I first joined Twitter back in February 2008, but for such a long time it seemed slightly pointless, and ever so slightly overwhelming. A few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge again after having seen a little bit more about it in the press and in the forums that I regularly read.

I now follow about 100 people and about 80 people follow me ( @spanishsam). My favourite ‘tweeters’ are those in a similar position to me, ie. MFL teacher in the UK with a passion for ICT, however I follow a range of other relevant professionals and the odd real life friend. Oh, and Stephen Fry ( @stephenfry)! I got a good tip-off about who to follow by reading Joe Dale’s blog entry on how to create a PLN (Personal Learning Network) using twitter as it has the names of many MFL teachers. Furthermore, over on the TES website, in the MFL forum there is a whole thread devoted to saying who you are on twitter. This is definitely the key to making twitter work for you. If you don’t have anyone to follow then you can’t get much out of it. Likewise, if you have something to say then you want a decent amount of people to follow you that might be interested in what you have to say.

The second thing I did was download TweetDeck from . This allows me to (very quickly) open my recent tweets list on my home PC and see exactly what has been going on throughout the day. I can easily search, send direct messages (private messages to people – put a ‘d’ before your tweet), or re-tweet a message that I like and want to re-transmit to my followers (RT in front of a message). TweetDeck also has a separate column on the page for me to see messages that have been aimed at me without losing them in the stream of tweets that are regularly being updated, and there is a column for the direct messages I have sent and received that no one else can see. TweetDeck also offers the added advantage of being able to display my Facebook updates on the same page. I guess this is where my professional and my personal worlds collide!

I have also fed my recent addiction to twitter by making use of my lovely BlackBerry Storm by downloading TweetBerry. I can read all messages and update my own status from it very easily. There are various other options open to BlackBerry users, and I chose this one after reading a blog post where various applications were discussed, as it seemed the most user friendly.

So, what have I gotten out of being on twitter? Well, apart from having a reason to be on my computer all evening long, I have actually learnt a lot. Many of the people that I follow are respected members of the MFL/ICT community and apart from being completely in awe of being able to communicate with them directly, I have been able to be on the receiving end of so much information. I have actively read many people’s blogs over the last year or so, but it is often hard to know how to find them and I have normally stumbled upon them as a result of surfing the net with no real purpose. Since joining twitter my list of RSS feeds at home has almost doubled with updates to blogs that I now subscribe to so there is always something new for me to read when I have the time. I suppose that what makes twitter useful (and at times frustrating) is that you can only post a maximum of 140 characters, which means that your message has to be short and sweet. It must get straight to the point and it is therefore very obvious as to whether it is something that could be of personal use to you.

This week, the top 5 things that I have learnt/found out about/been told about via twitter are:

  1. There are versions of twitter in a closed group setting, such as yammer or edmodo but they have other uses as well such as file sharing
  2. I know know what a flashmeeting is (video conferencing at its best)
  3. The MFL teachers on twitter have set up a flashmeeting here for next Monday (4th May 2009) at 9pm, you can sign up for it here by clicking on the ‘edit’ button
  4. Speed dating to practise MFL orals in the classroom

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