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Twitter and Gifted Education

Twitter has quickly become one of the most powerful platforms in education today. The Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT) hopes you will take time to familiarize yourself with Twitter. The potential for collaboration and real-time learning will ultimately benefit you and gifted learners. Twitter can appear daunting at first, but its potential is compelling. By allowing individuals to communicate in real-time about subjects, like gifted education, Twitter makes 140 characters go a long way.

If you have never tweeted before, this short guide will help you get set up on Twitter. You will then be able to start tweeting, read what others have tweeted and be ready to participate in the #gtchat forum.

Setting Up Your Twitter Account
Go to www.twitter.com and create your account. Twitter will ask you for your name, an email, a password, and a name you would like to use as your Twitter username. You can use your name, company name, and/or something different. It is best to keep your username short and easy to spell. Once you have done this, you will be taken to a Welcome page, where The Twitter Teacher will let you know you can get started in 60 seconds or less.

Follow Freely
You will then see a page where you will have the opportunity to choose people you might want to follow. We recommend starting off with @TXGifted, the official account for TAGT, @gtchatmod and the account Lisa Conrad, the #gtchat moderator.

Down the line, you may want to follow scores of other individuals interested in gifted issues and/or other areas of interest to you. Just know that when you follow people, you will begin to see their tweets (what they post on Twitter) in your live Twitter stream. Note that others will not see what you see (the tweets of the people you follow), unless they follow those individuals, too. They will simply see your individual tweets if they choose to follow you. This differs from Facebook, where everything can be visible.

Add Your Favorites
You will then see a page inviting you to follow your favorite brands. You can tool around in here or simply click on the “Skip this Step” link.

Find People You Know
When you get to this page, you will be asked if you want Twitter to search through your contacts. This isn’t necessary. You can click on the “Skip this Step” link, if you wish.

What’s Happening?
When you arrive at the page with a “What’s Happening” box at the top, you are actually ready to tweet. On the right, you will find three more steps, including how to post an update. You have 140 characters for each tweet; Twitter will let you know if you go over. If you do, you must edit what you have written so it is to no more than 140 characters.

Setting Up Your Profile
In this section, you will have the opportunity to upload a picture (recommended), add your location, and any websites and/or blogs you have. You will also see a box for a short biography. You can put, “Interested in gifted education issues” or “Texas educator who revels in 21st Century Learning” or “Gifted education advocate.” It’s up to you, but it alerts others to the fact you are interested in these issues. You also will have the option to post your tweets to Facebook, if you care to do so. You may notice the other tabs in the Profile section, which you may want to explore later.

Important Note: There is an option in “Account” that allows you to make your tweets “private.” Do NOT click this box, otherwise your tweets will not show up in the public stream nor can you participate in a chat, including #gtchat.

What Do All the Symbols Mean?
When you first look at the Twitter stream on your Home Page, you may find some of the symbols confusing. Fear not! Here is a quick guide, which will tell you all you need to know:

  • @username – When you want to direct a tweet to someone in particular, you simply start off your tweet with the person’s @username. If I wanted to send Dr. Lynette Breedlove a tweet, I would type “@atxteacher” and then write the message. It will be a public tweet, but if Lynette searches for her @username, she will see it.
  • #hashtag – On Twitter, the symbol # is known as a “hashtag” and it serves as a subject sorter. It allows individuals interested in the same issues, topics, and/or events to follow all the tweets associated with a particular hashtag. For example, #gtchat has become a forum for discussion on topics related to gifted education from people all over the world. Simply search for #gtchat in the Search Box at the top of your Twitter page.
  • RT – What’s a RT? This stands for “Retweet” and is used when someone likes what another person has tweeted. If someone shares an idea about differentiation that you like and you are following that person, you can click on the Retweet button right above their tweet. Then, all of your followers will also see that tweet.

What is #gtchat?
Utilizing the Twitter platform, #gtchat is a real-time forum that allows participants to share resources, ideas, experiences and new ways of thinking about gifted issues. The collaboration and learning taking place via #gtchat is inspiring! More than 1,000 tweets from around the world are now devoted to #gtchat every week. The one-hour Twitter chat takes place on Fridays at 7:00 p.m. (EDT) on timely topics pertinent to gifted learners. The topic is selected each week by “popular vote.” A handful of potential topics are posted early in the week on #gtchat, and interested people vote their preference.

This forum was started by Deborah Mersino in 2010; due to a job change, she is no longer able to host #gtchat, and TAGT is now powering this discussion. TAGT is committed to maintaining and preserving the integrity and enthusiasm of #gtchat, with Lisa Conrad serving as the moderator, @gtchatmod.

Final Notes
Once you have your own Twitter account, we suggest going to www.tweetchat.com. Allow TweetChat to connect to your Twitter account. Then, put “#gtchat” in the Search Box at the top. You’ll soon see a stream of tweets related to #gtchat. The beauty of TweetChat is that you don’t have to add “#gtchat” to each of your tweets; it does it automatically for you. You can choose to jump in and tweet and/or simply watch. You will get the hang of it before you know it!

Follow @gtchatmod today and watch our website, www.txgifted.org, for #gtchat information, including transcripts of past and present discussions.

*Adapted from an original article by Deborah Mersino, 2011