I Finally Get It...Slice of Life

Back in 2008, I distinctly remember reading Franki Sibberson's first post about Twitter.  It sounded intriguing...a way to connect with other learners who did not live close by? I was attracted to the possibilities right away.   Usually, when I hear about something new, I'm one to jump in and figure things out as I go.  I know that not everyone learns this way, and I'll admit, I probably make it harder on myself sometimes as I work through challenges, but overall, it works for me.

It took me another seven months to read and think about Twitter.  Believe it or not, my first tweet went out four years ago today.  Only July 30, 2009, I tweeted, "New to Twitter.  Any advice?"  I was excited as I anticipated all the new learning, and new friends I would make.  I followed a few people, hesitantly sent out tweets, linked my blog, and hoped for the best.  It wasn't long before I was drowning.  I was overwhelmed with all the tweets as I tried to follow conversations and read everything that came through my feed.  #Hashtags?  @ signs?  Whew!  I was in way over my head.  I treaded water for awhile and then decided to take a break until I had a better sense of what this Twitter mania was all about.

For the last four years, I've dabbled in and out of using Twitter.  I send out a tweet now and then, share ideas, and participate in Twitter chats every once in awhile.  I absolutely believe in its power. I think that's why I haven't been willing to completely give it up.  Troy Hicks introduced our teacher group to Twitter in January as we prepared for our Advanced Summer Institute. I started to think again about how Twitter could move me forward as an educator.  How could I make it work for me?   Cathy Mere and I  had some great conversations about Twitter.  Thank goodness she's patient because I keep asking the same questions over and over.  I've watched how both her professional and personal lives have grown due to her connectedness.  I've even made some "friends" whom I've never met, but feel like I know them based on our Twitter conversations.  I decided I wanted to give it one more try.  I gave myself permission to take in what I could and not worry if I wasn't getting every bit of information out there.

Now, I say I gave myself permission to let some of it go, but deep down, I still felt like a failure.  I wasn't tweeting up to my expectations.  (Remember, I've got that perfectionistic thing down pat).  I constantly compared myself to my Twitter savvy friends, and I always came up short.  I did not see myself as a connected learner.  That is until yesterday.

 Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach presented at the ILE Ohio conference on the importance of connected learning.  One of our tasks was to sign up for Twitter (check, had that done), and send out a tweet (another check...I've done that before).  I wondered if I'd be able to stick with it this time.  I want to be a connected learner.  Then Sheryl said something that gave me pause...She said (I've taken liberties as I was writing the quote quickly), "I think of Twitter like a river.  It is always flowing by.  Sometimes I just want to dip my toes in and I spend 10 minutes or so reading a few tweets.  Other times, I might want to wade in a bit and I will follow a # conversation and be on for a little longer.  Then there are the times I want to dive in and swim.  I'll spend an hour or so delving into a deep conversation with one or several people."

Wow!  That statement released all of my guilt, my perfectionistic expectations, and my feelings of being a Twitter loser.  If an expert like Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach uses Twitter in these different ways, then I certainly could too.  I don't have to spend hours getting the latest updates every day.  I CAN check in for different amounts of time and if I have to miss a day, that's ok too.  For right now, I am going to focus on spending a few minutes every day and commit to two Twitter chats a week.  I'm excited about the possibilities now and I'm looking forward to building stronger relationships within my learning community.

Thank you to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  You can view other slices on their blog.


  1. This is a timely post. I keep trying Twitter... sort of. I've signed up. I follow a few people, log in and read. But, I've never tweeted anything, my blog is not linked, and I haven't followed a chat. and I still have a lot to learn, but I guess I can, because I keep reading how others have. But hashtags and getting connected still seem like a mystery.

  2. I need a Twitter tutor. Your journey inspires me to not give up, but I'm not ready to jump in. I'll stay a toe dipper until I find that tutor.

  3. Julie,
    As one of your Tweeting pals, I have to say-I love the water analogy you've shared-it makes perfect sense! Thank you for sharing your learning-it's another great way for me to share getting on twitter with others.

  4. Julie,
    Your post made me smile. I have enjoyed having Twitter conversations with you and thinking about the meaning behind the tool. Your questions always cause me to pause and reflect. I always walk away with a better understanding. You are right; Twitter has changed my connectedness both professionally and personally. Honestly, I think Twitter has taught me a lot about learning and collaborating in my school and other learning communities ("live" networks). I've realized the importance of knowing my resources (the expertise of others), collaborating with others, giving credit for great ideas, sharing the ideas of others, and so much more.


  5. Julie,
    I love the analogy also! Thanks for sharing. I am like you and I hesitated with Twitter at first. Why did I care where someone was eating dinner or when they were going to the bathroom? Then I realized the potential. It was more that celebrities spouting silly nonsense! There were real teachers sharing powerful ideas! My problem? I'm like all or nothing. I go in phases too. Summer I always jump in a little more, but I need to keep that river analogy in mind. I always feel like I might miss something, so I check in and then I can feel overwhelmed with information and articles and blogs to read. Deep breath! I will start dipping in and out more and let go of the guilt too!

    Thanks for sharing your Twitter journey! See you in the river! :)

  6. I want to understand Twitter. But I don't. I don't understand how to follow conversations. It seems everyone is talking over everyone. I don't understand hashtags or any of the other lingo. I want to. I need a twitter tutor as well. :-P

  7. I'm definitely a twitter novice. I love the idea of Twitter as a river, for toe dipping, wading, or an occasional dive and swim. I've followed #titletalk a couple of times, and even ventured in with a comment or two. How can I find out about other twitter chats that I might enjoy?

    1. Here are a few more links:


      Good luck. :) We are all in this together.

  8. Julie,
    I love the analogy as well and it will help me when it is back to school and I have less time! I love that Twitter enables me to benefit from colleagues in different time zones, and although I read the archives of many chats I wish I could participate live more. I also love how Twitter leads me to many blog posts where I can get more than 140 characters of thinking from great educators.
    @Ramona- look here for a list of Twitter chats

  9. I agree with Elsie...I need a Twitter tutor! I figured I reached my technological limit this summer with my blog and classroom website. But I certainly see tweeting in the future!

  10. Well said, Julie! I've saved your blog in my Diigo library and will be sharing it with my staff to encourage them to become a more connected learner. Thanks so much.

  11. Julie - I felt like you were writing MY story of my experience with Twitter - at least your first four years! I guess I’m at the point you got to when you jumped in a little deeper. Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. As I read the river analogy-- I literally felt all Twitter guilt fall from my shoulders:-) What a marvelous quote. It reminds me G. Lynn Nelson analogy of how we know/learn things. I described his idea in my book this way:... we can stand on the bank and observe and measure, calculate and analyze, record factual details and numbers.....or we can take off our clothes and enter the river, slowly or tentatively, or jump in with wild gusto and anticipation.

    Thanks for this message Julie.


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