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.

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

  1. I have been on Twitter since 2009 with a Twitter handle of @phsevers. Although not a new account, I did change out my banner and profile pictures. I have several accounts that I currently follow which pertain to both math and technology. I like to post things that my students do in my class and out of it.
    I decided that maybe it was time to find someone new to follow. I recently heard Tony Vincent @tonyvincent speak about various technology applications for the classroom. I decided he would be someone new to follow. Tony posts about many different technology resources that can be used in the classroom. Most of them are free. He also shares his “Tip Tuesday” with technology tips to use.

  2. WOW! There is a lot to do on Twitter. I have searched and followed numerous accounts and found that several of those accounts are now following me. Thanks Twitter!

  3. I have had my own Twitter account for probably over ten years now, but I think after looking over my account, that it would be smarter to simply create an entirely new account. I have been using my account socially for such a long time that I don’t think it would necessarily be appropriate to use it for something so important. My photo and bio on the website are both very social focused rather than educationally focused, so I would not be recommended the content that a PLN is focused on.

  4. I just recently followed @MichaelBonner_, who is a teacher who focuses on SEL and critical thinking to foster innovation in this classroom. I think he is great to follow because he shares so many great perspectives that I don’t necessarily experience in my day-to-day life/job.

  5. 0. I would follow @AAEteachers on twitter because it works with teachers from all 50 states. They link a lot of relevant articles and information regarding teaching and student health.

  6. I would follow @TeachersPetUK on twitter. After looking over their account, I discovered that they post high quality teaching and learning resources and game/activities. They post links for resources along with pictures.

  7. Some ways you can use twitter to build your PLN are by following known educators and getting ideas from their posts, reaching out to them, and even creating your own educator account on twitter where it is strictly for educational purposes (you could use it for your classroom to keep parents updated/informed on activities you do in the classroom, connect with other educators, and stay connected with your schools county and all info that you may need.)

  8. I think I would start using twitter to lurk and build my PLN that way. I am not the type of person to really post on social media, but I think that seeing other educators posting could inspire me to post as well. I think that it could also be a great place to connect and follow other educators that do post. I think that it is also great that you can reply to people because this allows for discussion and connections.

  9. @teacher2teacher on twitter is an account where real connections can be made dealing with ideas for assignments, questions, news, and so much more. It is an active account and is very organized. It is a great way to find other accounts that can be useful to the education world.

  10. My twitter handle is @alexa_lindquist . I created my profile in high school, so it certainly needs a revamp. I need to update my profile and pictures, along with who I am following to create a more specific algorithm.

  11. I think I would mostly use Twitter to lurk, read other people’s conversations, and add my own comments to these conversations. I think that there are many great conversations on Twitter to learn from and it would be nice to give some of my own input on these conversations.

  12. @hhereau – I found Holly Hereau after searching for my favorite science educator, Dr. Crean. She tweets about and retweets amazing resources aligned with NGSS standards as well as PD opportunities and emerging ideas in the science teacher community.

  13. @CookClassroom, Ty Cook is a middle school science teacher, and his content is really interesting because there is a great mix of education, experiences, humor, and teacher tips.

  14. When I first got Twitter, it was a challenge to use just like any other app. Twitter is a huge place where everyone is sharing whatever thought and details, they want. It also has this huge spectrum of how people use it. Some are on there for fun, while some are on there to spread knowledge and information. I have learned from using Twitter, that when something major happens it will show up on Twitter within minutes and it is extremely simple to find post about the news

  15. Being in the 21st century my initial impressions of twitter happened a long time ago. However, they are still lasting. I am not a fan of twitter. It is entertaining temporally but I often find it boring. Thinking about it in a PLN sense does make sense. Creating a teacher account to fill your feed with educational tips and tricks can help a lot and the same goes for platforms like pinterst.

  16. Video Reflection: In order to build my PLN using Twitter, I would probably spend most of my time lurking around and viewing other professionals/ profiles and follow discussions within hashtags relevant to me. I think rather than being someone who gains mass following and provides constant ideas and information, I would likely be someone who replies to others’ questions in threads and asks questions to other professionals when I need advice relatively fast. The beauty of social media is that communication can happen with people all around the world in a very efficient way.

  17. I just updated my Twitter profile for the first time since I joined in April 2011! It’s hard to believe I’ve had an account for over a decade already @mrsnewton2009. I have already spent some time “lurking” this morning, and even though I have not been active on Twitter for quite some time, I was still following Edutopia and The College Board. I enjoyed scrolling through some posts, and I am excited to find more people and organizations to learn from on this platform. Thank you for the suggestions!

  18. My twitter username is @lulninaaaaa. I don’t post on twitter but I am on there for the funny videos, news, and retweets. Sometimes when I am scrolling down my timeline I learn new things that I didn’t know before.

  19. I already had a twitter account so I decided to go to twitter and browsethe education side of the app! I came across the username @ScholasticTeach. After looking through their page, I am amazed at the amount of ready-to-go resources they provide and definitely will be using this resource when entering the classroom! They provide teachers with recommmended books for read aloud, cultural inclusion ideas and potential lessons, brain break ideas for the classroom, art-related projects, and so much more! They also provide teachers a number of ways to make affordable attributions to their classrooms using fundraising and other resources form the scholastic website!

  20. I follow @unabridgedpod, which is the account for the Unabridged Podcast. The host are three English teachers who talk about some of the books they are currently reading, as well as advice teaching books in the classroom.

  21. @weareteachers is an amazing profile to follow on Twitter! They have so many relatable and inspiring tweets. I love this page because they share a lot of useful worksheets and activities that you can print off or give you ideas. I think everyone should check out their page and see all of the great content they offer!

  22. I already have my personal twitter that I created in the past. I follow some of my previous educators on there. One of them is @KarlaBlasquez, she’s an ELL teacher for middle school. I really like her content because it’s very specific to second language learners which we need more educators for. Also, she posts a lot of class challenge ideas that she does with her students and retweets content from other creators as well.

  23. Twitter is something I never thought about using for educational purposes, but now I understand how it can be a very beneficial tool for teachers. In the future, I would definitely use Twitter to lurk, mainly. I would like to see what other teachers are doing and look for inspiration. After using it long enough I may feel comfortable using it to show what I’m doing in the classsroom.

  24. I have never thought of using Twitter for professional networking. I typically only lurk on Twitter and get news from the site. While I can see the benefits of using twitter, for me personally I think I would like to keep Twitter that is a space for me to more or less people watch online.

  25. I watched the ‘Using Twitter Effectively in Education’ by Alec Couros. I think it was very informative learning about ‘twitteracy’, especially as an aspiring teacher. Using the social media outlet to connect with other educators, especially those who are interested in and have experience in the same content area as me. I would use hashtags and twitter chats to discover other educators and their plans/activities.

  26. 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.

    I would use twitter to follow the people that I believe would inspire me and help me grow as an educator. In doing so, I would hope to form connections with other educators as well as learn from them, gain new ideas or approaches to teaching, and in turn share my own ideas and inspirations.

  27. Twitter can be a great tool to expand your PLN rapidly without the struggle of attending professional development sessions and other related conferences that stereotypically have been used as a platform to network. I could use twitter to gain insight from various figures and leaders in the educational field. For instance, I could follow certain people for ideas on behavior management, and others for ideas on lesson plans or how to approach difficult topics.

  28. I will use Twitter to follow other educators to create a network. As a social studies teacher, I will also follow organizations such as national geographic or museums. It might be cool to show students new information that might be relevant to the classroom and how it relates to the real world.

  29. I may use twitter to connect with educators. Twitter is not my favorite place to gather information. However, I recognize that there are a lot of resources and educators that use that platform. I do not currently use my twitter for educational connection purposes.

  30. I feel Twitter is a dying social media platform and I feel the majority of teachers are on different platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Twitter is also known for being an unfriendly platform as far as people providing feedback that may be different for educators, however, I don’t think Twitter is the main platform people are communicating on anymore. I feel there are better platforms that are out there and I will be using them instead of Twitter since I don’t see the benefit of Twitter the same as I do other platforms. That being said I will not completely close the door on Twitter it is just not the platform I wouldn’t go to first.

  31. I followed @findjoyinmath on Twitter. She is a current teacher and she posts updates at the school she works in as well as memes for students to enjoy about math. She also posts tips about math and teaching so coworkers and students do not feel discouraged. I really enjoyed going through her Twitter and seeing all the wonderful things she posts relating to her job and the school she works in.

  32. Twitter is not a platform I use often in terms of posting. I think this would be a platform that I mostly spend my time lurking on. I do acknowledge that it has a bunch of great informational resources and influential people. I just personally have never enjoyed making my own tweets consistently. I think I will use other platforms to share information but keep Twitter in my back pocket. Alec Couros’ description of how to use Twitter is the only reason I looked reblogged into my old Twitter account from high school.

  33. After browsing Twitter for a while, I found Mrs. Schmidt (@MrsSchmidtB4). I really like how she gives shout-outs to her students for succeeding in class. Most teachers I saw were posting stuff about their districts. While Mrs. Schmidt posts about her classroom and everyday life.

  34. I started following Cult of Pedagogy (@cultutofpedagogy) and I found a thread where they were asking teachers who had quit in the last year or so (with the specific caveat that it is for those who quit WAY before they ever thought they would). In the main post is a google docs for them to fill out where they can anonymously explain their reasoning and feelings. The goal it seems for Cult of Pedagogy to use this as an application and then showcase some of the stories on their podcast. I just think during this turbulent time for all educators, that amplifying these types of voices and stories is super important right now.

  35. – My username on Twitter is @ccfishy10. I will definitely be reviewing my account. I haven’t uploaded any images or my bio since high school. This was a great reminder to do that!

  36. My username on Twitter is @ccfishy10. I will definitely be reviewing my account. I haven’t uploaded any images or my bio since high school. This was a great reminder to do that!

  37. I might use Twitter to build my PLN as a way of starting and/or adding to conversations and ideas. What I like about Twitter is that there is a character limit which means that any post you make, cannot be overly long. This is a good way of condensing ideas so that they are not full of much jargon. This is going to be beneficial because not everyone has time to sit down and read a 3-page blog post by just one author. However, they might have time to sit down and read a 140-character Twitter post and its subsequent comments. Twitter is a great way to start up clear and concise exchanges between both like-minded and not like-minded individuals in a way that can appeal to both older and younger generations alike.

  38. Through this, I might use Twitter to gather friends, who are also educators. As I gain friends and followers on Twitter, I can gather techniques and relate with other educators in doing so. It can be very helpful to share photos and advice that other new or seasoned teachers may have.

  39. My initial thoughts on twitter for educators is that I never thought of using twitter to connect with other teachers before this video and presentation. I personally thought of it in private, more personal means of connecting with others, but I can see now how using it to connect with teachers in other states or countries can be a very beneficial concept. I like how in the video with Alec how he mentioned different chats for subgroups in education, such as kinderchat for kindergarden teachers. This makes it much easier to connect with those in the subject groups your aiming for, and is innovative in a PLN. Using it as part of building a PLN only adds another layer of communication, and is a tool to consider using.

  40. I had Twitter when I was younger. I didn’t find it very intriguing, so I deleted it. I want to give it another chance. So I created a Twitter account. My username is @AshleyJ052116. I started looking through Twitter at people I could follow. I first followed the school I work for and some people that work at my school. One Twitter page that I really liked was @EdWeekTeacher. They post a lot of inspirational quotes and ideas to help teachers. I was able to relate to many of their posts.

  41. I liked Alec Couros’ description of how to use Twitter as a PLC. I think it could be another great resource for information. I don’t think I would rely on it as my only PLC resource, but it could be something I’d check out. I would probably be interested in content and grade level specific groups.

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