Edublogs Teacher Challenges

Free professional learning for educators by educators.

Step 2: Using Twitter to Build Your PLN

Print Friendly

Welcome to the second step in our free professional learning series on building your PLN.

The aim of this step is to:

  1. Explain what is Twitter.
  2. Explain the benefits of using Twitter as part of your PLN.
  3. Helps you set up your Twitter account.

MORRISThis following information on Twitter was co-written by Kathleen Morris, a grade two teacher and blogger from Victoria, Australia. Kathleen writes a blog for educators about technology integration, educational blogging and global collaboration.

Intro to Twitter

Most teachers who are using Twitter would probably agree that it is their number one way they build and connect with their PLN.

Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that allows you to send out short messages called tweets. Tweets are limited to 140 characters but can also contain media like photos or videos.

Twitter is a place that you can just lurk, by reading others’ tweets, or contribute to, by sending out your own tweets. Obviously the latter is what you work towards as the more you put in, the more you get out!

One of the great things about Twitter is that it is accessible on your computer, laptop and mobile devices like iPads, iPhones and other smartphones.

Twitter is used by people in nearly every country around the world. For teachers, this means you have access to thousands of teachers around the world with rich backgrounds and experiences that can contribute to your professional growth.

Think you’re not interested in Twitter? Think again!

Twitter is more than just “another social networking tool”. It differs from Facebook in that it isn’t just about reconnecting with people you know or sharing what you’re cooking for dinner; Twitter is about connecting with like minded educators for personalised and ongoing professional development.

There are millions of tweets flying around in the Twittervese 24-7 but the good thing is you can use Twitter as your time and inclination permits!

I like Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s analogy of Twitter being like a river. The river keeps flowing but sometimes you might just walk past and have a quick look, sometimes you might hang around and dip your toes in, other times you might spend hours swimming around.

Watch this video to learn how Twitter is used effectively in education.

Benefits of using Twitter

I find Twitter to be like a virtual staffroom where I can catch up with my PLN. It is a place where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.

Want examples?

In this post, Chris Betcher describes what he got out of tweeting for just 10 minutes.

Similarly, in this post Edna Sackson describes what she got out of 30 minutes on Twitter one morning.

Effective teaching and learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum. To be the best teacher you can be, you need a diverse and innovative network. Traditionally, the staff at your school was your only network of teachers to collaborate with. This network may not be diverse or innovative. With Twitter, the barriers of distance and access are broken down and the world is at your fingertips!

Five Steps to Building Your PLN via Twitter

1. Join

To sign up for Twitter, go to twitter.com and create a username. Don’t make your username too long and make it something that identifies you, like your name, rather than a complex nickname.

Compete your bio so people know who you are, and add an image. Personally, I like real photos much better than cartoon avatars. It helps you to build your relationship with your PLN. When you can’t build trust by meeting people face to face, things like bios and photos hold a lot of weight.

Watch this video on how to sign up for your account.

Refer to the Educator’s Ultimate Guide for more detailed step by step instructions on how to set up and use Twitter.

Twitter Guide

2. Follow people

There are thousands of teachers around the world on Twitter, you just have to know where to find them! No ideas? Start with some people from the Edublogs community like @edublogs @suewaters @ronnieburt @tasteach @mgraffin @murcha @mr_avery and me, @kathleen_morris

Once you have a few people to follow, look at who they are following and you will start to build up your PLN.

You can also adopt some Twitter regulars as your mentors and ask them to put a tweet out to encourage their followers to follow you (I am happy to do that, just tweet me – @kathleen_morris)

Watch this video to learn how to follow people.

3. Lurk

You’ll need to spend some time checking out the stream of tweets and getting the hang of tweeting, retweeting, direct messaging and hashtags. Click here for an overview. Many people say Twitter isn’t as intuitive as other web tools but it doesn’t take long for it to make sense.

Most people who use Twitter don’t actually use the Twitter website. There are a lot of more user-friendly Twitter clients out there. Find out more about Twitter clients here.

5. Contribute

Remember, the more you put in, the more you get out.

Don’t be afraid to start replying to people, retweeting tweets, asking questions and striking up conversations. Most teachers on Twitter are very friendly and always happy to help newbies find their feet!

5. Stick with it!

It took me a few attempts to get going with Twitter and I know I’m not the only one! Sticking with it is so important. Make yourself check in to Twitter daily for a month before you make any decisions about whether it is for you.

It takes time to build rapports with people. When you do, you’ll find your professional world will be so enlightened and your students will be better for it!

Your Task

Your task for this step is to jump on the Twitter Bandwagon.

  1. If you haven’t joined Twitter yet, head over to twitter.com and sign up. Leave a comment on this post with your Twitter name so we can follow you.
  2. Write a blog post about your initial impressions of Twitter. You could include – what you see as obstacles to taking part in Twitter, what you have learnt from being on Twitter, or who you have connected with via Twitter. Don’t forget to leave a comment here with the link to your post.
  3. Check out this list of nominees from the 2013 Edublog Awards – Best Individual Tweeter. Choose some tweeters who appeal to you to follow.
  4. Send out a tweet pointing people to this post!

78 comments for “Step 2: Using Twitter to Build Your PLN

  1. Rick Colella
    July 2, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for the links and tips! Utilizing this blog for a class I’m taking on Digital Literacy and Education, University of Southern Maine, Sue Maloney, instructor.

    • Rick Colella
      July 2, 2014 at 9:40 am

      whoops…. @RickColella

  2. Stanley Sampson
    June 29, 2014 at 12:12 am

    I am really looking for ways to make twitter work for me as a teacher, both in the classroom and professionally. Thanks for the ideas; I welcome more :)

    my twitter account is @sampson_stanley
    Stanley

  3. Christa
    June 23, 2014 at 5:30 am

    I took the plunge and created a twitter! Chris Betcher’s post was incredibly convicting, as I tend to think twitter is used to spread entertainment gossip…but he definitely opened my eyes to the collaboration, inspiration, and professional development that can come from this! So, thank you!

    @kathleen_morris, I just started to follow you and I am excited to learn more from you about how you are incorporating new technology into your classroom!

    my twitter account is @ESL818
    Christa

  4. Kaleb Stoppel
    March 17, 2012 at 4:03 am

    I just created my first Blog site and I am pretty excited about the future use and even integration with my Twitter that I use to communicate with my students, athletes, and parents of students.

    You can follow me @WHSCoachStoppel and you can find my blog at http://whscoachstoppel.edublogs.org/

    I hope to be able to continue to learn about the uses of a blog in the classroom and see how I can best use it to communicate new ideas, announcements, or just help open my students to the world of technology. There is lots to learn and I’m ready!

    Kaleb

  5. shelleyburgess
    July 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Well it has taken me awhile to be convinced to start using Twitter … but you have convinced me with your post and have now signed up. @shelleyburgess
    http://shelleyburgess.edublogs.org/

  6. July 11, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Well, it’s taken me three weeks to get it done, but I finally have a post for this challenge: http://kimberlyhirsh.com/2011/07/twitter-and-plns/

  7. July 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Stefanie and Christy,

    Thanks so much for leaving your links. It is never to late!

    I’ll be sure to check out your posts.

    Kathleen :lol:

  8. July 7, 2011 at 12:08 am

    Greetings,

    Here is my post for Challenge 3: I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat.
    -Mrs. Berry

  9. July 3, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Late to the game again, but better late than never. I’ve posted my thoughts at my (new!) blog: http://sgalvin.global2.vic.edu.au/

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. June 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts and links to your posts.

    I’ve spent the last few days reading through everyone’s reflections and thinking about what all of you are saying.

    A common reflection by many was how do you get involved with the conversations on twitter as it can be a bit intimidating initially when you are new.

    So here’s my advice:

    I would start by using @replies to ask questions about building your PLN, blogging or anything you would like to know more about or need help with at people like myself (@suewaters), Katheleen (@Kathleen_Morris), Michael (@mgraffin). Ronnie (@ronnieburt), Sue (@tasteach), Jo (@JoHart) and Phil (@philhart). We’re all more than happy to assist any one and it’ll help you get used to engaging in the back and forth conversations you can have on twitter.

    Using @replies also makes it easier for us to see you would like help and we’ll always respond once we come online.

  11. mskirwin
    June 27, 2011 at 1:18 am

    I have written a post for this challenge at

    http://firingonallsyllables.edublogs.org

    I was happy to figure out, once again, how to follow people and have added several. I still don’t understand how hashtags work. Any suggestions on what I should read? Perhaps I missed something.

    Thanks!

  12. June 25, 2011 at 8:31 am

    It’s been a productive day. Glad its summer!
    I’ve joined Twitter, then created a new Blog just for my professional blogging (PLN), added educator blogs to follow and twitter educators to follow. WOW I’ve made a big leap of faith based on ya’lls committment and enthusiasm! Thank you for your encouragement and support. It’s amazing.
    Lisa

    My new Blog is at: http://lisastolldses.edublogs.org/

    My twitter account is: @lisahstoll

    • kathleenmorris
      June 26, 2011 at 7:16 pm

      @ Lisa,

      Lucky you! I think it’s going to be a long winter here!

      Thanks for sharing your blog and Twitter address. I am now following you on Twitter. So glad we could help to get you going!

      Stick with it and you will see the benefits,
      Kathleen

  13. June 25, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Kathleen,

    What are you thoughts on with doing this with an online school? Is it worth a shot? Please reply back, I’m interested in what you have to offer.

    Thanks!

    We’re following you on Twitter now.

    • kathleenmorris
      June 26, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      Hi,

      Do you mean having a school Twitter account? Definitely worth it. If you have parents/students on Twitter, it would be a good way to send out reminders, news and just good PR. I think the number of schools/teachers with a Twitter account is increasing. I haven’t tried it myself yet but I probably will next term.

      Good luck!
      Kathleen

  14. June 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Kathleen

    Thanks for a great post on this challenge.
    I started using twitter a few months ago, but have not been able to feel comfortable using it.

    I started with Tweetdeck and it grew so fast, it lost me! Hopefully I can find my way again soon and learn how to do more than lurk….

    My twitter account (Ellen_Graber) grew, but I haven’t grown with it. See my blog post at http://writingcu.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/building-my-pln-my-impressions-of-twitter/

    • kathleenmorris
      June 26, 2011 at 7:09 pm

      @ Ellen,

      Thanks I am now following you on Twitter. Just remember, that you don’t have to keep up with everyone that goes on on Tweetdeck. Maybe start by replying or retweeting one tweet and take it from there.

      Good luck!
      Kathleen

  15. June 24, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Here is my simple post on Twitter. Being a low key Twitter person it is not sophisticated!
    Post on Twitter.

  16. June 24, 2011 at 5:46 am

    Hi Kathleen,

    I want to thank you for all of your help with getting started with Twitter. Following you, Sue Waters, and a several others really helped me to see why you use Twitter. What helped me was to see both sides of the conversation. Following a hashtag or a list also helped because I saw several PLN interactions, which gave me a healthy model.

    What was difficult was how to use it. However, you have been so helpful. Your tips and tricks were easy to follow, and I appreciate how you continue to support me when I have questions on how to use it.

    Thank you so much for making such a difference!

    Kind regards,
    Tracy Watanabe

    • kathleenmorris
      June 26, 2011 at 7:07 pm

      @ Tracy,

      Thanks so much for letting me know. When I first started on Twitter a couple of years ago, Sue was my #1 mentor. She is great!

      Kathleen

  17. gmama619
    June 24, 2011 at 3:55 am

    I personally, have not committed to using twitter for my personal or professional needs. However, my blogger account is a part of my classroom need. A need kind of like twitter is for you. I use my blog to teach writing in a different style, on our class wiki, parents, paraprofessional, fellow teachers, and my students (of course). I guess this is why I haven’t opened up a twitter account: “Remember, the more you put in, the more you get out.” I feel that I put so much time into my wiki (note: my blog is located on the wiki). Basically I agree with your statement, if I am not willing to but in the time, I am not going to get what I want out of it for my students and me. Another note, our district has a twitter account, located on our school’s web page regarding sports and other activities that are occurring during the day or week. This not only assist me out in order to figure out what is going on outside of my building but it is also keeping our community inform…. which I totally support. This blog was very easy to read and understand, too…thanks!

    • June 27, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Twitter is definitely one of those things that looking at it from the outside it is easy to dismiss it as why would any one want to use it or why would any one invest time in user it.

      I think all of us before using Twitter had the impression of it.

      But once you do start using it well, and see how fast you can get help for your class and students, you soon realise that Twitter is the most powerful tool you can ever use.

      A classic example of this was with my disease work. I’d tried the traditional ways to get help from my work colleagues, assistance from people I know by email for weeks and had no luck. I sent out one tweet. With minutes my network had helped me find images I needed and connected me with researchers in USA who willingly helped me get the task done.

  18. June 23, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for an awesome post, I wish I had found this when I was starting out on twitter. I’ve posted my response here

    • kathleenmorris
      June 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      Great, thanks! I left a comment. :)

  19. June 23, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks for the Challenge Kathleen!

    Here’s my Post Tweet Tweet! for the Challenge

    @KirbyGoodey

    • kathleenmorris
      June 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm

      @ Kirby, fabulous! Look forward to checking it out. :lol:
      Kathleen

  20. June 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for all the information, here and in your blogs. Here’s my 3 Twitter Times

    • kathleenmorris
      June 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      @ Sheri – great! I have it on my ‘to-do’ list to check out all these fabulous posts! :)

      Kathleen

  21. June 23, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Hello! I love twitter and have been on for a while, come follow me and I’ll follow back! I love adding to my PLN.

    Thanks!
    @KTVee

    http://www.twitter.com/KTVee

    • kathleenmorris
      June 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      @ Krissy, I am now following you on Twitter. Thanks for the link!

      Kathleen

  22. June 22, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I am following you as well (tdallen5). Please feel free to look through my followers and see if there are any for you to follow as well! Good luck!
    Theresa

    • June 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm

      Sorry, this was for “baeten5″ – but got moved to main replies…sorry!

  23. June 22, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Hi,
    thanks for the great post. I have been using Twitter a few months, so I still feel like a beginner. Now I am trying out tweetdeck as well. Here’s my post Using twitter and building my PLN.

    @anna_bring

    • kathleenmorris
      June 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm

      @ Anna,
      Great to find you on Twitter and thanks for the link to the post!
      Kathleen

  24. Mrs. Schmidt
    June 22, 2011 at 3:46 am

    Thanks for this great post! I have heard a lot about using Twitter for education but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about doing it or where to find people to follow. I am looking forward to further exploring the listed info. Here is my post http://tschmidt.edublogs.org/

    • kathleenmorris
      June 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      @ Mrs Schmidt,

      Thanks for the link to your post. I will check it out!

      I’m glad I could give you some useful advice.

      Kathleen

    • June 22, 2011 at 11:45 pm

      Hello Tina!

      Great to find you on this challenge! Looking foward to working and growing with you! Hope you’re enjoying your summer.
      Chat soon,
      Theresa

  25. June 22, 2011 at 1:08 am

    Great challenge! Here’s a link to my post: http://techcsrn.edublogs.org/2011/06/21/twitter-thoughts-and-reflections/

    I’ve shared my Diigo page of ways to use Twitter as well as a good presentation on “Why Tweet?” by Jon Orech.

    My one question is about creating lists – how do you make one?

    Thank you,
    Theresa

    • kathleenmorris
      June 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      @ Theresa,

      Thanks for the link to your post. I will check it out!

      Now, about lists…I’m not sure about other platforms but I use Tweetdeck. I could be wrong but I think lists are made on the Twitter website and they’re just called columns in Tweetdeck. I use Tweetdeck and columns.

      At the top of Tweetdeck you’ll see a + sign which allows you to add a column. You can give your column a name and choose from all the people you follow who you want to be in that list/group. So, for example I have a column in my Tweetdeck called VIP and here I make a list of all my favourite tweeters. This means I won’t miss their tweets because they can get lost in the “all friends” column with the number of people I follow. Lists can be public or private. I make mine private. You might make lists for primary teachers, teacher librarians, inspiring educators, educators in your area, teachers at your school etc etc.

      Maybe Sue or Ronnie can offer some more thoughts on lists!

      Kathleen

      • June 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm

        Hi Theresa, like Kathleen, I personally like to use TweetDeck to create my lists. I can then access these lists on the web interface or on other apps on my different devices.

        In TweetDeck you click on the Add Column, then lists, click New Lists, Give it a name, Decide if you want it private (only you can see) or public (anyone) and then click Add List Members.

        This then can run as a separate column in TweetDeck. You can do the same with hashtags and searches.

        The only other comment I would make is I’ve had to use a patch on my TweetDeck as it kept freezing on my computer.

        If anyone else has the same problem here is the link to fix – http://support.tweetdeck.com/entries/20207138-desktop-minor-update-to-fix-stalling
        Hope this has helped!

        • June 23, 2011 at 12:19 am

          Thanks for the help! I love these challenges because the best professionals are there to help when needed.
          Looking forward to learning and growing my PLN!
          Theresa

        • June 24, 2011 at 5:30 am

          @Sue
          Thanks so much for the link to the Tweetdeck patch. I stopped using it because it was freezing on me. This is so helpful!
          Kind regards,
          Tracy Watanabe

      • June 22, 2011 at 11:43 pm

        Hi Kathleen,

        I use Tweetdeck and Hootsuite but seem to go to the Twitter page more often when just generally looking. I’ll use the others when I’m following a chat – I should use it more, though. I didn’t realize you can make your own new list in Tweetdeck – I need to try that out!
        Thanks!
        Theresa

        • kathleenmorris
          June 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm

          @ Theresa,

          Glad the info on lists helped. You have to work out what is easiest for you and that always takes a little time.

          See you on Twitter!
          Kathleen

  26. June 22, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Kathleen,
    You’ve given such clear and wonderful ideas…I hardly know where to start.
    I think my favorite tip was the one about how to find Twitter friends. I think that’s been my biggest hurdle and challenge….using the Edublogs awards to find good prospects makes the challenge less daunting.
    I really liked your tip too that lurking is OK. I’ve just started working with Twitter and I think it’s taken me quite a while to build the style of conversation that works on Twitter. It definitely is different than my blogging or writing style.
    If I had one tip to offer it would be this…don’t give up. This isn’t hard, but it isn’t easy either. It takes time, patience and the willingness to keep on plugging away. You can find success and good stuff to read pretty quickly..and so I just watched their style. Then I set a schedule of how many times a week I was going to test it out, and then set a timer for 20 minutes. When the timer went off, I stopped and called it good. Slowly I’ve found more of a Twitter voice and have slowly found a way to engage in dialog with other Twitterers. Just don’t worry if it doesn’t happen over night.

    marsha

    • June 22, 2011 at 1:08 am

      Well written! I agree, it does take some time. I’ve been on Twitter for almost a year now, and have just reached 100 followers. It’s helpful to look at who your favorite people follow, and to find the hashtags that connect you to a group with similar interests like #elemchat, etc. Also, having a TweetDeck helps in that new tweets will appear in the corner of your screen while you work so you can dip in that stream whenever something catches your eye!

      • kathleenmorris
        June 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

        @ Patti, I didn’t really go into hashtags but you’re right, they really help.

        Apart from #elemchat there is #edtech and #edchat. #comments4kids is also good for helping kids find an audience for their work.

        I love Tweetdeck too!

    • kathleenmorris
      June 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      @ Marsha,

      Thanks for your excellent advice. I agree wholeheartedly that you really have to stick with it. Harder than it seems but so worth it!

      How interesting to hear you say that you have found your “Twitter voice”. It makes me think about our students. Simply writing in books is not good enough these days. They might need a voice for Twitter, blogs, email, personal writing, public writing etc…

      Kathleen

  27. June 21, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    It took me a while to understand the value of twitter but now I recommend it to every teacher who isn’t on it already.

    View my post on my (short) experience with twitter here: http://bit.ly/m0gil3

    Twitter: jessica_hibbert

    • kathleenmorris
      June 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      @ Jessica,

      You’re right, it seems to take everyone a while.

      Thanks for the link to your post, I will be sure to check that out. I will follow you on Twitter!

      Kathleen

    • June 22, 2011 at 11:28 pm

      Hi Jessica!
      I’ve found you on Twitter and am following you as well. Looking forward to sharing and learning from you.
      Theresa
      @tdallen5

  28. baeten5
    June 21, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Ok. Again with the tech dinosaur thing. I am signed up on Twitter but as we are out for summer, not sure what I would tweet about. I am ebgrade5.

    • kathleenmorris
      June 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      @ Ellen,

      I just sent you a tweet. If you don’t know what to tweet about, just lurk and see what others are doing. Then you might feel comfortable asking a question, sharing a link, or tweeting about what you are doing with your students.

      See you on Twitter!
      Kathleen

    • June 22, 2011 at 11:15 pm

      Hello – I am following you as well (tdallen5). Good luck with Twitter and don’t be afraid to tweet, retweet, follow, and everything else. It’s nerve-wrecking at first, but you’ll get the hang of it rather quickly.

      Theresa @tdallen5

  29. June 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Twitter helps me connect with people and tools, strategies and research. I am not a Facebook fan — it takes my info and changes things — People need to always check their settings. Did you know when you tweet, if you add the hashtag #fb, your tweet will update on Facebook as well?

    Twitter: @grammasheri

    Reason: I started to keep in touch with my granddaughter ! Who knew it would be my favorite teacher hangout ! :)

    I use Hootsuite to manage Twitter and Facebook.

    • kathleenmorris
      June 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      @ Sheri,

      Thanks for your comment. I have found you on Twitter. I didn’t know that about the #FB feature. Thanks for sharing!

      I know lots of people like Hootsuite. Thanks for that tip!

      Kathleen

    • June 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      Hi Sheri,
      I got an email that you left a comment on my blog, but when I go there I can’t find it :( Thanks anyway for the advice and I guess my kids will help me in my balancing act.
      Love

  30. Kathryn
    June 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Kathleen
    thanks for this informative post. I am pretty much a lurker on twitter but my goal is to develop it more. @KathrynTrask

    • kathleenmorris
      June 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      @ Kathryn, great to be following you on Twitter. Lurking for a while is totally fine, it will help you get your head around how Twitter works. Always happy to help you find your feet!
      Kathleen

  31. informaladulted
    June 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    While communities of practice and special interest groups provide the best PLN opportunities, Twitter is hard to beat for immediacy. Facebook is getting better for serious professional learning opportunities, too.

    • kathleenmorris
      June 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm

      I agree, Facebook use to be all about “social” networking but now that I follow a lot more educators on Facebook, I can see how it can be used professionally.

      Thanks for your comment!
      Kathleen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *