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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.

251 Comments

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  1. Hi everyone,

    I just created my twitter account. You can follow me @Preciou73931569

    • theenglishstudentdiary
  2. I tried several people that I knew throughout the state and none had Twitter. I then followed Respiratory Therapy Group Family. This site would actually be a very good marketing and recruiting tool. I could post job openings and search for possible employees as well. Great site!

    • Melissa Barnhill
  3. My first MOOC attended was 8 year ago on a Romanina microbloging platform named Cirip and this was oriented to education. All this course about microbloging was on this platform. On twitter I used tweeterdeck, Hotsuite, Socialomph to automate some functions. @sorinelb

    • sorinel balan
  4. Twitter has been and will always be for me an interesting place to make a global impact. With over 8,000 followers and a lot of tweets, retweets and write-ups, my twitter handle, @stephenobasun has connected with and provided relevant information to the twitterverse!

    I floated #TeachWithoutTears not long ago to curate relevant content on best practices and innovations in teaching. #TeachWithoutTears is a PLN aimed at connecting educators in Nigeria and currently we’re very active on WhatsApp. Incidentally, we’re adopting this course to improve the members’ connectivity on other social media platforms.

    Hopefully, both @stephenobasun and #TeachWithoutTears will spread their influence globally and impact educators for positive development and improvement in teaching and learning activities.

    • stephenobasun
    • Thank you for sharing your hashtag #TeachWithoutTears and I encourage others to take a look!

      • Kathleen Morris
      • It’s a privilege and a pleasure to connect with you guys. Thanks!

        • Stephen Obasun
  5. I feel very brave. I blogged about my response to Twitter. I think what I find quite confronting about all this is having my thoughts and writings so public. I’m out of my comfort zone!

    Anyway, here is a link to my post!
    http://khollow.edublogs.org/2019/01/07/time-to-tweet/

    My Twitter handle is @khollow.

    • Go you! I just left you a comment with some thoughts on Twitter. I hope others will jump in too 🙂

      • Kathleen Morris
  6. I found this post to be very useful! I do have a Twitter account (@ber_moore), but like my blog ‘About Me’ page, I had not updated the bio in years. This was a good reminder. There is still a lot for me to learn. I feel like there are the basics, and then a whole lot more to discover and use effectively. I think the connections that are available, globally, make building a PLN much easier! Partially because it moves instantaneously, which can also be a downfall. Connections are quick, and this can also be overwhelming. I like the suggestion about finding a friend and looking at who they follow. I did this, and definitely found a few more to follow!

    @alicekeeler is a great one to follow! I like her variety of tweets. She shares great resources, inspiring quotes, and appropriate retweets.

    Amber

  7. My Twitter handle is @BridgetGengler.
    One great person to follow is @TaraMartinEDU. She wrote a book called Be Real published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. (@dbc_inc). She also is the creator of #BookSnaps. She is just want very inspiring educator.

    Bridget

    • Hi Bridget, I enjoy following Tara’s work too and it’s amazing how her #BookSnaps idea took off. I’m sure Twitter played a big part in that!

      • Kathleen Morris
  8. My Twitter handle is @LydiaRogers_1 After reading this post I started following @googleaccess. My first tweet to them was if sight-assistive technology can read the closed captioning on YouTube videos. Does anyone in this group know? I’ve been trying to find out, it seems the answer is no, but I’m hoping that’s not the case. Thanks!

    • Hello Professor Rogers,

      My name is Alex and I work as a screen reader accessibility developer and system administrator across the Incsub sites. I actually had to go try out some YouTube videos myself to see if it worked and I’m happy to say, it seems to have worked fine. I’m able to access the “CC/Subtitles” button and once activated, my screen reader reads the text as it appears.

      Hope it helps answer your question.

      Thanks.

      • Thank you Alex! That is so great to hear. I’ll start including visual descriptions in YouTube closed captions now. Thanks for taking the time to check this out!

  9. Great videos, to use Twitter in a better way – i.e. to get more out of it.
    My account is @BFMRomeike and I right away updated pictures and my Bio.
    Not really surprising, I found inspiring organizations and friends. Some old, some new.
    I was especially happy to find @juergen_handke because he is one of the first who uses a roboter for education. His followers and hashtags were again very inspiring. I think, roboters will be very usefull in medical education soon.
    Again – I got the feeling that I might spend too much time on Twitter – however, at the end I think this will pay off.

    • Bernd Romeike
    • I just found you on Twitter. I am @kathleen_morris. I know what you mean about spending time on Twitter. I find it’s usually worthwhile time though, as opposed to scrolling through random photos and memes — there is so much to learn! 🙂

      • Kathleen Morris
  10. I already have a Twitter account, but had never put up a picture or bio. I just went over and did all that. I also took your advice and looked at who others are following and selected to follow some of the same people. Now my next step is to commit some time each day and learn. I enjoyed the articles on what people got out of 10 minutes of Twitter feed or 30 minutes. Makes me see that you don’t have to spend all your time online.

    • Michalle Keiser
    • Very true, Michalle. I find when you’re following the right type of people, you can get a lot out of a Twitter session, even if you’re only online for a short time.

      • Kathleen Morris
  11. Well here goes nothing I’m fumbling around a bit here, but eventually I’ll have my legs up under me so I’ll be better able to navigate myself around twitter more confidently. I’ll start off at first with baby steps and with time and experience I’m sure I’ll be up and running around on twitter in no time.

    • Abdu kareem Muhammad
    • For sure! It does take time to get the hang of Twitter but once you do, you’ll love it. Be sure to let us know your Twitter name so we can follow you!

      • Kathleen Morris
  12. I think Twitter is a good tool to start with building one’s PLN.
    With this article, I have had some clarification with its use especially in connecting specifically with like minds.
    #hashtag (until now) used to be a strange word.

  13. My Twitter Account – @MiaChmiel

    To be honest, I’ve been shying away from Twitter due to the current political climate. In my mind, Twitter has become a tool to spread fear, hate and division. As I read through this section and found new education-based folks to follow, I became more understanding of the power Twitter can have for rural educators.

    • Hi there, I found you on Twitter. 🙂
      So glad you’ve decided to give it a go. It’s a shame political drama has played out on Twitter but the great thing about the platform is, you control who you want to be connected with and can stay well away from any of that.
      Have fun!

      • Kathleen Morris