Friday, September 28, 2012

Getting Blasted with the Firehose

I find it sort of funny that social media is now old enough that I can term it "back in my day".  For instance, I had a discussion the other day with a student who didn't know what MySpace was.  In one of my computer classes, I discussed the "You Got Mail" sound clip that used to play back in the days of AOL.  It's amazing where social media has taken us.  This upcoming weekend, I am celebrating my 20th class reunion.  I ended up being the default coordinator for the event.  Rather than sending out paper invitations, the class was invited to the festivities using Facebook and Google Apps.  It is amazing where social media has taken us.

I remember a discussion I had during a WETMA event at the ISTE convention this past summer in San Diego,CA.  While waiting at the Hard Rock Cafe for some amazing sliders, chicken wings and southern California's best attempt at Wisconsin brats, I began to talk a little bit with one member of the 30 person posse from the Superior School District.  We were chit chatting about all different types of technology related topics.  At the end of the discussion, she asked me if she could add me on Twitter.  My words stumbled for a second.  My response eventually was simply that I didn't use Twitter.  I uttered the comment that I was a Facebook guy and I just didn't see the use for Twitter.  I am pretty sure that comment made her choke a bit on the bite sized morsel that she just popped into her mouth.  Not use Twitter, and you're a tech coordinator?!?!  Let's just say our conversation ended about as quickly as a pretty girl letting down the geeky guy at the high school dance.  Yeesh! Awkward!

I've struggled with the concept of getting teachers, including myself, to dive into Twitter.  I found it hard enough to get teachers to welcome the concept of saving files in the cloud.  Before this, I saw Twitter as a place where you can update your status much like Facebook.  So, in my mind, why would I spend time updating two sites on what type of pizza I was eating tonight?  I was always looking for that little kick in the pants or that push into the proverbial Twitter pool.  For some reason, that push happened a few days ago. It was a day when I was attempting to livestream the video podcast of WELSTech.  As I was listening, oh yeah, I mean watching the podcast, I was intrigued by Sallie and Martin's guest that day.  His name is Chad Kafka.  Chad is a tech coach at the Franklin School District here in Wisconsin.  He chatted during his interview about a couple of hashtags on Twitter that dealt with up-to-date information on Google Apps.  As an official Google Apps junkie and owner of my own Google pillow prominently displayed in my classroom, my ears perked up.  I have been wanting to become a Google Certified Teacher, but I have yet to send in my Google Teacher Academy Application.  Chad mentioned on the broadcast that folks were tweeting a large amount of the information they were receiving from the Google Teacher Academy, and my ears started ringing.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  He had me at "information", so my fingers sprinted to my dormant Twitter account.  So, without further ado, I immediately jumped into what I believed was an ice-cold pool called Twitter. I dove in feet first and found out that the water is not cold, but amazing.  Welcome to Twitter Ted!

I immediately began checking out some of the hashtags that Chad mentioned on the broadcast.  As I dug, I found that there were some amazing professional materials being passed around Twitter.  Thinking of the water analogy I used before, it was as if the technology professional material firehose opened up and I was caught a few feet from the hose.  Wow!  I wish that I would have hours to spend just checking out all of the professional materials being shared between professionals on just the few hashtags I was following.  It was dynamite.  Now, I wondered, how could I watch this information in an easier way than just being on Twitter and hopping between tags.  That is where my free technology item came in.  I searched and I had to look no further than TweetDeck.  Now, I am sure this is not the only program of its kind, but TweetDeck gives you the ability to follow Twitter in one location.  You are able to keep track of your own account's timeline and interactions in columns.  Even cooler, you can create a search column to follow certain pertinent hashtags.  So, I started with the hashtags #appsct and #googlect which linked me into the Google Certified Trainers.  From there, I picked up that many people were posting to #edtech and I added that as well.  Then, I added #welstech and #iste to follow two very good places for tech information.  Like an old-school flip clock, the information started flowing.  This was awesome.  I didn't have to work hard to find the information.  Rather, the information was flowing onto my desktop in record speed.  Where do I even begin?

So, if you are someone who has needed a push off the diving board into the Twitter pool, I will declare to you that the water is fine.  Even if you are not someone who is going to tweet often, you can still use Twitter and TweetDeck as a valuable tool of resource collection, collaboration and learning.  Eventually, you too will be tweeting out the latest finds in your professional life.  Collaboration is huge, especially within our WELS school system.  I don't believe we collaborate enough.  Hopefully, this blog can be another tool for that.

So, consider Twitter.  Now, the next time I am talking to someone at the Hard Rock Cafe about technology, they can enjoy their amazing appetizers and we can continue the conversation via Twitter for years to come.

God bless!


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