When I first used Twitter, it was a bit of a punt. But like most social media you have to ‘do it’ to ‘get it’. After some time you start to see patterns, specific uses emerge. One that surprised me was, as many report, CPD.
Teachers, trainers and lecturers and all professionals often have a paucity of adequate CPD opportunities. Awful INSET days, dated train-the-trainer courses and flipchart training sessions. It’s often stuck in the world of sheep-dip training, no sooner finished than forgotten. This patronising, one-size-fits-all often lacks relevance, currency and innovation. Twitter, surprisingly, may have many benefits often absent in this traditional training:
1. Productivity gains
This may seem odd – but Twitter can save you time. Twitter provides a constant feed of pithy stuff. It’s concise and you can filter it, scan it and select that which seems most relevant to your needs at that time. In this sense it saves tons of time. Forget those awful round-table training sessions, where you pick a chair (most extrovert on table), discuss some awful pre-set question, the chair feeds back (usually their own views) to flipchart pages. As a personal productivity tool it may seem like you waste time on Twitter but for me its time well spent and far more productive than ‘training courses’.
2. State-of-the-art stuff
As an almost realtime feed, you start to feel as if you have your finger on the scrolling pulse. A Twitter feed provides a steady flow of contemporary and relevant tips, information and links. You’re monitoring conferences as they happen, expert opinion, new research and the on-going thoughts of colleagues and experts you follow. It’s the excitement of being not on the wave but the leading edge of the wave that makes it feel so current.
3. Build a trusted network
Over time you will find that you build a network of people you trust to deliver what you need. These may be experts but will mostly be people just like you, who just want to share their thoughts. It can be lonely out there working with the same set of people day in, day out and Twitter can expand this group to the hundreds and thousands.
4. Share resources & ideas
You don’t just share but ‘learn’ how to share on Twitter. It really sharpens up your writing, especially of headlines. But the real power is in the humble hyperlink, the ability to link to something you’ve written (blog post, infographic etc.), done, attended or simply spotted. Occasionally you’ll know you’ve hit a nerve as you see it retweeted and/or favourited.
It’s not easy getting to many, if any, conferences. But you can through Twitter. A hashtagged, conference Twitter feed often gives you the gist of things, even the essentials and it’s free. The corollary is that you should also get into the habit of tweeting when attending events.
These set-timed events, usually a half hour or hour, allow you to enter a mass chat session with like-minded professionals. A series of questions are set by a moderator as Tweets and anyone can reply, retweet or favourite. You’ll find that a flood of fresh ideas appear and it’s a great way of following and being followed.
7. Real people and real events
Twitter forces people to be sharp and to the point. It also reveals their personality. Even in 140 characters, people have a voice, a style. You can also DM them if you need to ask them something specific, ask for help, whatever. It’s not as though it divorces you from the real world. If anything you get news of more real and live, face-to-face events on Twitter than you ever did on any other medium. Teachmeets, conferences, political events – you name it, people will tweet it.
This is odd but I have experienced reinforcement of learning through Twitter. Let me explain. If I Tweet in a conference, the act of Tweeting forces me to crystallise and reinforce my thoughts. This helps me remember these short summarising statements. More reinforcement comes through retweets or favourites by others. Social media, in general, has, I believe, a spaced practice effect. How often can you say that about traditional training?
9. Hundreds of millions
Ask yourself the following question. Why are hundreds of millions of people using Twitter, many for expanding their circle of colleagues, knowledge and reach? One answer is that they find the things they want. Why restrict your development to what others feed you in pre-planned training days? Why not tap into one of the world’s most interesting networks and learn from the many, not the few?
10. Twitter evolves
Look at Persicope, that allows you to stream via Twitter. Then the existing functionality to Tweet, retweet, favourite, hashtag, direct message (DM), add images, add video and link to Tweet. Above this lie a whole rafy of useful tools for managing Tweets. Searching on Twitter is also becoming much more powerful through Kiri (thanks David D'Souza) and Google.
I’ve tried to be really honest here and not build Twitter up into something it’s not. I wouldn’t, for example, want to say that Twitter is all I need for CPD. I like Google for search, books for in-depth study, videos for talks, blogging for productive reflection and email for getting real things done. But it’s a damn good tool. It’s no accident that twitter has soared, with hundreds of millions of users, as our brains like small chunks of information, we like to keep in touch with people, share things, feel good when people respond. So don’t follow leaders, follow Tweeters.