VIDEO: What Makes a Good Tweet, Dailymotion, August 20, 2011
Cybrary Man’s How to Take Part in or Moderate a Chat on Twitter web page is loaded with resources