I was sitting at my desk in 2007 when Twitter was in its infancy and came to my attention. “What’s happening in 140 characters or less?” I remember thinking what dumb idea this was. Who cares that I am at my desk drinking coffee? Why do I want to know who else is drinking coffee? Still, I was the Director of Educational Technology for a major research and development lab at the time and it was my job to look at new technologies with a lens toward education. I joined Twitter and waited – and waited.
As I watched my feed over the next day or two I started seeing some names I recognized from the ed. tech world and I followed them. Most of them returned the follow. Soon my Twitter feed was mostly education related. That’s when I finally got it. Twitter isn’t much good until you form a community – a professional learning network (PLN). All of the people I follow on Twitter are educators. I can pose an education-related question and generally receive a number of answers in short order. Twitter was becoming my go to place to learn. Twitter is my primary PLN.
As I grew as a Twitter user I learned some very useful things that all educators should know.
- Be sure your Twitter profile indicates you are in education. Like many others I know, I only follow fellow educators. If your profile is blank or doesn’t indicate you are an educator, I won’t follow you. Also, include a picture on your profile. It doesn’t have to be of you. It can be a pretty sunset or your puppy, but a picture makes it more likely others will follow you.
- Your Twitter account should ONLY be used for education related tweets. Remember that students, parents, and colleagues can see your tweets. If you want to tweet personal or political things, do that on a separate account. Assume that your principal, PTA board, students, parents, and superintendent will be reading your tweets.
- Hashtags (#) are used to indicate keywords. This makes your tweets easier to find.
- Use the @ symbol before the name of a person or company. If you do this, the person or company will be notified that you are tweeting about them and they might respond.
- Rather than tweeting, “I am doing the Hour of Code in a workshop on coding at ABC School district” type “I am learning @hourofcode in a #workshop on #coding at the @abcschools @codeorg.”
- When you want to see what others are tweeting regarding coding, type #coding, in the Twitter search window on the top right of the page. If you want to know what others are saying about the ABC School District or the Hour of Code, type @abcschools, @hourofcode, or @codeorg in the search window.
- Get involved in education related chats. ASCD hosts #ASCDL2L monthly which allows you to interact with education leaders from around the world. One of the oldest and most robust twitter chats is #edchat. You can get a flavor for the kinds of discussions in that chat by typing #edchat in the Twitter search window. Participate live if you can, and if not, read the archives. If that chat doesn’t interest you, there are scores of chats every single day. Navigate to https://sites.google.com/site/twittereducationchats/education-chat-calendar/chat-calendar-cst and scroll through the chats by time and day. Some are geographic focused like #KSEdchat for Kansas educators or #Africaed for African educators. Others are content focused. #ELAChat focusing on English and Language Arts and #PBLchat discussing project based learning issues are just two examples. There are also job-alike sessions like #ElemMathChat, #SpecEdChat, and #SuptChat.
- Finally, follow smart people. Your PLN is only as robust as you make it. Follow people you see chats that center on your interest. Follow people who write in your field.
Once you get involved in Twitter as a way to grow professionally, the possibilities are almost limitless. Gather research for an article or blog post by posting questions to your PLN. Receive constructive criticism on a lesson plan, presentation, or idea from other educators. Share tips and get advice on things like parent/teacher conferences and open houses. Collaborate with others to solve a specific issue at your school. Once you get started you just might become an evangelist. I know I did.
Howard Pitler is a dynamic facilitator, speaker, and instructional coach with a proven record of success spanning four decades. Pitler is an ASCD Faculty member and the author of several ASCD publications including Classroom Instruction That Works, 2nd edition, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works, and A Handbook for Classroom Instruction That Works, 2nd edition. Contact Pitler at email@example.com or on his website.