In January 2012 I started the New Year with an ARTSblog entitled So Many Resources, So Little Time. I wrote, “With endless emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds, I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed.” For the most part, that statement was true – except for one thing. I wasn’t using Twitter!
Of course after mentioning Twitter in the resources ARTSblog someone would reach out to me in an email requesting my Twitter handle. Uh oh. Once upon a time I had set up an account, but when I tried to remember what the original handle was and how to login? Forget about it. I had been caught red-handed!
Just what I needed, one more thing to add to what already felt like an overflowing plate. I couldn’t respond back with, “sorry, I don’t do Twitter” after mentioning it in my blog so I decided it was time to officially throw myself into the #Twitterverse. Hence, @JessicaLWilt was born.
Over the past year I’ve been teaching myself how to navigate and speak the language that is Twitter while building a truly authentic and genuine community. I don’t have thousands of followers – yet – but I do regularly interact and connect with a diverse group of people. Never could I have imagined how vast the information, people, ideas and life-changing events I’ve experienced through Twitter would enhance my personal and professional circles.
Throughout the day, as I’m reading Twitter feed I will:
- Retweet information I find of value to share with others
- Reply to a tweet or quote a comment to engage in a deeper conversation with another person or a group
- Use a #hashtag like #artsed to identify a specific topic or participate in a Twitter chat with others
- “Favorite” a tweet posted by another to let them know I’ve seen it
In 140 characters or less I can pretty much gauge what’s happening throughout the day, interact with people and organizations from literally all over the globe and learn a ton of information all in one place that I might otherwise never see.
The occurrence of serendipity and the chance happening of meeting others is one of my absolute favorite human experiences. Not too long ago I came across an article in Inc. Magazine where Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh talks about this very experience. He said, “Meet lots of different people without trying to extract value from them.You don’t need to connect the dots right away. But if you think about each person as a new dot on your canvas, over time, you’ll see the full picture.” I love this thought and it’s exactly how I envision my use of Twitter.
Here’s how it works:
In January I saw a hackathon tweet about an upcoming Startup Education Weekend (@StartupWeekend) happening in New York City. Education and technology people from all over the tri-state area came together to brainstorm project ideas, including arts education, that in 48 hours would be presented to potential investors. The energy was electric and the ideas were mind blowing. One of the project idea winners that came out of the weekend is called @BetaMatch and they are doing cool work connecting teachers with technology.
Milena Arciszewski who is the “Director of Opportunity” for The Future Project, (@DreamDirectors) an organization that is “reimagining education one dream at a time” spotted me tweeting about Startup Weekend on Twitter. It turns out Milena started following me on Twitter during last fall’s presidential election when I won a contest (I learned about through Twitter) writing for The Huffington Post. Milena tracked me down at Startup Weekend and invited me to attend a Future Project event. It was there where I met Steven Hodas, the Executive Director of iZone (@innovatenycedu),a technology-based K-12 program sponsored by the NYC Department of Education (@NYCSchools).
A few weeks later two other groups called The Centre for Social Innovation (@csiSL) and Be Social Change (@BeSocialChange) co-hosted a panel discussion at the Avenues World School (@Avenues_org) in Manhattan called, “The Future of Education: Innovation in K-12 Learning.” Milena’s organization The Future Project had a Dream Director speak on the panel along with a NYC DOE iZone staffer from Steven’s department. Through Twitter not only have I made incredible connections with Milena and Steven’s networks, but I also have found new professional friends with CSI and Be Social Change.
Are you starting to see how these Twitter dots connect?
This story comes full circle when I was recently planning a NYC Arts in Education Roundtable (@nycaier) panel discussion where the topic of conversation was about the integration of arts education with technology. The Apple store in SoHo graciously agreed to be the venue host. As the moderator, I quickly realized I needed help finding panelists.Through my Twitter connections and Steven Hodas at iZone/NYCDOE, I was able to curate this incredibly diverse group of educators, teaching artists and cultural organizations that inspired an evening of rich arts education and technology conversation at Apple SoHo. Success!
For whatever reason people, especially in the arts and culture sectors, remain fearful of using technology and social media in a way that enhances communication. I hope my example of effectively utilizing Twitter demonstrates how social media can play a crucial role connecting communities by sharing information and ideas with others in the field. As I’ve embarked on my Twitter journey, I’m starting to see the dots Hsieh speaks of and a beautiful canvas is coming to life every day. Don’t be afraid, just do it! And feel free to reach out if you’d like some help.