The Educator's PLN

The personal learning network for educators

For the “Connected Educator” Twitter can be a mainstay for information and sources. In order to build up a steady flow of information and sources, one need only to establish a list of people to follow on Twitter who put out the tweets, or messages, that contain links, URL’s, to that information or source. In Twitter terms these people are called “Follows”. They are the people one follows. An educator using Twitter for professional reasons would follow educators, since they put out education information. I follow over 1,600 educators, so my stream of information runs constantly through my Twitter timeline. No, I do not read every tweet.

The other side of the coin here would be those educators who follow me. They would be my “Followers”. Once I got over 300 followers it got to be a bit heady. I had to keep things in perspective. It was not a third world dictatorship with me as the leader of my loyal followers who awaited my every word. If I put out useful information and thoughtful advice, I found that I would attract more followers. The very best method to do that was to follow really great educators and retweet what they tweeted. That means I would tweet their tweet, but give them credit for it. I was valued, because I valued someone else’s thought or information. How cool is that. Kudos all around!

There are many ways to follow people. There are lists that people offer. Bloggers now have “Follow me on Twitter” icons located on their blogs. There are recommendations of people to follow from other tweeters. Twitter dedicates Friday as the day to recommend people to follow with a hashtag #FF placed on tweets making follow recommendations. The #FF stands for Follow Friday. Of course for the more popular or specific people to follow, there is always the “Search People” tool on Twitter. Probably the best method is to check who each of your follows follow. Take people from their lists of follows. The point is that one can strategically make a vast number of follows with far less effort than was once required.

The real connections with all of the follows, and followers however, come with the personal exchanges made between follows and followers. These are the important, meaningful connections. Exchanges of ideas and information are the goal, but more often the personal and social aspects are the things that bind individuals. Many of these digital connections become much more. This has added a whole new dimension to Education conferencing. Educators who are connected through social media will meet face to face with people they have been attached to online. Without ever having before met face to face, it is like old friends reuniting. It is truly a unique experience.

It is with this backdrop that I now address my latest experience with my Twitter emotions. As I said, my follow list exceeds 1,600, so I was looking for a quick way to cut that down in order to eliminate some of the noise created by huge numbers on my Twitterstream. That means that I was getting a great deal of chatter distracting me from more meaningful tweets and that was becoming less efficient. Of the 1,600 follows I may have 1,000 people with whom I have never ever had an exchange other than the initial “Hello, I am now following you”.

I happened upon an Application, or Twitter tool called Manage Flitter. It was designed to identify from a list of follows those who do not follow back. Now, I do not expect Regis Philbin, Chris Matthews or Anderson cooper (I know they are not educators) or any celebrity to follow me back. There are even education celebrities to be followed on Twitter and I have no problem with them not following back. My problem became evident when I saw how many people whom I admire, have retweeted and have interacted with, no longer followed me. Of course my head immediately said, “You have disappointed these people and let them down, so they dropped you and your offerings”. Of course that was totally irrational, but nevertheless I had to deal with that in my head. Although I was disappointed to be dropped by Daniel Pink, Deborah Meier, Alan November, and Sir Ken Robinson, I really should have been elated that they even followed me to begin with. Twitter is an amazing tool because people, for the most part, are accepted for their ideas and not their titles, but there is still a star system and a fan base culture below the surface. The really hurtful “no longer followings” however were those people who I spent many tweets on exchanging ideas and giving out sources. Of course it is ridiculous to feel this way, but this entire system is based on connectedness. When you lose that connection, questions come to mind.

While expressing my concern about Twitter on Twitter, two of my follows stepped up to console me. Mark Barnes, @markbarnes19 a great ASCDEdge blogger and Jerry Blumengarten, @cybraryman1, one of my long time connections. Mark suggested I Blog about the issue, which resulted in this. Jerry pointed out that Twitter has had problems with a bug that has people unfollowing others without permission to do so. You’re Not Crazy, After All: Twitter Confirms Unfollow Bug. Both of these guys helped me through this self-created crisis.

I think the whole point of this post is that the connections made on Twitter for the purpose of professional enrichment carry with them more than the idea of people just swapping links. Twitter is more than wanting to share what was for lunch. Of course that is part of Twitter, but it is more about personal connections. Unfortunately, that cannot be seen by looking at Twitter from the outside. I am always astounded at the number of people who have never used Twitter, but feel compelled to offer up their opinion of it. Now, would someone like to point up the Irony in the fact that I was upset at all those who were no longer following me, as I employed a tool to unfollow people?

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