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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 the video below, Matt Miller demonstrates the types of tweets you’ll find on Twitter on any given day.

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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

219 Comments

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  1. I already have a Twitter account, but I am worried about not having the time to sort through everything from my personal interests and my school/technology interests. Would it be easier to do a separate Twitter account for my PLN?

    • Hi Stephanie,
      This is a good question. You could certainly set up a second account (you’d have to use a different email address). If you use Tweetdeck you can set it up to have both accounts showing up in different columns. It just takes a bit of getting used to to make sure you’re tweeting from the right account.
      Otherwise, you could just keep your one account and use lists to follow education/technology interests. You might already be familiar with lists, if not — here’s the help guide https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/twitter-lists
      Often people who are following many people use lists to sort them out. I guess it depends on what you want your PLN to see of you too. Some people who use Twitter to follow celebrities or something a little lighter do prefer to have a separate account for their PLN to keep things looking professional.
      Hope that makes sense!

      • Kathleen Morris
  2. Mrs. Fintelman’s post is most helpful in reminding me to set a few attainable goals to work towards with twitter. I hope to use twitter as the main method for finding and following people for my PLN. I plan to search for math teachers and leaders and then evaluate whether or not I want to follow them. I hope to gain some direction from the many tech people I’m currently following.

  3. Great post! I’ve had a personal Twitter account for a couple of years, but just now set up a “teaching Twitter.” I’m a second year PreK teacher in Philadelphia and completing this Edublog challenge as part of my Master’s program. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @PiecesofPreK

    • Hi Bridget, I found you! Looking forward to your first tweet. 🙂
      @kathleen_morris

      • Kathleen Morris
  4. While the word “Twitteracy” makes me physically uncomfortable, I definitely see how it is a useful resources for teachers. I have seen some good stuff on instragram under #teachersofinstagram but I guess my summer project will be getting a Twitter (since our school internet blocks access). I am definitely a skeptic but the articles provided at least make me want to give it a try.

    • Sarah Groenwald
    • Hi Sarah, You’re right about Instagram being a great place to get ideas too. Good luck starting on Twitter and let me know if you need any help. I am @kathleen _morris

      • Kathleen Morris
  5. I already have a twitter account and use and check it regularly. It can be very useful and there are drawbacks and unforeseen consequences with this type of technology. So, care has to be taken when using Twitter.

    • Good point, Leon. It’s always wise to think carefully about your interactions online.

      • Kathleen Morris
  6. Professional learning network is a connection of teachers via Twitter.

    • Christopher Mitchell
  7. Twitter has many possibilities to getting connected with others to expand our desire get smarter at what we do or need to do to educate the young and not so young.

    • Norris Brickhouse
  8. I think that twitter will be a great way for me to connect with other art teachers!

    • Julie Crowder
  9. Just joined Twitter
    @lisa_mullens

    • Lisa Jennings
    • Well done, Lisa! I just followed you. I am @kathleen_morris

      • Kathleen Morris
  10. Personally, I don’t care for Twitter, especially after Donald Trump’s obsession with it. I feel like there is now a stigma attached to it and it’s overused. I would rather use a private email that is designed to include my colleagues and administration. I also think it’s a good idea to have a student, teacher email blog to remind students of upcoming assignments and so they can ask questions. That’s just my take on twitter.

    • A PLN is a personal learning network. I really am in favor with being able to keep my students informed of assignments and information not readily available if they have issues or questions pertaining to work outside of the class room.

      • michele drayton
      • I am a middle school teacher that has recently joined twitter. I don’t care too much for it and view it as just something else to keep up with it, in an already
        jam – packed day.

        • michele drayton
        • That’s fair enough, Michele. Twitter certainly isn’t for everyone. Different forms of social media and networking suit different people too!

          • Kathleen Morris
  11. Twitter could help me in many ways. However, I think twitter would provide resources that would help me fine tune my work. As a visual artist, I would be able to provide my students with art making ideas from other artists and art educators as well as opportunities for higher learning. Technology have changed the way we make art. I could network with other like minds for ideas and highlight strategies that have been successful.

    • William Johnson
  12. Twitter will help me assist inexperience JROTC instructors with transitions from battlefield to classroom. LTC William G Johnson@ltcjohnson

    • WIlliam G Johnson
  13. FMOT @ECook_History

  14. I’ve used Twitter in the past when I was homeschooling my kids, but it was very sporadic. I’ve made a few changes to my profile and updated my username. Now, I just need to get more active!! @MrsPThompson

    • Patty Thompson
    • Hi Patty — I found you on Twitter. I’m @kathleen_morris 🙂

      • Kathleen Morris
  15. @katiebaron

  16. I joined twitter a several years ago, but never really got into it. I am always on the look out for information from the Columbia Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project. My plan is to look for a few Columbia educators to follow.

    • Great work getting back into it, Katie. Hope you find a good group of Columbia educators to connect with.

      • Kathleen Morris
  17. @pigamma699…oops forgot to add my Twitter name.

    • Hi Sinclair, I found you on Twitter. I’m @kathleen_morris
      There are some inspiring school administrators on Twitter. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

      • Kathleen Morris
  18. I’d love to use Twitter to gain insights from seasoned school administrators. I am looking to hear successes, challenges and recommendations.

  19. I joined twitter years ago (stargazer2893). I’ve tried several times to give it a go, but the layout is difficult for me to maintain focus. Colors, multiple pictures, scrolling posts, they all lose me in seconds. It’s also why I won’t join Pinterest. Way too busy for my vision to handle. I’m sure it’s great for many people, but I need straight line, black and white background in order to decode what is going on.

    • Shelly Battista
    • Hi Shelly, I understand. It took me a while to get used to Twitter too. Some people liken it to trying to drink from a fire hydrant. To manage Twitter more easily, some people use a tool like Tweetdeck and instead of following everyone, they create lists of a smaller group of people they’d like to interact with. But I certainly understand that not all social media platforms are for everyone and it’s best to figure out what suits you! 🙂

      • Kathleen Morris
  20. I just joined Twitter and my username is mrs_saundra. I plan to use twitter to build my PLN by following other ECE teachers and experts, to look for Professional Development information, and follow political aspects of Educational Reform.

    • Saundra Donahoo
    • Great work, Saundra. I hope you enjoy being a part of the Twitter community!

      • Kathleen Morris
  21. I am a pre-K teacher who recently joined twitter. I am interested in connecting with other educators. I can be found @s_sroberts3prek.

    • Sherrie Roberts
    • Hi Sherrie, if you search on Twitter for a hashtag like #kinderchat you might be able to find some great contacts. Good luck!

      • Kathleen Morris
  22. I just joined twitter. Follow me so that i can grow a PLN. My username is TopCat203. I plan on using twitter to grow a PLN and connect to other like minded porfessionals and educators.

    • Hi Travis, I just followed you and look forward to reading your tweets!

      • Kathleen Morris
  23. I have a twitter account already, but I made a new one specifically for this purpose. Should I be using my normal one or the new one I just made?

    New one: @mattiebennettt

    • Mattie Bennett
    • Hi Mattie,

      You can certainly use your normal one if you’re comfortable using it for education purposes. A few people have a separate one to use for school based things but many educators just have one Twitter account for simplicity.

      I’ll find you on Twitter!

      Kathleen
      @kathleen_morris

      • Kathleen Morris
  24. @emrier18

    • Hi Emrie,

      Thanks for leaving your Twitter name! I have followed you. Don’t forget to fill out your bio etc when you get time too 🙂

      See you on Twitter,
      @kathleen_morris

      • Kathleen Morris
  25. I will be the first one to admit that I was not interested in Twitter. Sure we were asked to tweet responses and reactions during staff meetings, but I still failed to see the educational value of it. After reading and watching the videos posted here, I’m interested in learning more. I didn’t know Twitter was capable of so much. I think it is worth looking into.

    • Valerie Sheppard
  26. @dipsydoodle615

  27. I plan on using twitter to connect with other like minded professionals in my school and throughout the world. I plan on tweeting to our librarian who will take our tweets and put them on our school twitter. This idea will help our school feel more connected and it is another way to collaborate.

    • Mary Ellen Mulderrig
  28. My twitter handle: @MaryMulderrig

    • Mary Ellen Mulderrig
  29. Twitter is an easy way for teachers to be connected when they physically cannot be in the same place at the same time. The use of hashtags can be an awesome way to generate online discussion threads and to share ideas. I hope to use Twitter to participate in collaborative discussions.

  30. @leorising67

  31. One way I would use Twitter is to ask questions or to offer ideas to other educators. Also, it will be interesting to follow a few people that could offer information or valuable tips.

  32. Thank you for making me feel better about not really “getting” Twitter at first. Now, after a few years, I find it’s an incredible resource for great ideas, but it’s often like drinking from the fire hose. I think it would be helpful to me to focus on a few hashtags for a while and form the habit of getting on Twitter regularly. There’s SO much to discover that it can be overwhelming, but it’s worth the feeling for those nuggets of brilliance. @holly_esterline

    • Holly Esterline
  33. I’m going to offer a lunch n’ learn Twitter series for my teachers, and this will be a great resource! Thanks for gathering these ideas in one place!

  34. I have gained a lot of knowledge from this video. I have found out that twitter can be very useful when it comes to teaching. Twitter may give individuals great ideas on new classroom ideas of others. I might use twitter as a teacher in a variety of ways. One of the ways is learning new ideas from other teachers to use in my classroom. I may also use twitter by making a post of new classroom ideas I come up with. Before entering this course I did not have a twitter account.

  35. honestly I’ve signed up for twitter like two years ago, and i just feel like it is not for me. i am not one of those people to tweet my every move i get confused on a lot of things trying to deal with twitter. its not as simple as Facebook so i rather not even deal with twitter unless that is the last social media standing.

  36. I absolutely love Twitter. There is so much creativity and any new things to discover when other share what they like. Even though I may lurk a lot on twitter, I’m not a big poster. So I think I will try more to contribute to the action.
    @adjaen24

  37. @CarmenThomas97

  38. Twitter Handle: @TakaraBruso

  39. I originally opened a Twitter account a few years ago for social reasons and did nothing with it. I followed about 15 others and had about 40 followers. I was (and still am) used to and happy with Facebook, which I was using at the same time. I was then faced with opening an account for a graduate course assignment. I am still not convinced need Twitter because I can follow the same content via Facebook and build a pln that way, which I haven’t gotten too deep into. I am beginning to try to read at least 10 tweets and write my own tweet a night.

  40. @callie_angle

  41. @MissMRoth

  42. I joined twitter to help promote my girls basketball team. Its a great way to gain exposure to your program. I am just now getting into the education side of twitter. I would like to meet other PE teachers to help build a better PE program.

  43. Twitter is firstly a great social media application that allows any individual to keep up with their personal interests and hobbies by following their favorite famous people, and friends. A metaphorical wall must be built to divide personal interest and educational interest when using Twitter, as it can be such a beneficial tool in asking questions, following educators and reading what they have to say and keeping up with the times. You must have a certain amount of followers before you can publish good information, otherwise no one will see it!

  44. I never was interested in joining Twitter, but now I can see how it would be useful to me as an educator.

    • Hi Amy, and thank you for taking part in the Teacher Challenge.

      Please share your twitter handle so we can follow you.

      Eugene Brown, Edublogs Support

  45. I will use twitter to connect with other sped teachers. I would like to get involved with more edchats.

    @JannaSlye