Critics may see the global micro-blogging phenomenon Twitter as a Godsend for egotistical, self-publicists and their devoted followers.
But opposition is surely dwindling as Twitter emerges as an essential tool for networking and professional development by a growing number of users.
Educationists are no exception and, rather than limiting themselves to tweets by Stephen Fry or, perhaps, Guardian writers, teachers and trainers are among the professional groupings now using Twitter to link with fellow practitioners and to access and exchange the latest information and developments.
However, the depth and diversity of ideas and resources that are shared by teachers who tweet is vast so it is important to know how to go about using Twitter as a tool for continuing professional development (CPD) and so avoid information overload.
For instance most events and conferences will now include a Twitter hash tag, to be included in any tweet made about or from the event. So even if you are unable to attend in person you will still be able to access tweets on the key note speeches as well as from the speakers themselves and questions from the discussions or information and opinions about the event.
Event hash tags are also published to build up to the event so attendees can get a preview of who they are likely to meet at forthcoming events. Presentations and discussions and links to related resources continue on Twitter after the event thereby doubling opportunities to identify good people and leads to follow.
Participating in chats is a good way to get involved in Twitter. These take place at a pre-set time and are usually moderated. For instance #Ukedchat takes place on Thursdays between 8pm and 9pm.
Hash tags for words, phrases debate or events are key to virtual discussions and there are many examples of collaboration which has taken place in this way, producing ideas and resources for instance #ictcurric
By searching for the names of leading practitioners, academics and other experts in teaching and education Twitter users can then follow tweets which can draw people’s attention to new research, publications and ideas which in turn contribute to professional practice and development.
People build reputations in Twitter based on the resources, ideas and links they share and you will see who to follow by looking at their profile and tweets.
For professional networking and to enable people to follow you, your profile should say enough about you for others to recognise common fields of interests. Organisations will say clearly who they are.
After creating a Twitter account and a profile why not get started by asking a question since this is a very good way of attract responses which in turn puts you in touch with people you may wish to follow or who may wish to follow you.
Likewise re-tweeting something you like or referencing a person or account will bring it to their attention.