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.

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

  1. You can use twitter to maybe start a small business. By doing this your more likely to get more followers and be able to expand your small business.

  2. 3. Find Someone
    Someone I found on Twitter was Shelly Sanchez and her handle is @ShellTerrell. She posts a lot of helpful slides templates, and other various tips and tricks that could be used in the classroom

  3. Someone I found on twitter that I would be interested in following is @CoachONeil2010. While searching through the physical education hashtag I came across her page and she was posting her classes activities. She also retweets a bunch of cool learning exercises from other physical education educators that could be used in class.

  4. Someone on Twitter I am interested in following is actually one of my former professors. His user is @ jasonchow, and I find that the content he posts to be very educational. An area of interest for me is special education which is one of the things he specialized in. The articles he posts behavior disorders and educational psychology was a good read to me. I find that his tweets are also relatable and honest.

  5. Find Someone: I found George Couros’s (@gcouros) tweets interesting. I have never heard of him before, but he posted the following quote: “Assume you don’t know something. Ask questions. Seek to understand.” This is a good example of what a growth mindset should look like, and it is important for teachers to maintain this attitude while being a model for students.

  6. 2. Join twitter. I was already on twitter, and my username is evanmanuelbowse. A great person to follow on twitter is @HeadTeachDunn.

  7. I would use Twitter to build my PLN by following and interacting with educators. Whether they’re local or around the world, interacting, learning, and adding them to my PLN would be amazing! With Twitter I can search different educational subjects in order to find certain posts and accounts that provide those topics and dive into all of the communication, tips, tricks, feedback, etc. that has to do with what I’m searching. Twitter also allows me to communicate easily with other educators from anywhere in the world where I am then able to learn and work with them in order to better myself as an educator. Twitter is amazing for growing my knowledge and my PLN.

  8. I would use twitter as a tool for innovation. I would create an account for my PLN and then follow other education creators. I would like and share their resources.

  9. I think Twitter is a wonderful resource for teachers. It is a great way to spread ideas, share experiences, or ask questions. Personally though, I don’t really like using Twitter. I prefer watching videos like on Instagram stories or watching reels. Other platforms also have comments and direct messages as well as hashtags just like Twitter that can be used to find what you are looking for and I personally enjoy those other forms of social media a bit better. I love following experts in child development and watching their quick info videos or following illustrators who write amazing books for the classroom on Instagram and I feel it is just as beneficial for my personal network. Although I can see the amazing benefit of using Twitter, for some reason, I just don’t seem to use it as a resource all that often.

  10. In high school, I attempted to have a twitter account because it was the cool thing to do… well, at the time, it was not the platform for me! I decided to pick the task of recreating a twitter account to see if it could truly benefit me as a future teacher for my PLN plan. Here is my account username: @GantnerKait     If you decide to visit, please be patient as I still get the hang of this platform! 

  11. As far as social media goes, I generally do not post or spend much time on it. I’m a natural born introvert, and just don’t like talking about myself at all. However, I do use social media sites to follow things I am interested in, so I can still use my Twitter to create a PLN as a lurker and absorb information through that.

  12. You can make connections with a variety of people from various places in the world with Twitter. The tool will help give people different perspectives and ideas that can help other educators. I struggle with coming up with new engaging ways for students to learn, so being involved in ways to help me advance my teaching skills would make me feel so much more prepared.

  13. 1. Video Reflections: I am not a fan of Twitter. But, Mr. Couros commented on something intriguing: we, as a society, are putting more information out on the table, and it is allowing us to progress. You can see the evidence across multiple industries. As more people begin to collaborate, as more information gets shared, brainstorming explodes, and new ideas are formed. While I am loath to admit that there are benefits to Twitter, it would appear this is one: ideas can be shared faster than ever, with a wider variety of individuals, than ever before, and we, as a society, have a duty- in a sense- to use this phenomenon to our advantage.

  14. Twitter has become the new way to quickly attract people’s attention. Teachers, I believe, will benefit from this because they will be able to share their ideas with the rest of the world. With a simple hastage, educators can find advice, give advice, find great links, share work, and engage in general thoughts about education.

  15. twitter is one of the most used apps in social media, I decided to follow two of the twitter handles so I can listen and get information and retweet their tweets.

  16. Although I don’t really like Twitter, I do see its value. That being said, I would use Twitter primarily to make connections and only participate when I feel it is necessary for understanding something that has appeared on my feed. To put it bluntly, I feel like I would primarily lurk on Twitter, as I don’t even have a personal one – I’m not much of a social media person, and I won’t force myself to use it if I find it annoying or uncomfortable. That being said, I would seek out content area-specific resources, so I have access to a feed of relevant ideas anytime I want or need them.

  17. I have previously joined twitter. I do not use it as much as I should. My bio and profile does need some work. I heard twitter is a great tool to find important information or to stay updated. People use so many hashtags, anyone can find anything on there. I also need to start more important pages that will educate me on things.
    Username: Saranabil1191

  18. 3. Find Someone

    There is a person on Twitter whose artist name is Claud Six (AKA Jellyfish Brigade). I came across this individual on bandcamp years ago while looking for music. It wasn’t until recently I found his Twitter account. To my surprise, Claud Six is a high school history teacher! In addition to a musician, gardener, and casual basketball player (many of my interests), he is a longtime educator. I made the connection by following and reaching out, and he has been a direct and indirect influence in many ways as my education career begins. His Twitter username is @ claud_six

  19. I have never thought to use twitter as something to connect with fellow educators on or even think to look for content or ways to connect there. Looking at hashtags to find similar content, searching followers/following on accounts we have interest in, or send a tweet out with hashtags drawing in followers. I saw that the Virginia Department of Education has one and followed them.

  20. 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.

    username: @LoveOutdoorLea1

    I found Love Outdoor Learning’s twitter page very intriguing. They provide calendars with a different outdoor learning idea for each day. One of the ideas on the November calendar is covering the 3 R’s and making something from recycled materials. Another thing that they provide is in person and online trainings. I enjoyed exploring their page and maybe you will too.

  21. 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.
    I follow @danbrownteacher. He’s the CEO of Educators Rising. He focuses on getting students involved in teaching and education as young as possible. He’s always sharing ways to actively engage students and even grants them open teaching experiences as young as high school.

  22. Find someone who you are interested in following: I absolutely love Twitter. I think it is one of the most funniest careless apps ever to be created. Not only do I learn more news about the world from Twitter than the actual news thats been reported, but Twitter is an app that people are able to say whatever they want. It is not like Instagram where most things are superficial and unrealistic. I followed @Bored_Teachers as they are a funny and relatable account towards the educator audience. As being a teacher is very different then the other jobs in the career field, it can be hard to find someone who understands other than colleagues at the school. Therefore this account posts funny tweets and memes for teachers to relate to. I think it is a great account that can make any educator giggle!

  23. In my brief experience in the classroom so far, I have seen how easy it is to accidentally isolate yourself and feel like you’re the only one working on whatever you’re working on. Even within departments, when you’re the only teacher of, say, US History, it can feel isolating. It is so important to push back against these feelings though, and use something such as Twitter to find connections for ideas, encouragement, and/or validation. My favorite part from Alec Couros’ video, “How To Use Twitter Effectively in Education” was when he said, “These partial hunches turn into something much bigger than we could have ever dreamed of.” It resonated with me, because I can think of those times when I’ve had a seed of an idea, but I was not quite sure where to go with it next or if it was realistic to pursue. I love the idea of using Twitter to flesh out great ideas, both of my own and others, so that I can build the best lessons and units possible for my students.

  24. 1. Twitter? I have always viewed twitter as just a place for silly jokes and memes, and am amazed to see this entire subculture of learners and educators using twitter to stay connected and informed. In the future I do plan on having a (second) twitter profile that is used only for education and connection purposes. Hopefully I can gather diverse opinions and never be stuck in the dreaded echo chamber!

  25. Natalia Heckman is a fellow educator who specializes in ESL. She focuses many of her posts on writing and literacy, and she poses many great questions and conversations that need to be had around that subject. She utilizes things such as padlet that holds resources for other fellow educators to utilize! She also spotlights many other PLN creators who share the same interests which allows those following along to have a wide variety of tools and places to look when looking for extra ideas and support.

    Twitter: Natalia Heckman – @NataliaESL

  26. Twitter is a great way to share educational content with others. It’s also a good way to connect with others who can add value to what and how you teach as an educator. We can learn from others triumphs, as well as their mistakes and failures. Personally, I would use Twitter to connect with professionals from an array of fields. As the post expresses, educators in the same arena may be the main network, but to gain new ideas we may need to gain exposure from others outside of our main network.

  27. 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.: The main obstacle I see with Twitter is the algorithm. If you look at one thing that isn’t education related one time, the algorithm might show you a bunch of non-education stuff. This is fine for personal interest stuff, but I feel like an education only, Twitter style app would work way better than just Twitter.

  28. Join: I have actually already joined Twitter, in the past. With that being said, here is my username: @mviolet16. I feel like my images and bio are still fairly new, I tend to update my profile pictures, backgrounds and bio on different platforms fairly regularly.

  29. 1. I may use Twitter to build a PLN by sharing ideas that I am using in my own classroom. I think sharing ideas that teachers can adapt for their own classrooms is a great way not only to find ideas to use in my own classroom but to also help gain new perspectives on teaching, lesson planning, etc. I also think I would use it to find ways to expand learning into a more global view. On Twitter, you can interact with educators not only in the states, but also in other countries.

  30. I haven’t thought about using Twitter as a source for professional development because my first experience with twitter was used to connect with friends. I can see how it can be a useful tool for not only educators but any business really. It is a versatile app that contains every realm of the world. Just from doing a quick twitter search I was easily able to find multiple accounts that range from education as broad as in the U.S. as well as county centered education. There were also accounts that focus on a mindful education which I thought was interesting (things like incorporating mindfulness in the classroom).

  31. Follow @educatorsrising! They’re based in my home state, and they post content that’s made to empower. What’s awesome about them is that their target audience is future educators, and they’re working to change the face of education by finding passionate high school/college age students to join the profession. As a new teacher, and a teacher in general, I find the content they post to be cutting edge and important to consider in my practice. I believe educators should be students as well, and accounts like this one can help teachers stay on top of the newest and greatest practices/concepts to fold into pedagogy.

  32. I have never made a Twitter account, nor do I want to be a part of that social network at the moment. From what I have seen, however, Twitter is like every other social network that I know, where different communities can have members, nationally or internationally, that have similar passions and have a desire to learn from other members of their online community. In terms of the obstacles that can arise from such a platform is nothing new to online communities. For example, communities are never prone to getting negative criticism for their beliefs and ideologies. When a person from the outside has a negative thing to say, they sometimes let it out on the internet just because they can. It’s part of the reason why, for me, it’s hard to join an online community because I have gotten my share of bullying and criticism that I prefer to keep my ideologies to myself. I’m still trying to learn how to express my opinions more and be more confident in my decisions to trust people especially when thinking about joining a social network or PLN.

  33. One account I really like is @MaddenClare who not only tweets about their own class content and lesson plans, but retweets other educator’s content as well. The main take away from her account is that it’s important to bring creativity in a lesson or activity so the students are more motivated and engaged in learning. I also really like how since they have roughly 2,500 followers they will retweet another teacher’s question and use their network to help them out if they themselves can’t answer.

  34. Jennifer Gonzalez, the creator of an education blog I like “Cult of Pedagogy” has a twitter account and I would suggest educators to follow her. She posts links to her blog along with a wide variety of content from other forward thinking educational resources. She is absolutely worth the follow!

  35. Kasey Bell (@ShakeUpLearning), I really enjoyed looking at this twitter page. I feel it is so positive and informational about different things that educators and future educators could use to guide them through the classroom. In addition to that I really liked the simple motivational post she posted that could simply just help you through the day.

  36. Silvia Tolisano (@Langwitches) tweets a lot about 21st century skills and digital literacy. Their content includes articles, teaching materials, such as lessons and activities, quotes and thoughts about adapting for the 21st century, and overall PD for teachers working with students in the digital realm.

  37. Twitter is a greatly used in the way of finding things. And what I mean by this is you can put a hashtag into the search bar and see what comes up and for the most part you can find what you’re looking for. So, if I’m looking for an hashtag with the Brooklyn Bridge I will find pictures and topics with this hashtag or you can even search up just a phrase and it will come up in the search with people tweeting about this phrase that you’re looking for. I’ve connected with so many different types of people on Twitter simply by tweeting things like my favorite TV show I can only imagine what it will be like when I tweet things and look for things when I’m a teacher looking for teacher material

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