The Many Uses of Twitter
There are several benefits to the Internet and social media outlets: connections from all over the world and information at your fingertips to name a few. Since we spend majority of our time engulfed in our devices, we lack communication skills and social interaction.
Twitter is used for more than just sharing short 140 characteristic updates about ones life and day, it is used by millions of people for several reasons. Twitter chats, sharing news, self-promotion, connecting over popular media such as television shows and movies, and so much more.
One of the most popular ways of interacting with millions of people through social media are through Twitter, tweeting messages using a hashtag, sharing your tweet with millions of people tweeting with the same hashtag and available to anyone who searches the hashtag. Now on popular television shows, new episodes will often have a hashtag for the show on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen for the duration of the show, encouraging viewers to tweet their thoughts and opinions to be shared with the world under the hashtag. Instead of having a face-to-face conversation about the show or event happening, people can interact via Twitter through hashtags.
A New Way of Chatting
As a result of the hashtag trend, Twitter chats have become the new chat rooms through the use of the same hashtag. People can schedule Twitter chats by creating a hashtag, setting a specific time and date for the chat, and posting it on the chat schedule website for people to join. Anyone who has a Twitter account can create and participate in a Twitter chat. Those who do not have a Twitter account can watch the chat happening by going onto the Twitter website and searching the hashtag that the chat is taking place under.
The Evolution of Communication Through Twitter
In its 11 years, Twitter has changed and influenced the ways in which we communicate with one another. In an article on CNN’s website, Doug Gross lists the five ways in which Twitter has caused these changes.
First, Twitter had created a fast flow of information. Using 140 characters, news can spread at rapid fire, especially with the usage of hashtags and trending stories. The second way Twitter has changed the ways in which we communicate is by removing the celebrity filter. What Gross means by this is that because of Twitter, celebrities tend to share information about themselves that their publicists normally would not release to the public.
The third, according to Gross, is that Twitter has created thought leaders. “When a single tweet puts your thoughts in front of hundreds of thousands of people, you’re able to help set the agenda in your community,” states Gross. Next is that Twitter has strengthened the second screen, meaning that no one has to watch a TV show alone anymore with the implementation of live tweeting under a certain hashtag during new episodes of television shows.
Finally, Gross states the fifth way Twitter has changed the ways in which we communicate by (over)simplifying the conversation. While users are restrained to only 140 characters, it allows the sharing of quick bits of information, however some users will continue to post several tweets until they have felt they have made their point.
Twitter Chats: a ‘How To’ Guide
There are several ways to participate in Twitter chats. Nicole Miller posts a Step-by-Step Guide to Hosting or Joining a Twitter chat in her blog. In her post, she shares several sites that can be used to find Twitter chats, such as the Tweet Reports and Twubs. Miller also provides helpful tools to make a Twitter hat more productive and run efficiently, such as Tweetchat, Nurph, Twchat, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Storify, that allow participants to reply faster to tweets and stay on track in the discussion, as it can be very hard to follow when many people are participating in the chat and responding to questions that were posted.
Similarly, in Janet Fouts’ blog The Mindful Social Media Coach, posts a descriptive ‘How-To’ guide for those who are interested in participating in Twitter chats. In her blog, she posts the steps that must be taken in order to participate, such as creating a Twitter account and how to find Twitter chats. Fotus also includes the same sites mentioned in Miller’s blog that allow participants to follow just the chat that they are participating in. Fotus provides detailed instructions on how to participate in the Twitter chats.
Why Twitter Chats are Important
Michelle Mislevy, a staff member of Albright College’s IT Department is also a professor that teaches an Educational Technology course to Albright’s pre-service teachers. Within her class, Mislevy incorporates various forms of technology, teaching students different tools that they can implement in their classroom. One of the assignments Mislevy gives to her students are a requirement of educational Twitter chats that students must participate in and log their experience in a blog post. In her course, Mislevy teaches students how to create Twitter accounts and find the chat schedule of education chats on Twitter.
Mislevy states that she came learned about Twitter chats through an advertisement for #edchat about four years ago. “I had a Twitter account for a year and didn’t know what to do with it,” states Mislevy. “I saw this thing for #edchat Tuesday’s at noon so I hopped on and I just became instantly hooked.”
Through following the #edchat, Mislevy found out about other Twitter chats that discussed educational topics. “Edchat is a Twitter chat but the #edchat is also used for a lot of stuff.” From participating in #edchat, Mislevy began following other participants, which led her to finding a link of scheduled chats with the topic, date, time, and hashtag to follow the chats under. “At the time there were only a handful and now there’s ‘hundreds every week.”
Twitter chats have changed the ways in which we communicate with one another, even future educators. While having social media accounts as an educator can seem a bit taboo, it can create networking with thousands of people across the world. “I think it’s changed the way we communicated through chats because we’re able to connect with people all over the world by a hashtag.”We’re actually able to become not just consumers but producers,” states Mislevy. “It’s allowed us to connect to people that we normally wouldn’t be able to connect with and it’s allowed us to learn from each other.”
Mislevy believes that Twitter chats are a very important and helpful tool for pre-service teachers. She encourages her students to try different Twitter chats to learn about different educational topics for different participants. “It’s so important because it lets the students know there’s other methodology, there’s other pedagogy, there’s other ways of doing things in the classroom other than what you learn here, or what you observe in practicum, or what you see at student teaching in Berks County and what you’ve experienced. I think you’re actually seeing what teachers in California are doing, or teachers in Washington State, or in Maine, or Florida, and it validates what you’ve learned here,” states Mislevy. “It helps people make connections and it builds your professional learning network.”
Twitter chats have changed the ways in which we communicate, build connections, and watch television. Hashtags have opened the doors to users throughout the world, leading to conversations that may have never taken place without the help of Twitter.