Jane Hart runs an annual online survey of learning professionals to identify the Top 100 Tools for Learning. Twitter has been voted as the No. 1 tool in this survey for the past seven years. In the past two years it has transformed my professional development, and I take every opportunity to encourage others in my organisation and profession to use Twitter.
In this post I share some approaches and resources that I have used to help others to get started with Twitter. I have run informal group sessions inside my organisation, and a pre-Conference ‘learning lounge’ at the 2016 Australian Institute of Training and Development Conference. Recently I’ve included resources on why and how to use Twitter in a self-directed micro-learning program created to build digital and network skills and habits in my organisation. Additionally, on-the-spot opportunities frequently arise to discuss Twitter and show people how to get started.
Explain the Why
To the uninitiated, Twitter, along with other social media platforms, can appear to be a place where people go for gossip, celebrities and cat videos – in short, a waste of time. This is why it’s important to focus on the WHY and bust some myths before moving to the HOW to use Twitter. This is as true for group presentations as it is for spontaneous discussions. Helen Blunden of Activate Learning Solutions discusses this more fully in her blog post How Do You Start Out in Twitter? Find the Why First.
One Hour Customised Workshop
I ran my first one hour Twitter workshop as part of a ‘lunch and learn’ professional development series in early 2015. I searched for existing resources and found Helen Blunden’s post on How to Promote Twitter for Professional Development to Your Colleagues. I downloaded her slide pack, updated it to reflect changes to the Twitter interface since her post, and customised it. Customisation included stories of my own experience and the opportunities that had been created actively engaging with others on Twitter and building my network. I included Twitter profile pictures of the people involved in my stories, explaining how I had built my relationship with them and the way we had collaborated. This was the most powerful part of my presentation as it illustrated the spirit of generosity and reciprocity that can be generated in online networks over time. I could see the light bulbs going on for people. I also identified Twitter accounts relevant to my audience so I could suggest useful people and organisations for them to follow.
See Helen’s post for tips on how to promote and attract people to your event.
During the session I moved between the PowerPoint material, demonstrating things on my laptop, and supporting people to try things out on their laptop or devices. I had another experienced Twitter user present to help support people – it’s important to have enough support to get people hands-on during the session.
You can view my presentation below and download it to update and customise it if you would like to use it. If you compare it to Helen’s presentation you’ll see where I have re-used versus customised content.
Half Hour Pre-Event Demonstration
The AITD invited me to run an informal 30 minute ‘learning lounge’ on the morning of Day One of their 2016 conference. The intent was to encourage and equip attendees to join in the conversation on the backchannel. What a great initiative! Instead of just telling conference-goers that they should use Twitter, it equips them to get started and gives them an active conversation to join in so they can see benefits immediately.
I was unsure how many people would attend a session at 8.30am prior to Conference kick off. The session had been included on the conference agenda, and one of the AITD team told me that whenever they responded to a query about the conference they had encouraged people to come along. They must have done a good job at this – there was around 80-100 people at the session! I checked existing Twitter experience with the group and what they hoped to get from the session. It was great to see some active users who had come to support those new to Twitter. Others had signed up several years prior, but not known how to use the platform effectively. Several people did not yet have accounts. So, a mixed group.
Instead of using a slide pack I demonstrated directly from my iPad which I projected using a lightning to VGA adapter (a little pricey at AUD$75, but a useful tool). I chose to project from a mobile device rather than a laptop as attendees would be using mobile devices during the Conference. My goal was to quickly get people comfortable enough with ways of engaging with others on Twitter (e.g posting, replying, retweeting, quoting tweets, using hashtags) that they would follow and start participating in the #AITD2016 backchannel.
You can download the session run script. I followed it fairly closely and found that it flowed well. I had been concerned that there wouldn’t be enough content in the backchannel before the conference had started to demonstrate some of the functionality so had asked some of my Twitter buddies to post. It turned out there was plenty of content to use, so it was easy to demonstrate everything in the script. I only just got through everything on the script in 30 minutes, and didn’t have time to check that novices were hands-on trying things as I demonstrated. I did offer to provide individual help to anyone who needed it after the session, and provided a job aid for iOS mobile devices. Note that the Twitter interface does change over time, so suggest you check this job aid (created May 2015) before reusing it.
Although not in the script some people were interested in how to use Twitter lists, so I demonstrated this in an extra five minutes at the end of the session. Lists are a very useful filtering mechanism, although a little advanced for an introductory demonstration.
In my organisation we have been developing a self-directed micro-learning version of our Work Connect and Learn program. This program aims to build digital, networking and knowledge management skills and habits. Program ‘modules’ are shown below.
Twitter is included as a topic under ‘Online Networking Tools’ in the Connect and Network module. Justine Jardine has done a great job curating and presenting content in the program. We’ve applied a ‘less is more’ philosophy, providing just enough commentary to introduce a topic and links to resources for people to explore independently, plus suggested activities. (As an aside, a discussion forum is provided for people to respond to some activities and interact as they wish as they complete the program and try out new approaches and tools.)
The list of topics and links to curated resources is below, followed by the suggested activity.
- What is Twitter?
- Why Use Twitter?
5 Reasons Every Professional Should Use Twitter
- Mindset (open, sharing, collaborative)
- How to Get Started
Signing Up with Twitter
Getting Started with Twitter
New User FAQs
Twitter mobile aid
How to Twitter (infographic)
How to Use Twitter: A Simple Infographic
How About You?
Have you used any of these approaches to encourage and support people to get started using Twitter for professional development? Perhaps you’ve used other approaches? What are your observations and tips? Please leave a comment in reply.