Monday, December 09, 2013

Twitter as professional development tool

I was one of the earlyish adopters of Twitter. In 2008 however, I couldn't see the point of maintaining a Facebook profile and a Twitter profile just to keep my friends and family updated about goings on. Very few of my friends were on Twitter so it was hard finding a reason to check in... Since I wasn't into the Kardashians' and Hiltons' business,Twitter just did not have what I wanted. So my account became dormant.

In 2013 however, I started evaluating a tech for education initiative. Maggie Verster @maggiev showed me how teachers could use Twitter to develop their own personal learning network. Here  is a nice summary. Finally I could see a use for it.

Now Twitter is my professional social networking tool and Facebook is kept for personal networking. I use Twitter in a general sense

*To find newspaper articles I'm interested in. All the big newspapers post links to top stories to twitter which links to their online sites. Mail and Guardian is one publication that I follow at @mailandguardian
*To check traffic between johannesburg and pretoria on the @itrafficGP handle whenever I tavel
*To get a sense of public sentiment on major news stories #RipNelsonMandela was quick to trend once the news broke. I was also amused by the #underdog story

But the real value is in the professional applications of Twitter. It helps me to find relevant content and people and to share my own content and interests with others. I have used Twitter:

*To find interesting blog posts by other evaluators and development players @BetterEval for example post snippets from their blog onto Twitter. So does the @Worldbank, @DGMurrayTrust  @Tshikululu and @RockefellerFDN
*To find information about education and evaluation events. This year I followed the American Evaluation Association's #eval13 conference from afar, and Bridge @BridgeProjectSA is very good with keeping a running commentary going on twitter for their education events
*To publicise my own blog content to potential users. My handle @benitaW sometimes carry links to
*To share interesting reading with other people. Twitter is probably not the best content curation tool, but its easy to find an article you've read and shared if you need to. It also helps to show other colleagues what your thinking is influenced by. They may suggest content on other or similar viewpoints... in essence allowing a little debate to take place, and extending your horizons a bit
 *To express opinion about published content. @DBE_SA ocassionally puts out very good and very nonsensical content that I just *have to* respond to.
*To maintain a back channel of communication at events. At the #SAMEA 2013 conference there was quite a vibe going on Twitter between persons attending the conference (@aidencholes @SouthernHemis @mmarais). At the #ICT4RED #tabletfunday I helped someone find their lost cellphone via twitter.
*To live tweet events. I kept up a running commentary of the #Samea 2013 conference sessions I attended. This helped me to keep a record of important points, and provided other members of the international evaluation community (e.g. @txtPablo @guijti @patriciajrogers) with a sense of important news.
*To find other like minded professionals. I started following @aidencholes because he is linked to the narrative lab and they also look at narrative methods... the topic of a recent conference paper. At the Samea conference we finally met face to face and we already had lots to talk about. @louisevanrhyn also works with schools
*To figure out who the movers and shakers are in other fields that I'm interested in. Dave Snowden @snowded is a systems thinker whose work I started following as a result of Twitter.

So if you are ready to take the plunge, here is a ten day twitter challenge that Sean Cole @seanhcole created for South African teachers. It applies well to evaluators too. Give it a bash!

Evaluators (#eval #evaluation) that I follow:

Evaluators from South Africa

Orgnizations involved in Evaluation


Anonymous said...

Great post! If you're interested in following more evaluators on Twitter, here are some more:

275+ evaluators on Twitter:

An 75+ evaluation organizations on Twitter:

Hope this helps! Ann

Benita Williams said...

Very useful thanks Ann!

Benita Williams said...

Here is another blog on the topic from Ewen Le Borgne

Why on earth would you want to be on Twitter? via @ewenlb