When I first looked at Twitter, I didn’t really “get it.” I think that’s because it wasn’t integrated into my regular browsing experience. The more I’m required to visit a separate unique site, the less likely I’m going to keep up with it consistently. My news and tools, like many other users, come to me; I spend more time in Google Reader than any other site and work to minimize how much time I spend just “browsing around.” So, when I discovered several tools that integrated Twitter directly into Firefox, I had renewed interest in it. That interest has led to 61 updates in the last three days; some people should never be given a PA system, particularly one that spans the globe (grin).
Rather than re-hashing what others have written and explaining what Twitter is and how it may be used in the classroom, take a look at Educause Learning Initiative’s 7 Things You Need to Know About Twitter.
With the Firefox add-ons I’ll describe below, Twitter provides a social network fully integrated in the browser which makes it easier to engage. The micro-blogging element is enjoyable, and the, in essence, “persistent, always on, group IM session” provides a great opportunity for networking with colleagues. And, as Jeff Utecht noted through Twitter yesterday, his Twitter network is “by far the largest community [he] belong[s] to.”
The Firefox add-ons I’m using currently are . . . (if there are some I’m missing, please note them in a comment!)
TwitBin vs TwitterFox. Both tools make it possible to review network posts and to post updates to personal accounts. I discovered TwitBin a week or so ago, and Nick Noakes (twitter: nnoakes) highlighted TwitterFox in an update yesterday. TwitBin resides in the browser sidebar with an update entry form on top and automatically refreshing network updates extending the length of the screen. TwitterFox resides in the lower right status bar and pops up with updates; the form for entering an update works better than Twitbin. On first impression, I believe I prefer TwitBin; the larger interface and persistent sidebar are important to my personal browsing habits.
TwitterBar and TinyURL Creator. TwitterBar adds a small green plus sign to the URL address bar; a simple click posts the current URL to Twitter as a note that the page is currently being browsed. I often want to add a short note other than the URL; TwitterBar doesn’t allow that functionality AND it copies the full URL which takes up most of the allowed characters. Instead, I’ve taken to using TinyURL Creator to right-click and paste the TinyURL for the current page into TwitBin with the note I’d like to add.
Others have also written about Twitter-Bots which provide additional functionality for Twitter which I’ll be exploring in more detail as well. This Lifehacker blog entry describes Twitter Timer and Remember the Milk.