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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 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.

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.

413 Comments

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  1. I have used twitter for many years and for a while was quite an avid user. Many professional relationships can be developed and enhanced through Twitter use. Twitter is an excellent way to get quick feedback and to stay on top of current events, teaching methods, and cutting-edge educational topics. Twitter is a wonderful way to see short clips of interesting videos including Ted Talks and other YouTube clips from ‘Blue Check’ institutions that have a wide following. You can also locate true experts in their field on Twitter who are more than willing to be of assistance, give advice, provide information and become a part of a wider network.

    • Art As Becoming
  2. Using twitter to build a PLN could be started by something as simple as making an account and following other educators that you know. From there you need to curate who you follow and find people who will help you grow in your education. Following hashtags is another great way to find things and/or people who can help you with your education. Growing with Twitter is something I would have never thought of before watching the Common Sense video or doing this course.

    • Elisabeth C Olson
  3. I created a twitter account to connect with other educators, my user name is @MsBlock10

  4. I decided to follow Kasey Bell (@ShakeUpLearning) because she talks a lot about technology and how to use it. She also leaves people resources to use as well. Most of the resources are about how to use google and she also has a few study resources.

  5. I created a twitter account for teaching and connecting with other teachers.
    The username is @Misssmi52116231

    • lindseybsmith
  6. Here is my newly created twitter for connecting with educators @teachAlexandria. I’m not really a fan of twitter but maybe this will be a different experience.

  7. I love Twitter I not only use it for education ideas but just everyday life. I do not have a specific one that I follow but all the ones that I have found I love. These people give you so many different ideas on how you can use your room and materials in different ways.

    • cassidylipelt
  8. I absolutely adore @AshMarquez620 on Twitter. Some of you may know her for her website Teach Create Motivate. She has so many incredible ideas and is changing the world of education. If you are in need of some lesson plans or even just some inspiration, Ashley’s Twitter account is phenomenal! One idea that I am currently loving of Ashley’s is her VIP table within her classroom.

  9. I’ve just created my new Twitter account! I do have to say that it does not appear as user friendly as Facebook, for example. I am sure I will get the hang of it, after a while. I liked that Twitter immediately gave me suggestions on who to follow, based on the interest preferences I chose. Although, I think I will be lurking for a while, I would absolutely like to get more comfortable and start learning from and with others. I like that I do not need to be “accepted” by someone to follow their tweets. That makes the beginning stages much easier. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, I started with following just 10 people/pages. Besides the popular ones that I had known about, like Edutopia and Ted Talks, I am following:
    @ncte – National Council of Teachers of English, an organization I have been aware of as an ELL teacher. I believe that NCTE will help me connect with individuals that are ELL specialists.
    @SELearnignEDU – they share strategies and resources on social-emotional learning, something our district has been focusing on for the last 2 years. I often incorporate SEL into writing and speaking activities of my ELL classes and I will be excited to get additional knowledge and inspiration.

  10. I have had a Twitter account for years, but I have never thought to use it to connect with other educators. As I get farther into my schooling, however, I realize that it might be a good idea to start now. One page I found to be very helpful was @teacher2teacher. They are a verified page, so I know that I can trust their content and links. They provide various links to articles that will benefit teachers, and the articles are about signficant issues, including racial injustice. They have many resources for teachers looking for ideas with online learning as well, which is especially important during these times. They have even retweeted questions that other teacher pages have asked so that viewers can reply their own ideas. It was a great resource that I know plan on using and recommend others check out.

  11. I created a twitter account for teaching and connecting with other teachers.
    The username is @learnwmsanders

  12. I have created a twitter account for my teaching career
    Username
    BCarterTeaches
    Excited to see how this journey of social media can be beneficial in my career!

  13. @zoe_m_13

    I just updated my twitter after years of disuse, and it is wonderful to know that something I created merely for the purpose of engaging with friends in different fandoms can now be a useful tool for my future career.

  14. Find someone: @MattCondon10- Prek-8 principal. He seems incredibly inspirational. From what I gathered, he posts a lot about positive reinforcement in his school. How to praise and celebrate the hard work that he recognizes from his students, teachers, colleagues, and parents. That’s something that I personally don’t think I do well, so to see and make notes on how I could do better in that area, is very inspiring.

  15. For my first impressions of twitter, I think it is a very good platform for quick and easy communication and sharing ideas and information. I think that sharing accounts among each other and gaining access to new knowledge would be easy with the way that twitter is formatted. Some obstacles may be figuring out how to use certain functions of twitter and getting to know how that works. However, I think that this learning curve would be beneficial in order to gain such an accessible and useful site.

  16. I have never been able to keep up with Twitter. The guidance and tips make sense, but the entire tool still feels overwhelming to me. I will try to use hashtags more often as I have heard that following certain hashtags proves to be the best way to find certain groups that can help you develop in your specific area of interest. Typically, I’ve only ever use Twitter to follow politics and local mutual aid efforts, but I can see the value in finding resources through this platform. However, since it is a social media tool, the platform is susceptible to toxic uses. In order to not fall into the trappings of social media, I think healthy discourse needs to be encouraged.

  17. I decided to find someone on twitter who would be interesting to follow. The user is @TheJLV. Jose Vilson is a new york based teacher. He is alos a writer and has earned verification on twitter. He has ammassed over 46,000 followers on twitter. He is passionate about education reform and focuses on removing inequalities in the classroom. I think he would be interesting to follow because he is in the same field as me though he is in a different are where the curriculum and standards are different from mine. I also feel the need for extensive education reform which is something he fights for.

    • Jennifer Carranza
  18. Twitter is a really great way to connect with people, but an obstacle I could see with Twitter is that it can be hard to explain your idea to someone who completely disagrees. Communication is still best face-to-face, where body language and the tone of your voice work to help you be perceived as kind, rather than on Twitter where you could be misinterpreted as angry or mean.