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.


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.

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

  1. In the near future, I see myself definitely using Twitter to interact with fellow teachers and mentors. I don’t see myself being much of a person who will be speaking up on this platform but I do see myself using it to engage in important conversations and viewing others’ ideas whilst sharing them.

  2. Okay, so I was never a Twitter fan. I had a personal account for less than a week. I didn’t get the hype and I often found myself tweeting the most random things. I haven’t had a Twitter account since, but I never thought to have one for educational purposes. I can see how it would be a great way to connect with other educators, see what they are doing, and share what I am doing! I might have to make an account, again 😉

  3. @BlackTeacherPro
    Their mission and group project is something I would be intrigued to learning more about. Their mission is to develop and sustain Black teachers to lead and reimagine schools as communities of liberated learning.

  4. I was very shocked to see that twitter is such a diverse network. In college I saw it as a platform to just stay informed with peers and trendy topics. Seeing twitter used in a professional setting I can tell that is a platform who can connect people from all over. I will defiantly look into finding different twitter platforms geared to education and strategies to use in the classroom.

  5. The account that I found the most useful and interesting is: EducatorsRising. This account is used to provide mentorship to future and current young educators alike. Additionally it can be used as a place to network. They will often post ideas and ask for feed back inside the thread that allows for more discourse between individuals.

  6. Although I do not have a Twitter account yet, after doing some lurking, I located a Twitter account that I currently follow on Instagram. Her name is Maggie Smith and she is a professional wedding painter. Since discovering her about a month ago, I’ve become enthralled by her work. I have never had an interest to create a Twitter account simply because the other social media platforms I’ve used are enough for me. Not to mention, the platforms I use frequently repost Twitter content so I never need to go to Twitter to find the content I am interested in. After reading through this step, I can see how useful Twitter can be especially from the perspective of an educator so I may one day decide to create an account of my own.

  7. I now have a teacher Twitter! I’m @MsLopezELA. I followed a bunch of authors of ELA pedagogy books and local and national associations.

  8. I’ve been on Twitter since 2013 but just for fun and to find people with the same interest as me such as music or movies. But I have never thought about using it professionally or as a way to connect with other educators. After being provided with many useful and resourceful accounts on Twitter I now can branch out and find new ideas / practices to learn about and use in the future.

  9. I found a twitter account called @TeachingChannel and they provide online resources for teachers and they can watch, share and learn diverse techniques to help your students grow.

  10. I think Twitter is a good and bad thing. The good is anyone can find out about anything- the news, important events that people need to know, tips, ideas for lessons or activities for teachers, and so much more. The bad is that it can start a lot of controversy, hate and lots of gossip about celebrities, big important people, government involved issues, etc. I have had Twitter since high school and I do not use it much, but there is a lot of information about anything happening in the world. I can learn about everything going on and sometimes there are useful tweets on the app.

  11. Prompt 4: What were your initial impressions of Twitter? I’ve spent some time on Twitter in the past and it definitely isn’t my favorite social media platform. I’m not a huge fan of the character limits – it makes it easier to take in a lot of information, but it also means there is not a lot of room for nuance to be explained.

  12. I’ve started following @ncte , the Twitter account for the National Council of Teachers of English. It looks to be a good place for resources and a way to stay up to date with conferences, professional development opportunities and the latest trends in teaching literacy.

  13. I created a new account in hopes of creating a space where I can learn from others. I still need to do some scrolling and find other educators to follow.

  14. For this task, I completed #1 about the video of Using Twitter effectively in education with Alec Couros. I would use Twitter to build my PLN when sharing lesson plans, connecting with other teachers, and continuing to build and improve. One of the things that Alec Souros talked about is the usage of hashtags and how important hashtags are to be connected with the correct topic or area.

  15. I’ve had Twitter for a few years now and I always found it engaging. To me it is easy to navigate and find a network of people you connect with. Besides personal use, I never thought of twitter to help me develop as a professional. But after reading more about how Twitter can be used in a PLN I was intrigued. I found multiple accounts I was interested in. Such as: @Jessica_Mariela a first generation student and teacher. I found a lot of tweets impactful and true. I am excited to connect more through Twitter in my education career.

  16. I mentioned in the previous step “Making Connection” about how I already use Twitter as a resource to make connections with educators! Personally, I use Twitter all of the time and it is my favorite social media app to use. I already follow multiple educators and coaches that I keep up with and look to their accounts for advice and knowledge. I will continue to follow accounts to help me gain more knowledge and make more connections.

  17. One account that I’m interested in following on Twitter is the United States official EPA twitter account (@EPA). I’m interested in following this account because it tweets helpful information about a variety of important environmental issues, in particular environmental issues which affect the health of people living in the U.S. In addition to tweeting information about these issues, alongside links to resources where people can read to learn more about them, they often include links to resources and programs that people can take part in to help protect themselves if they may be affected by these issues (particulate pollution, drinking water pollution, smog, etc.), which I think is a great public resource on a platform that’s accessible.

  18. After scrolling and browsing through twitter to find a great source, I came across @EdTech_Heather. She had so many great videos and posts including activities she has her students doing in the classroom. She also had so many tagged posts with others who thought her ideas and activities were great! I really enjoyed reading through other posts as well. This is such a great way to stay connected and find other great ideas!

  19. I have made a new account @RealJBogin
    I still need to update my profile picture, and I hope that I can continue to use this in the future to connect with other educators.

  20. Find me at @andrewh881. I just updated my bio and followed @CarolinaTesol for professional networking opportunities.

  21. I currently own a personal twitter so I’m already familiar with this platform. I can see why twitter is a great platform for networking. I have already come across many different educational tweets and accounts that I could use as a future educator. I plan on making an account just for education purposes.

  22. I have been a member of twitter since 2014 and I have had the opportunity to build a sizeable network leading up to my professional life. I have had to opportunity to know people through twitter that have common interests and know the same people as I do. Having twitter makes the world really small and you really can find anything or anyone on Twitter. A lot of my life and the friends I have made have come back to the connections I have made on Twitter. Some of them a national and even global. I never even thought of taking this and using it in a professional manner. You have to find the right people to follow and focus on the positivity. I could afford to make a professional purpose account.

  23. @NEAToday is tweeting about mobilizing teachers to the polls in order to further the advancement of teachers wages, student education rights including the rights of transgender students, and raising awareness about the misconception of a “teacher shortage”, claiming that there is not a shortage of educators, however there is a shortage of resources and respect.

  24. @blackteachersco I found their page to resonate with me because they bring such a cultural aspect to the world of teaching and they provide lots of up to date current events circling around the world of education.

  25. I have never been a big social media person in general so I have definitely never used twitter before, although I always hear teachers and educators talk about how it is one of the resources they use the most. I think the biggest challenge for me would be just stepping out of my comfort zone and engaging in social media. But from what I have heard from teachers it can really be a great resource for information from teacher to teacher.

  26. I personally never got into twitter, but after viewing the videos, and reading about it, This maybe a the best way to make connections by looking up hashtags that specify what area or discipline I am looking for.

  27. @TheRealHipHopEd and @ChrisEmdin are two Twitter accounts I would recommend following. Chris Emdin is a teacher and author who has written some amazing books about reality pedagogy which is an approach that focuses on the understanding of students by the teacher. He created #hiphoped which is a hashtag used for educators to share their research and experiences as it relates to the use of hip-hop in educational spaces. I highly recommend following him and reading his books, especially ‘For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Ya’ll Too’.

  28. I have used Twitter for many years and can’t imagine using it to build my PLN, but if I were to consider it for that purpose, I might use it for sharing ideas and lessons with other educators. Additionally, I can also get inspiration from them and we could collaborate to bring new ideas that can help the community.

  29. To build my PNL I would definitely use Twitter now that I have learned more about it. I might use Twitter to build my PLN by creating a profile and looking at tweets for lesson plans, connecting with other educators, and connecting with humans who have resources for their ideas. I would also use it as a platform to share and read stories of other people who work in the educational field.

  30. I got Twitter when I was in high school and it never seemed like a professional platform to me. After some digging around, I have found educators who use their profiles to talk about education. I am now realizing that it actually can be beneficial for me and forming relationships. I have created a new twitter account that is up to date and I look forward to connecting with more people who share an interest in education.

  31. I feel Twitter could either benefit or hinder someone’s teaching style. It’ll be beneficial because you are branching out to more people throughout the world, but it could also hinder because it is a social draining battery. I understand you could barely use it but it’s still a place of worry sometimes so, to be honest, I most likely wouldn’t use Twitter. If I were to use it though, I would definitely be finding all the theatre teachers, and professionals out there to keep these connections strong. I do know, however, that I could do this very same thing through Instagram or Facebook, so I’m not too worried.

  32. Task #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.
    I personally don’t see Twitter as much of a place for professional development compared to other platforms. However, I do feel that there are some people on the platform that teachers can learn a little bit from. As a future special educator, I picked someone who discusses how a disability can affect them. @ADHD_Alien makes comics that she posts on her website and Twitter that explain in simple terms how attention deficit hyperactivity disorder affects people.

  33. I personally do not have twitter due to mixed emotions about it, however learning more about it- I feel that I could use this to my advantage. Like when I want to be more involved in the education community or just simply know what is going on.

  34. The person I found who I would be interested in following is @RodRobinsonRVA. What they are tweeting that I found interesting is a lot of stuff that is going on at Richmond Public Schools as well as articles they have written about classroom diversity and what and who should be allowed into schools like police officers and SRO’s. Robinson was also teacher of the year in the US in 2019, so following someone like him makes me believe that I can learn a thing or two from following his account.

  35. Newly created Twitter: @MsVasquezHist

    After some lurking, I am interested in following the twitter page: @Latinos4Ed
    This twitter account promotes a space for Latino leadership in education. It highlights Latinx teachers around the country while providing Latinx voices to remove barriers to equitable education. I am excited to further explore this page and connect with teachers that face the same obstacles I do as a Latina educator.

    My initial impression of twitter was chaos. There are so many different accounts and pages that my brain had information overload. After taking a step back and finely curating, I was able to find a few accounts that will be useful and encouraging as I move forward with my education. It can definitely be intimidating and I am not quite ready to provide my own voice in this space, but I appreciate the future opportunity. I am also not ready to reach out to anybody, but I won’t shy away if/when the time comes.

  36. I have had twitter since I was 15 years old and in high school. I stopped using it because I thought it was pointless, but after going through this step, it might be time to start over. I use to use it to keep up with everything at school, but now I can use it for educational purposes. As a future teacher, it would be great for me to start following pages that will provide support once I am in a classroom. The only problem I can see with Twitter is that some pages can be biased or negative. Overall, I will definitely be creating a new page to starting building a network!

  37. After years of avoiding Twitter (Where to start? How to keep from drowning in the informational/hyper-opinionated onslaught??), I’m convinced. I’ve heard on and off from my fellow students about what a useful resource it can be, and have set up an account. Hopefully by the time I’m in a classroom of my own, I’ll have a well-established educational support system on the platform.

  38. I currently have a twitter account. My twitter handle is @dxisxh. As I am looking to update my account, I do believe that I could possibly update it in order to refresh my image and add a more recent profile picture as well as a more recent bio.

  39. I personally have never seen Twitter as a platform for professionals. It may be due to my generation but to me, Twitter has always been filled with jokes and gossip. It surprised me when I saw how used it was in the PLN space. Just trying to find a teaching page that was useful was a bit difficult for me. I think I would like Twitter more for sharing stories with other educators to be able to relate to one an other.

  40. Different ways that I can use twitter to build my PLN is by sharing my lesson plans on twitter or even my ideas about lessons or different activities so that I can collaborate with other educators. Other educators can give me more ideas or mortifications that can be more effective.

  41. I personally hate twitter, I have had it for years and find it annoying. I would not like to use twitter for my PLN because it is to crowded with information and people. It is hard to control who follows you, and sees your posts. Also growing up we always had to do the twitter projects in school and as a teacher I just don’t like that and so that also put me off twitter, I would prefer another social media app to communicate through.

  42. One way I might use Twitter to build my PLN is to follow teachers with ideas that resonate with me so that I can continue to build a toolkit of knowledge to use in the classroom. I also think I’d use twitter to engage in discussions with other teachers on things I’m passionate about or if I have ideas to share.

  43. I watched the YouTube video linked in question one titled How to Use Twitter Effectively in Education. This video discussed how Twitter has several amazing opportunities for teachers. It can be used to connect with others, see better practice, see what other teachers may be doing as well as even share lesson plans with each other. Twitter could also be used to engage the students as well. When I was in High School, I had a teacher who gave us an assignment that required us to post a tweet about a specific topic and tag her in it.

  44. I follow @HelpATeacher, they assist teachers in getting supplies to their classrooms via donors! They tweet funny and inspirational messages and teachers post templates that have helped them in their classes.

  45. I have created a Twitter account with the handle @ElizabethFACS. I have followed 5 pages relating to Family and Consumer Science. I am following: @Mrs_Radzai, @aafcs, @LZHSFACS, @FCSCenter, and @FCSE_GPIDEA to pursue building my PLN.

  46. I am now following @afulks2013 (“Srta Spanish”) on Twitter. I had purchased one of her Spanish lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers and in following her Twitter, I realized that she posts lots of videos with lesson ideas for acquisition-driven instruction Spanish classes. She is fantastic at providing options that can be used in print or digital formats.

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