Sunday, January 23, 2011

What I have learnt about Twitter.

Greenfinch singing - Carduelis chloris
Image:  Greenfinch singing - Carduelis chloris by Rob Baldwin

A week or so ago I was listed in a BMJ Careers article as a "health professional to follow". That's quite an honour, so I thought I should write a short post to share my Twitter learning.

My first tweet is recorded here. It was on 27th May 2008 and was "preparing for a seminar on medicine and the media- thinking about health 3.0". I had just received an invitation to Twitter from a friend who works in IT. He has never quite got the twitter bug and I didn't for a few more months either.

Twitter was just one of the strategies that I chose to use to try and find (and develop) a community of people interested in medical education online. I had been to two medical education conferences in the summer of 2008 and I wanted to keep talking and sharing. My first move was to start this blog back in October 2008.(Lesson no1:  If you want to get the most out of twitter then start a blog. It doesn't matter if you don't write anything for months, you will have somewhere that allows you to share your ideas in a longer form. Twitter lets you find people but for real conversations and learning you need something that allows for  discussion and that is a blog.)

I started following two distinct groups on Twitter- those interested in learning and education, and those interested in health - much wider areas than the narrow field of medical education that I was first searching for. This has been a "good thing". Having a network which is diverse by interest and geography has maximised what I have got out of twitter. (Lesson no2: Don't just follow people like yourself on twitter. Diversify your network.)

I have tweeted a lot! But there are some things that I don't tweet about, namely anything that could break the confidentiality of the students I teach or the patients I care for. Now and again I mention something personal but rarely. I am aware that my tweets are there forever and I want to be comfortable with anyone from my mother to my boss reading them. (Lesson no3: Twitter is always public).

Lastly, twitter is good for bite-sized conversation. Don't try to make it do more than that. Tweet chats like #nhssm (NHS and social media) are good for finding people but unwieldy for learning. If you find yourself getting into a long conversation on twitter then you probably need to write a blog post instead! Then you will have the record of your thoughts and those who comment forever. Tweets can be hard to archive and find again. (Lesson no4: Twitter has limitations)

I hope that is helpful. Do you have any questions about how I use Twitter or anything you would like to share?

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