Sunday, September 25, 2011

Twitter + ReadItLater = Connected educators


I am writing this blog post for my colleagues, and other educators, who are not yet on Twitter. In it, I intend to provide a guide to using Twitter and to managing the reading load that the Twitter-habit will generate.
Understandably, teachers don't want to add another distraction to their busy days. They often hear that Twitter is a forum for people who think the world needs to know every opinion they have and every place they visit.

These were my views of Twitter until I took the plunge and signed up. I now have an active exchange with educators from around the world and, thanks to ReadItLater, I have found a way to read some of their output without adding to my workload. This exchange has enriched me in many ways: it supplies me with lesson ideas, gives me a forum to put my ideas out for scrutiny and keeps me up to date with educational trends. Through Twitter, I have met someone who has visited my classroom and taught my students valuable skills.
Beyond 140 characters
Each Tweet has a limit of 140 characters. This is not enough to discuss an issue but it is enough to share a link to a webpage, a blog post or video. Here are two samples from my tweets:


A Tweet containing information

A Tweet with a link - Those interested would click on the link at the end
 
Decide who to follow
You may want to start by following your colleagues and people recommended by them. If you check a website often, like TED Talks, follow their tweets. This way, you will be alerted whenever there is new content on that site. It is easy to "unfollow" people if you don't like what they share.


Making time to read
Like you, I don't have much time in the day to read articles (or watch videos) that have been tweeted. This is why I have signed up to ReadItLater.com. 

After signing up to ReadItLater, Do the following:

1) Click on "All Browsers"

2) Click on the link "Read it later" and drag the following bookmarklets to the toolbar of your web browser
 You're set. Whenever you visit a webpage you want to read later, simply click on the Read It Later button. This will save the page to your reading list.

Clicking on Reading list will bring up your saved articles. You can also go to ReadItLater.com and view the same list. Here is what mine looks like at the moment:

Each morning, I allow myself 10-15 minutes to check Twitter. If a link looks interesting, I click on it and then click "Read It Later". When I have time, I go to ReadItLater.com and view my saved articles. This way, I can read an article when I take a 5-minute break or when I am sitting in a caffe on the weekend. Articles marked as read disappear from your list but can be retrieved at a later date.

Your reading list in your pocket
If you own an Apple mobile device or one that runs Android (Eg: Samsung Galaxy or HTC Desire) you can get the ReadItLater App. This allows you to catch up on your reading anytime you're not in front of a computer. If you see me with my iPad in a caffe, I am probably going through my reading list. Feel free to approach me all the same. I won't mind the interruption!

Fear of drowning
Both Twitter and ReadItLater have many features beyond the basics. Don't let this fact hold you back. Get started and you will pick up what you need as you use them. You can reap much benefit from making use of the basic functionality described in this article.

I hope this post has been of some use. If you're an experienced user of either tool, please share your tips in the comments. If you're new to them, please share your experience so far.





3 comments:

Ian Chia (from Being Prudence)

said...

Hi,

I highly recommend using Flipboard on iPad to browse your PLN stream. It's a very effective way to turn a twitter feed of PLN content into a magazine like experience. Zite on iPad also works along similar lines.

I personally use Instapaper, since I was an early adopter and it works pretty much the same, but I think it generally has wider support (and I love how powerful it is. I use the Instapaper bookmarklet on my desktop browsers all the time to bookmark content for browsing on my iPhone and iPad.)

Instapaper also allows you to share cached articles with selected recipients, which is also extremely handy, or even email the entire text of a cached article.

On the iPhone, I use a combination of Twitter.app and Instapaper.

Hope this helps!

- Ian

Ian Chia (from Being Prudence)

said...

Also recommend following @shannoninottawa and reading her post "Twitter for Teachers":

http://shannoninottawa.com/?p=1922

Shannon Smith is part of the worldwide Connected Principals network (@conprin on twitter and uses the hashtag #cpchat).

- Ian

Rambling Teacher

said...

Thanks for the tips, Ian. I also love Instapaper. The advantage I find in ReadItLater is that it supports both iOS and Android devices. It also allows sharing on a number of forums.
I understand that Zite integrates well with ReadItLater but the latter has a magazine-like interface in beta. I currently use that when reading on my laptop.

I will be sure to read the article you have shared in your second comment. Thanks again.