Cool Tools for Schools, Thing 4: Twitter, Facebook & Personal Learning Networks

I feel like almost every year I’ve done Cool Tools, I’ve also done a Twitter related option. You’d think I’d either a) have run out of things to explore by now or b) finally have gotten “good” at this Twitter thing but alas, neither of those things seem to have happened so here I am: another year, another go at tackling Twitter via Cool Tools suggestions!

What I currently do: I have gotten better at checking in on Twitter more regularly but still sometimes go too long without opening the app and looking at it. A fact I almost always instantly regret when I finally check back in because I instantly find like, 3 new ideas and a few fascinating articles to look at! Moving my Twitter app to my main screen, right next to the Instagram app has helped me remember to check in more often. For awhile, I had instituted a rule that I couldn’t look at Instagram until I checked Twitter and I might have to renew that proclamation to get back into a more regular habit again…

What I looked at: Something I’ve wanted to do more often is participate in Twitter chats. So, I Googled around and found some articles on recommended Twitter chats for educators. I found ISTE’s round up the most useful and pulled several chats from it to explore further. Then, I dusted off my old friend TweetDeck and spent a few minutes working through those hashtags to see what there was to see. In the end, I was left with the following hashtags/Twitter Chats that I thought would be most useful for me to checkout.

  • #edchat (Thursdays, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET)

One of the first education chats, this popular chat has nine moderators and covers a broad range of topics. Find upcoming topics and read archived chats at

  • #digcit (Wednesdays, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET)

Focuses on digital citizenship. Read the chat archives on the #digcit website.

For those interested in the flipped classroom model.

  • #Read4fun (Every other Sunday, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET)

Connects passionate educators with books, and with each other.

I also found this website that catalogs all sorts of education related Twitter Chats and tells you when they happen. I think that will be fun when I’m looking for chats and/or hashtags related to specific issues or topics.

What I’d like to do with them: Well, to begin with, I’d like to set a goal of participating in a Twitter Chat at least once a month. As you can see, I could participate in a few each week but that seems a little nuts…especially for someone who can’t seem to make it to one well, ever. I’d like to work up to regularly participating in one a week but for now, once a month seems like an attainable goal. To help facilitate that goal, I’ve gone into my phone calendar and added each of these Twitter Chats into both my iPhone’s calendar and my school Google Calendar. I’ve also set recurring reminders for each of these chats as well. Hopefully, this will help me make it into at least one of them a month…

Additionally, I noticed when I was looking at the website that catalogs the educational Twitter Chats that there wasn’t any listed for librarians in New York State. I’d love to someday get to the point in my Twitter chatting experience where I felt comfortable helping facilitate one for the school librarians of, if not the entire state of NY, than at least the ones in Central New York. Maybe by this time next year?

I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I’ve “mastered” Twitter but I certainly love trying! I’m excited to spend some of my break trying out a chat or two and doing some Spring cleaning of my Twitter accounts. Since I was recently granted permission to create a Twitter account for my school library as well (@FPSLibratorium if you’re interested), I’m looking forward to not only applying this year’s goals to my personal Twitter account, I’m also looking forward to using some of the tips and tricks I learned in past years (lists, Tweet scheduling etc) to get my professional account in tip top shape as well. In the meantime, hopefully, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me out there on Twitter and happy Tweeting!


Cool Tools, Thing 3: Twitter & Online Communities

Just like the Cool Tool on Everything Google, I was going to skip this one. I’ve had a Twitter account for a few years and once upon a time I even took the four week course ALA offers on Twitter for beginners. I’ve made some great personal contacts through Twitter and found some great ideas on there as well-so I don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of Twitter!

So, why am I doing this tool then? Because as much as I see the benefits of Twitter, I still can’t seem to move beyond sporadic usage. I’ll occasionally remember to tweet out an idea or share something that’s happened and when I’m at conferences I love to use Twitter to keep up on what everyone else is learning and finding out at the conference. But when the conference is over, my Twitter usage is too. Clearly, my relationships with Twitter needed some fine tuning.

What did you explore? I feel like a better question would be what didn’t I explore! I lost the better part of my day to the rabbit hole of Twitter resources we had to explore-and then ones they linked to, and the links in those links and so on. I spent the most time with the following resources:

What did you learn? My big takeaways after a day’s worth of reading and exploring (I wish I was joking. I literally spend my entire day Saturday on my patio with my laptop reading about Twitter. At least it was nice out) can be summed up as follows:

  • Mind your manners-Like anyplace else, Twitter has its own etiquette code and whether you’re a newbie or a lapse practitioner like me, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on the do’s and don’ts before jumping right in. Norms and values change quickly and online they seem to change even faster. What was considered okay a few months (or even days) ago might suddenly be taboo. Of course, if you’re using something like Twitter on a regular basis it’s probably easier to see the shift happening and to shift with it. But if you’ve taken any kind of prolonged break, do a quick etiquette review and do some lurking and observing before jumping right back in.
  • There’s an app for that-Or a tool or a website or a plugin or widget or a Chrome extension. For anything you could want to do with Twitter or any issue you’re having with using it, someone somewhere has come up with an idea to help you manage it better and with more ease. You just have to find one. Actually, the bigger issue will probably be weeding through all the choices you have and selecting the fix that will work best for you. But rest assured, there are helpful tools just waiting to be found.
  • Twitter loves educators and educators love Twitter-I knew there were a lot of teachers and librarians on Twitter and I knew there were education related Twitter chats but I don’t think I had realized how many there were! I mean, there are an overwhelming number of people you could follow and education related Twitter chats to participate in-there’s probably three happening as I type this!
  • Presentation Matters-This one almost goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway because I found myself doing some hard reflecting on it this weekend-what you say and how you say it matters when you put yourself out there online. And as professional educators, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard when we share online because goodness knows everyone else certainly will!
  • You can’t keep up with everything and that’s fine-This one also seems obvious but it’s a difficult one for me and one of the reasons I think I keep dropping Twitter. It just feels like there’s so much information and I get overwhelmed trying to keep up with it all so I just stop. It was nice to read more than once in this Twitter advice articles that you should just keep up with what and who you can and enjoy it.

What/how do you plan to use? So, after reflecting on a day’s worth of reading and learning, I’ve decided I need a plan for posting to Twitter more often as well as a plan for using/lurking on Twitter for ideas and inspiration more often. Here’s what I have so far:

  • Plan for using more frequently:
    • Make it a habitEarlier this year I read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg and last week I listened to a Freakinomics Podcast episode about habits entitled, Could Solving This One Problem Solve All the Others? and they gave me an idea. Both talked about the idea of using something called temptation bundling to help you develop a habit. The idea is to pair the habit you’re having trouble establishing with something you already really enjoy doing. I already check Instagram every day. I will no longer open Instagram until I have opened and checked Twitter. I even rearranged the icons on my phone so that Twitter is in Instagram’s old spot so if I forget, hopefully muscle memory will take over and I’ll accidently open Twitter when I meant to open Instagram and the goal will still be accomplished.
    • Make it easier-One of the things I learned about Twitter during my ALA course was that you can make lists in Twitter. I never set any up though so after reading about them again in this Tool, I decided it was finally time to get this time saver up and running. I opened up my Twitter account on my laptop with my list of people I follow open and then, with my Twitter account open on my phone I went through account by account and saved them to different lists I made. It was also a great time to unfollow some accounts that I couldn’t remember why I had followed them to begin with. Now, when I go onto Twitter if I’m short on time I can just pick one of my lists and check in on those accounts instead of seeing and sorting through everything.
    • Know where to look-I copied the educational hashtag lists from the Edudemic Guide to Twitter article as well as Cybraryman’s list to my Pinterest account, saved them to Google Docs and, printed out copies to laminate and keep in my planner. Now, I know where to look when I need ideas and information on a particular topic.
  • Plan for posting more frequently:
    • Buffer app-I downloaded the Buffer app so I can pre-plan and schedule some of my library related Tweets. At first, I wasn’t sure about this idea. I mean, I feel like Twitter is suppose to be of the moment and scheduling my Tweets felt wrong. But, on the other hand, social media is blocked at our school so I can’t Tweet the cool things that we do as they are happening anyway. So it’s better to plan ahead and make sure what we are doing gets a scheduled Tweet rather than risking forgetting entirely at the end of the day. Plus, the Buffer app lets you schedule out pretty far ahead so I can just add this to my weekend routine. When I sit down to plan my weekly calendar I’ll just look at what lessons and activities we’re doing and schedule my Tweets!
    • Keeping track of chats-Did you know there’s a all-in-one Google Calendar of education chats? I didn’t either! I was able to add the calendar to my Google Calendars at work and I can check it and set reminders for chats I really want to participate in! Now when I miss out on a Twitter chat it will be because I’m busy, not because I didn’t know about it. ***Side note: How does NYS not have a Twitter chat for educators?!?! Maybe when I get some more edchat experience I’ll start it for us!***
  • Plan for keeping it professional: For the most part, I don’t think my Twitter account (or any of my social media accounts for that matter) have a professionalism issue. I’m not one to post anything overly negative to social media or share anything overtly personal. However, after reading a Gwyneth Jones blog post I found through Jennifer LaGarde’s, Twitter: A 140 Character Love Story I decided my Twitter profile could use a revamp.IMG_4911
  • First up, I rewrote my profile to make put my teacher self first and foremost. I also took note of the advice to avoid grandiose claims and took out the super librarian part.IMG_4919
  • Then I noticed that I was calling myself an enthusiastic elementary school librarian but my profile pic looked anything but. So, I updated that to a more friendly looking picture. I also tweaked the wording a little bit more so it flowed a little better.IMG_4920
  • But, it felt a little void of personality then so I tried to add in something else about me at the end again.IMG_4921
  • Then, the toughest change to make: a new header image. I love my header image of Bobby Hill yelling at his dad about the dog dancing competition! It also felt in keeping with my personality but, I wasn’t sure if it went with my new profile goals so, I replaced it with another picture I had on my camera roll, a notebook I saw at a gift shop that I liked.IMG_4922

Then, it occurred to me that I could use one of the awesome image maker tools I had read about for Twitter to make my Twitter header! So, I made my own header using that same quote.IMG_4923So far, I think I might actually like it better. I didn’t take all of the advice in the article. I kept LibrarianOnTheLoose as my Twitter name and I kept the line about crushing librarian stereotypes even if it is a little grandiose because, honestly, I think I do crush some librarian stereotypes every day. And if someone wants to convince me that the Bobby Hill header should come back and that it totally worked, I would be very open to that. 

Alright. Wish me luck on my Twitter adventures-and hey, maybe come find me on there!

Thing 37: Join Me for Some Professional & Personal Development?

For this tool, I thought I’d write about two things I decided to try, one a professional development, the other a personal development.

Professional Development:

I had gotten an email about an online class AASL was offering called Learn to Tweet and I was intrigued. I’ve been on Twitter for over 5 years now but I’ve always felt like I could be getting more out if. The class was only four weeks long and a reasonably priced $25, so I decided “Why not?” and signed up.

I’m halfway through the class and I’ve really been enjoying it. Even as someone who isn’t a complete Twitter novice, I’ve gotten something out of every week. The first week, I mostly just tuned up my list of people to follow by adding people from my class but, I also found some people I thought for sure I was following and wasn’t! The second week, my big discovery was Twitter lists. I had no idea you could create and manage lists for your Twitter feed much less follow other people’s lists! I’ve slowly been working on creating and managing my Twitter lists and I’m very excited about them! One of my biggest problems with Twitter is that sometimes, it just feels so unmanageable to weed through all the Tweets on my timeline. With lists, I’ll be able to select exactly which group of people I follow I want to see Tweets from at the given moment and really make the most of however much time I have to be on Twitter at that moment. Mind blown, game changed…

We’re working on Live Twitter Chats this coming week and super nervous about them-I’ve participated in them to some extent whenever I’ve gone to a conference and followed/used the conference hashtag but not to the level of a scheduled Twitter Chat like, TLChat for example. Wish me luck!

Here are some of the resources/readings that I’ve found helpful in this class so far:

  • Mashable’s Twitter etiquette guide  -appropriate etiquette is always important to understand
  • Using to shorten URLs in Tweets-I’ve always used Google’s URL shortner but a cool feature she pointed out about is that it has a Chrome extension that allows you to not only shorten the URL, but also allows you to tweet it right from the extension, without having to go to Twitter
  • Twitter Lists- I already mentioned these but here’s a link to their Help page about Twitter Lists
  • Did you know Twitter has an advanced search option? Neither did I! Here a link to their Help page about advanced searches

(Oh, and if you want, you can follow me @SerenaWaldron and see how I’m doing with my goal of more frequent tweeting-maybe some day I’ll even have to take that line about “sporadic tweeter” out of my bio)

Professional Development:

In April, we found out we’ll be losing all of our library clerks in my district. The incredible go-getter she is, my clerk had already found another job before the month was over. We’ve been fortunate that the new job offers her the flexibility to still work with me two days a week for the remainder of the school year. I’ve been trying to look at these last few weeks with her here reduced hours as a wonderful opportunity to start truly understanding how things will change next year, what challenges I will face without her, and the solutions we may utilize. I’ve only worked at this district in my short career so I’ve always had a clerk. I know many other librarians don’t have or have never had this luxury but I’m so very nervous about making it work next year.

One of my biggest worries is time/task management and staying organized. Which is why, when my most recent issue of Scholastic Teacher magazine arrived, I jumped right to the article with organization tips from top experts. The article mentioned that one of the experts featured, Maia Heyck-Merlin, had a book called The Together Teacher. Intrigued, I hopped online and found her website, The Together Group. I was inspired by the blog posts I read and impressed with free resources available, so I decided to not only order her book, I’ve also been working my way through a 6 week free MOOC course she set up to go with the book (there’s a paid option too if you want a certificate of completion but if you don’t want/need that, totally free).

I have been learning tons about myself and my organizational preferences. I’ve also learned that while I’m pretty organized in many areas (I kick butt at having a comprehensive calendar), I have definite weak points (managing my ongoing to do list) that could become a problem next year if I don’t proactively adopt some strategies.

Right now, I’m working on creating the template of my ideal week and after that, I’m going start using the weekly worksheets. It’s definitely one of those things that feels way too time consuming sometimes but I know getting in these habits now will more than pay off next year. Plus, once these things become habit and routine, the time it takes to create them will lessen and they won’t feel like yet another arduous thing to do…

So, those are the things I decided to try out with my You Pick! time-I’m enjoying them both and optimistic that they’ll be positive additions to my life!