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

In the first two steps, we looked at what a PLN means and how to become a connected educator.

We’re now getting into the specifics of how to use particular tools, beginning with Twitter.

The aim of this step is to:

  1. Explain what Twitter is and how it’s used.
  2. Explain the benefits of using Twitter as part of your PLN.
  3. Helps you set up your Twitter account and connect with others.
Should You Use Twitter Flowchart Sylvia Duckworth
Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth

Introduction 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.

In fact, a 2016 study showed that the most popular tool K-12 teachers use to connect with others was Twitter.

What Is Twitter?

Twitter is a social networking, news, and microblogging service that allows you to send out short messages called tweets.

Along with text and links, tweets can also contain media (up to 4 photos, a video, or a GIF).

Tweets used to be limited to 140 characters but this increased to 280 characters by 2018.

Twitter is a place that you can just lurk, by reading others’ tweets, or contribute, 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!

You can read tweets without having your own Twitter account (as long as the accounts you’re following are public — and the majority are). To contribute, you will need an account which we will explain below.

One of the great things about Twitter is that it is accessible on your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. You can use the native Twitter website or app, or there are many other popular third party apps that aim to improve functionality and accessibility.

Tweetdeck was once an independent app that has now been acquired by Twitter. Many users enjoy using it to organize their feed.

Twitter is used by people in nearly every country around the world. 83% of 193 UN member countries have Twitter a presence. For teachers, this means you have access to thousands of teachers with rich backgrounds and experiences that can contribute to your professional growth.

Anatomy Of A Tweet

Twitter is made up of tweets. We created this diagram to help you understand tweets better.

You’re welcome to share it with others or display it on your blog.

Anatomy of a Tweet | Edublogs Teacher Challenge

Interacting With Tweets

When you see a tweet, there are certain things you can click on:

  • The person’s name to see their profile page. You can look at their bio and see all their tweets.
  • Follow to have the tweeter’s future tweets show up on your homepage.
  • A link (if there is one) to open a website in your browser.
  • A hashtag to see other tweets that are categorized with the same hashtag (regardless of whether you follow the people using that hashtag)
  • Like (the heart) — this shows your appreciation, agreement, or acknowledgment of the tweet. Simply, tap/click the heart to like the tweet (tap/click again to undo).
  • Retweet to share the tweet with your own followers. This demonstrates that you found the tweet interesting or shareworthy. You will also have the option to add a comment to the retweet.
  • Direct message — you can message someone privately or start a private group conversation. Depending on individual settings, you might only be able to direct message someone if you both follow each other.
  • Comments — this allows you to either read what other people have said in a public reply, or add your own reply.

Think You’re Not Interested In Twitter? Think Again!

Twitter is more than just “another social networking tool”.

It generally isn’t about reconnecting with people you knew in high school or sharing what you’re cooking for dinner. Of course, some people only use Twitter for fun, although for most educators Twitter is about connecting with like minded individuals for personalized and ongoing professional development.

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

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has shared an 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.

The choice is yours.

In this three minute video, Alec Couros explains how Twitter is used effectively in education.

Benefits Of Using Twitter

Twitter is like a virtual staffroom where you can catch up with your PLN. It’s a place where educators can find advice, give advice, find great links, share 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.
  • In this post, New Zealand teacher Juliet Revell explains some fantastic professional and personal opportunities that she experienced thanks to building a PLN on Twitter.
  • This video by Matt Miller offers snapshot of some of the things you might see on Twitter in any given session.

While these examples aren’t new and some minor functions of Twitter have changed, the basic premise remains; there are countless ways educators are using Twitter to benefit themselves and their students.

Here’s a tweet from a high school history teacher who joined Twitter in 2019.

Check out Why Teachers Are Turning To Twitter by Brendon Hyndman for more research and examples of how Twitter is used in the global education community.

Twitter provides a modern platform for teachers to share, network, gain emotional support, build professional learning communities and make a contribution to their profession.

Five Steps To Building Your PLN Via Twitter

1. Join

The sign up process is easy. Just follow these steps:

  • Go to http://twitter.com and click on the sign up box, or go directly to https://twitter.com/signup.
  • You will be required to enter information such as your name and email address as you’re guided through the sign up process.
  • Once you sign up for an account, you can select a unique username. Try not to make your username too long and make it something that identifies you, like your name, rather than a complex nickname.

Once you’re signed up, you can customize your profile.

  • Complete your bio so people know who you are. You have 160 characters for your bio. Educators often share the age group or subject they teach, and particular interests.
  • Add a profile photo. Real photos can be a better choice than a cartoon avatar. It helps you to build your relationship with your PLN. Bios and photos can hold a lot of weight in virtual relationships.
  • You’ll also be able to add a header photo. Popular header images for teachers include landscapes, a classroom photo, or a quote. Tip: You can make a personalized Twitter header image with Canva.
Twitter Profile Page Example
Your Twitter profile page offers a snapshot of what you’re all about

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

2. Follow People

Following someone on Twitter means:

  • You are subscribing to their tweets and their updates will appear in your home timeline
  • That person is able to send you a private direct message if you’re following each other

Following isn’t necessarily a reciprocal relationship, like Facebook friendships. Someone can follow you without you following them back and vice versa. You don’t need to wait for approval to follow someone either, as long as their account is public.

There are thousands of teachers around the world on Twitter, you just have to know where to find them!

No ideas?

Start with our Edublogs team like @edublogs @suewaters @ronnieburt @Edublogs_Eugene and me, @kathleen_morris

There are many educational thought leaders who thousands of people enjoy following such as:

Additionally, there are many popular sources for keeping up to date with the latest news, trends, and research in education, such as:

The examples listed above are only the tip of the iceberg and far from an exhaustive list!

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 connect with you.

Twitter also regularly shows you suggestions of people you could follow.

Watch this video to learn how to follow and connect with people on Twitter.

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.

Some people say Twitter isn’t as intuitive as other web tools but it doesn’t take long for it to make sense. Give yourself a few weeks to try it. Whenever you have a few spare minutes, open Twitter, scroll through your feed, click on some links, watch how people are interacting with each other.

If the people you’re following don’t interest you, it’s fine to unfollow them. Remember, you’re in charge of building your own personal PLN.

4. Contribute

When you’ve lurked for a while, jump and contribute! Like or retweet a few tweets, reply to tweets that resonated with you, and send tweets of your own. You could try contacting a few people via direct message too — ask them a question or introduce yourself.

It may take some time to get the hang of how Twitter works. We’ve made this cheat sheet to help. Feel free to share it with others or use it on your own blog.

Twitter Cheat Sheet for Teachers | Building Your PLN Edublogs Teacher Challenge Course

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.

Many teachers on Twitter are very friendly and always happy to help newbies find their feet!

What To Tweet About

Still not sure what you could be tweeting about? How about:

  • A photo from a lesson
  • A link to something interesting you’ve read
  • A question about a topic you’re interested in
  • A request for a resource
  • A link to something from your own blog or someone else’s blog
  • A favorite online tool you like to use with students

5. Stick With It!

Many regular Twitter users have commented that it took them a few attempts to get going with Twitter. Sticking with it is so important. Make yourself check into Twitter daily for a month before you make any decisions about whether it is for you.

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

Remember, you definitely won’t be seeing everything that’s tweeted, so don’t feel like you have to. You’ll receive notifications when someone replies to you, mentions you, tags you, or direct messages you. Otherwise, Twitter works fairly serendipitously and you’ll just see what you see!

Useful Video

To walk you through getting started with Twitter and to demonstrate some of the tips mentioned in this post, check out Starting a PLN on Twitter: A Quick Guide For Teachers by Common Sense Education.


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.

As we outlined in Step Two, traditionally, the staff at your school was your main network of teachers to collaborate with. This network may be fantastic but can become an echo chamber for the same ideas, values, and perspectives.

With Twitter, the barriers of distance and access are broken down and the world is at your fingertips!

In our next step, we explore Twitter further by looking at hashtags and Twitter chats.

Your Task

PLNs are about sharing, collaborating, and learning from and with others. Here’s your chance to ask a question, comment, and get involved!

We’d like you to add your voice and ideas to our ongoing conversation on building your own PLN by undertaking one or more of the following challenges:

  1. Video Reflections: Watch How To Use Twitter Effectively In Education with Alec Couros or the Common Sense Education video on Getting Started With Twitter. Leave a comment on this post to share your ideas on how you might use Twitter to build your PLN.
  2. Join: If you haven’t joined Twitter yet, head over to twitter.com and sign up. Leave a comment on this post with your Twitter username so others can follow you. If you’ve joined in the past, now could be a good time to review your account. Do you need to update your images or bio perhaps?
  3. Find Someone: After browsing Twitter, find someone who you think you’d be interested in following. Leave their Twitter username in a comment and tell us what they’re tweeting about that you find interesting.
  4. Go Deeper: 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 learned 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. You might even like to document your own journey as a new Twitter user to inspire others to do the same!

Also, feel free to leave a comment to ask any questions or share your tips.

How to leave a comment: Scroll down to find the comment box. Write your comment, then enter your name and email address (email addresses are not published). Enter the anti-spam word. Press submit and we will moderate your comment ASAP.

772 thoughts on “Step 3: Using Twitter To Build Your PLN

  1. While I do think that Twitter could be a good tool to use for a personal learning network, I feel that there are other platforms that might work better. Honestly, the design of Facebook would be very well suited for teachers, especially a large personal learning network. I think Tumblr could be a good platform to use, as well as Reddit. The design of the latter three platforms are much more conducive to writing content and, especially with Facebook and Reddit, it’s very easy to make and join communities and forums.

  2. One account I find interesting is TED-Ed, which is an offshoot of the TEDTalks people. They tweet out valuable resources and following them could provide me with great resources for my classroom.

  3. In the video, I really appreciate the comparison between isolated thoughts and everyone putting parts of thoughts online is when we start to see innovation that we could not have been able to do alone. Ideas of others is how we see the bigger picture. I do find that the character limit can be quite enticing to look at other resources, so that is definitely something new Twitter users need to be made aware of and learn how to navigate their PLN on Twitter.

  4. I like the concept of using Twitter to build your PLN and connect with others. However, I’m a bit hesitant about the current state of Twitter. It has changed a lot from what it used to be years ago. I appreciate that it can be used to connect with teachers worldwide, but I’m concerned about the content I may encounter while trying to find the right people to connect with.

  5. @teacher2teacher
    They share lesson plan ideas, resources to help support diverse students, discussions prompts to share helpful tips, and ways to differentiate lessons to best support students.

  6. I’m not an active user on twitter but I do believe twitter can useful for educational purposes in many ways. One useful feature would be the ability to find educational resources or a thread explaining how to. For example; Finding a link to a free textbook and required readings.

  7. I plan to use Twitter in order to build my PLN by following educators and school related accounts in order to be updated on new and meaningful information. Twitter has a reputation for being unfiltered in a lot of manners, so be cautious while trying to develop your PLN. The tools that are involved with Twitter allow you to bookmark posts or find groups related to specific ideologies, so it is a good tool when trying to network.

  8. I can use Twitter in about the same way I use my work app. Twitter has a larger audience that uses it, and it can be a great way to connect with people, even those from other countries. You’re even able to use hashtags to make sure your post reaches the correct audience of people, and you can use those same hashtags to find other educators to connect with.

  9. A twitter user whose tweets I find interesting is @BCollamer. He is a collegiate eSports coach and most of his tweets pertain to the collegiate/amateur eSports bubble. I am very interested in the collegiate eSports scene and the academic opportunities that are possible due to eSports.

  10. I’m pretty hesitant about using Twitter because of its overall reputation and past experiences I’ve had on the platform, but I think if I make an effort to take advantage of all of the benefits that Twitter offers I can hopefully curate a better experience for myself. The feature I like best is the bookmark feature because you can save tweets that you may want to view later. I think this could be really useful for building a resource library for myself which I could then share with other teachers.

  11. I think twitter is most conducive to asking questions and sharing answers and that is most likely how I would use it to build my PLN. I think there are more modern platforms for sharing media like pictures and videos, such as Instagram, to build your PLN.

  12. @ShakeUpLearning
    This account posts about many different concepts, classroom management strategies, how to adapt instruction for students, offer podcasts and more.

  13. This step 3 was all about using twitter to build your PLN. I have never been a fan of twitter as there is so many controversial and harmful things that can be displayed. However, there are some reasons teachers may use twitter to build their PLN. For example, there are so many educational resources and companies that can be accessed through twitter. They can post and share content with educators which can grow their knowledge and build their PLN.

  14. I watched “How To Use Twitter Effectively In Education.” I really liked how using twitter, you can connect with innovative and up and coming educators and see a whole host of new ideas. Using the 140-character limit to reach people globally and exchanging ideas about how to effectively educate in you subject or topic. I would use twitter to connect and learn from other educators and get ideas on how to effectively and creatively teach content to my future students.

  15. A teacher that I know from one of the school districts neigghbirung mine, has a pretty active Twitter presence. He uses it as a tool to enhance technology use in his classrooms as well as provide resources for other teachers looking to embrace technology use. His handle is @Creeds_Crew and he posts all sorts of cool things his students do in regards to technology as well as general info and questions to enhance his own technology use.

  16. Twitter can help you as an online PLN by the ease in which you can expand and connect with people to build your network. One helpful strategy they gave was following one teacher organization you know, and then from there seeing who they follow to build up yourself with like-minded connections.

  17. One teacher I found interesting was @jerechang. She teachers 3rd grade gifted students and I love her content. She tells funny stories of her kids, talks about teacher to teacher relationships and about the content she teaches to students.

  18. The Digital Inquiry Group (@InquiryGroup) posts about lesson plans, assessments, and classroom resources for social studies teachers. For example, two weeks ago they tweeted several posters about “Reading like a Historian” with reminders for students about how to read historical documents and how to read digital documents. I really like how they incorporate digital literacy into their social studies curriculum as part of engaging critical thinking skills. Along with this, they really emphasize the relationship between current events and content areas.

  19. After doing some research, I was about to find an account one of my own biology teachers used to reference/inspire some of her activities from. Meredith Townsend (@Mer_Townsend) is a Biology and Microbiology teacher in Dallas, Texas. She has great resources for activities, projects and updated findings in the science world. She also has a blog where she expands upon news she wants to share with the educational community.

  20. I am on Twitter, but only to follow the sports threads for my own children’s athletic teams. I am trying to learn more about Twitter and going to start following other educators. I recently found @coolcatteacher on Twitter. She tends to share more innovated ideas and makes technology look ‘cool.”

  21. I do not have Twitter, however I can see the importance of it in education. The educators that are on Twitter are able to share their ideas and follow other educators. When building my PLN, I do plan to use Twitter because of how beneficial it has proven to be.

  22. One twitter I found interesting was @Weareteachers. While the twitter is very old by now, I liked that a lot of the information posted was small and easy to digest, instead of links to huge articles. They also had a lot of humorous posts, which seem good for morale.

  23. As someone who does not have Twitter, I do not know if I’ll post my thoughts on most of the posts but saving most of the posts that I see will be helpful, but also put my own twist on the activities that I find on my future Twitter account.

  24. – I watched the video How To Use Twitter Effectively In Education and I would use twitter to build my PLN by first going to teachers pages that I like and seeing their work and videos of what they posted because honestly I don’t have a twitter I will after this but I would want to see how things work first and get familiar with it so that’s why I said I would go to teachers pages that I like. Then If I saw something I like I would try to save the video so I can do it with my class or if I had questions about something I would try and contact the person who made the video. I would also take video and pictures of the things that I do as well.

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