A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter

A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter – 2015 Edition

Why Should Teachers Use Twitter?

A teacher’s plate is already quite full so why in the world should they make room for yet another activity.  That’s a pretty fair question to ask.

  • Staying relevant  – Like it or not, the world has embraced social media. Twitter is just one of the many new avenues for communication in this modern again.  Many students in Middle and High School are using it as one of the primary ways they communicate with their peers and the world around them.  Parents have joined the revolution as well, especially younger parents of school age children who used Twitter themselves in High School and college.  Teachers should consider using Twitter as another tool to reach their audience, both in the classroom and at home.
  • Professional Growth –  Twitter is a fantastic way to learn about what other educators are doing in their schools.  Teachers can build an entire personal learning network (PLN) on Twitter by connecting with colleagues who teach in the same grade level, content area, or both.  Twitter is filled with people sharing their ideas, thoughts, questions, humor, and projects with the world.  You just have to learn how to find those individuals and connect with them.

How do I create an account?

Instead of recreating a tutorial that has been done countless times before, its easier to just link to a YouTube video.  Use the link below to create your account.

A couple of things to note when creating an account:

  • Choosing a Username: Often referred to as your Twitter handle, this is the name that your tweets will come from.  It will start with the @ symbol. For example, my Twitter handle is @MoreThanATech.  When choosing your Twitter username, try to pick something easy to remember.  Many educators I know use the abbreviation for their school district and then their name.
    • For example, if your name is Amy Sandler and you teach science at Arlington Public Schools, you could consider usernames like
      • APS_MrsSandler
      • APS_AmySandler
      • APS_SandlerScience
    • Don’t worry.  You can always change this later if you don’t like what you chose.
  • Your Profile Picture: Once your account is setup, you’ll want to take a moment to upload a picture to your profile.  This is an important step.  The default Twitter picture is an egg with a solid colored background.  This image appears in every tweet you send.  When other Twitter users see this egg icon, it tells them you didn’t think enough about your social media presence to even bother to upload a picture.   Twitter users tend to write off people who haven’t bothered to upload a profile picture.
  • Your Profile Description:  Here’s another area you do not want to leave blank.  The description part of your profile is 140 characters telling the Twitterverse who you are and what you’re into.  When others see your profile, they’ll be able to see this description and might choose to follow you because of it.  Be creative here.  Here’s a great article on writing a powerful and intriguing bio on Twitter to get you started.

What do all these Twitter terms mean?

Twitter can be quite confusing at first.  When you are reading tweets, its almost like you are reading an entirely different language rapidly scrolling across your screen 140 characters at time.  It would take way to long to explain every single term, but let’s look at some of the common Twitter lingo that educators may come across.

  • Hashtag –  Hashtags have found there way into mainstream society in a variety of formats (social media, traditional media, license plates, etc).  To borrow from Twitter’s glossary definition, “a hashtag is a word or phrase immediately proceeded by the # symbol”.   Hashtags will show up blue in a tweet and clicking on one of them will take you to other tweets with that same hashtag.
  • @Username – The @ symbol is used to signify a person’s Twitter username.  When you send a tweet, it will show up to other users as being from @APS_MrsSandler.  When you see a person’s username in a tweet, you can click on it to see more tweets by that person.
  • Follow – When you choose to follow someone, that means you’ll see all their tweets in your feed automatically.  You do not have to follow someone to see their tweets though.  Following them simply places all their tweets in your stream.  When you see a user on Twitter who tweets about something that interests you, click on their name.  You’ll see more tweets from that person and if you want to add them to your network, click the follow button.  You can choose to unfollow someone at any time.
  • Retweet – If you see a really good tweet and you want to share it with people who follow you, you can opt to retweet it.  Retweeting takes the original tweet, adds an RT and the original tweeters username to the front, and then sends it out on your account.  The person who first sent the tweet gets a notification that you retweeted them.
  • Favorite – Choosing to favorite a tweet is similar to bookmarking a website.  Tweets that you have favorited are saved in the “Favorites” tab of your Twitter account.  You can use this as a place to reference tweets you’ve found valuable in the past.
  • DM – DM stands for direct message.  DMs are private and are not shown to the people who follow you.  They are basically private messages inside of Twitter.  These are sometimes used to provide your email address to someone on Twitter without sending it out publically.
  • Ts – This is shorthand for Teachers.  Since you are limited to 140 characters, users often abbreviate words in order to save a few precious characters.   An example of this would be “Ts need to engage learners…”.
  • Ss – Similar to above.  Ss is short for students.  These two abbreviations are typically only used by educators so be thoughtful about how you use them as to not confuse other users.

What Should Teachers Tweet About?

This may be the most difficult part of starting out with Twitter..,what exactly should you tweet about?  For starters, don’t agonize over whether or not something is “worth” tweeting out. There are approximately 6,000 tweets every second.  You can rest assured that not every tweet was sent after thoughtful consideration.  As long as your tweet is professional appropriate, its probably OK to send. Here are some ideas when you get stuck:

  • Students working on a classroom activity.
  • A picture of the school mascot or logo with a tweet cheering on one of the teams.
  • Pictures of students collaborating / working in groups.
  • Links to professional articles in your content area.
  • A quote about teaching, work, the weekend, etc (remember, professionally appropriate).
  • Pictures of your colleagues hard at work.

The more you use Twitter, the easier it will be to compose tweets. A few more things to things about as you venture into the world of social media.

  • Remember to use hashtags (#teachers, #edtech, #teaching, #K12) so that other people searching with those hashtags see your tweets.  Need more ideas of good education hashtags?  Check out this list.
  • Not every tweet needs to have a picture, but generally, pictures and videos will result in more retweets, favorites, and follows.
  • If you are tweeting pictures of students, make sure they are allowed to be photographed per your district’s media use policy.

Finding People To Follow

The beginning of this post referred to building your personal learning network by using Twitter.  You can’t start building your network without knowing where to begin.  I’ll be recommending some educators to follow who send out amazing content, but let’s start off a little closer to home.  Here are four easy steps to begin establishing your own PLN.

  • Start off by following teachers, principals, and administrators at your own building or district.  You may need to ask them for their Twitter username.  Your district may publish a social media directory on their website as well.  Find these people on Twitter and give them a follow.
  • Now that you’ve begun following some of your colleagues, take a look at who they follow.  You can do this by logging into Twitter, click on a colleague’s username , then choose Following from their profile.  This will bring up the list of people they follow along with their bio.  Follow some of the people whose profile looks interesting to you.
  • Try using Twitter’s search feature to seek out others to follow. In the search area on Twitter, enter a topic that interests you and click the search button.  From the results page, choose “Accounts” along the top to only show accounts associated with your search term.  Searching hashtags is a great way to find people.  Try hashtags like #teacher, #educator, #edpolicy, and #edtech.
  • Finally, participate in a Twitter chat.  A Twitter chat is a weekly event where a moderator poses a question and anyone following along can answer.  To join in, all you need to do is reply to the question and include the Twitter chat hashtag.  You can follow the thread by that same hashtag to see what others are saying.   You’ll quickly discover lots of people interested in the same subjects, content, etc as you are.  Now follow them!
Real Name Twitter Handle Primary Focus Secondary Focus
Jose Vilson @TheJLV Teaching
Vicki Davis @CoolCatTeacher Teaching EdTech
Giselle Santon @FeedTheTeacher Teaching EdTech
Tom Whitby @TomWhitby Ed Policy Teaching
Jennifer Carey @TeacherJenCarey Teaching
Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal Teaching Administration
Mike Daugherty @MoreThanATech EdTech Administration
Lisa Dabbs @teachwithsoul Teaching
Mary Beth Hertz @mbteach EdTech Teaching
Fran Simon @FSSimon EdTech Teaching
Margaret Powers @mpowers3 EdTech Teaching
Joan Young @flourishingkids Teaching
Kevin Corbett @kevin_corbett EdTech Teaching
John Robinson @21stprincipal EdTech Teaching
Justin Hamilton @EdPressSec Ed Policy
Sara Mead @saramead Ed Policy
Jessica Johnson @PrincipalJ Administration Teaching
Amy Mayer @friEdTechnology Teaching EdTech
Sean Junkins @sjunkins Teaching EdTech
Erin Klein @kleinerin EdTech Teacher
Steven W. Anderson @web20classroom Teaching EdTech
Todd Nesloney @TechNinjaTodd EdTech Teaching
Thomas Murray @thomascmurray Ed Policy Teaching
Lisa Johnson @techchef4u EdTech Teaching
Dr. Justin Tarte @justintarte Teaching EdTech
Kasey Bell @ShakeUpLearning EdTech Teaching
Alice Keeler @alicekeeler EdTech Teaching
Monica Burns @ClassTechTips EdTech Teaching
Susan Oxnevad @soxnevad EdTech Teaching

Getting People To Follow You

Convincing other Twitter users to click that coveted “Follow” button for your account is not an easy task.  People want to make sure you are providing high quality content or information before they follow you. Entire books have been dedicated to how to build your brand and increase ones Twitter following.  When you are just starting out though, here are some simple things you can do to start adding followers.

  • Include your Twitter handle on all of you other forms of communication.  Make it prominent on your teacher website, in your email signature, in your Google + profile, etc.  Anywhere that you can think to include it will help.
  • Make sure to include hashtags in your tweets.  Just like we discussed above. Many users search based on hashtags so you’ll want to include one or two in your tweets.  That way, if someone is looking for people on Twitter in your content area, they can find you.
  • A common practice on Twitter is to follow people that follow you.  Its not a rule, but it can be considered good etiquette.  SO, you can increase the number of people that follow you by following others.   Tools like Unfollows.com  can help you identify people that don’t follow you back.

Twitter Chats

Twitter chats are scheduled events in which a moderator poses questions to the group and the participants answer based on their own ideas and experiences.  These chats typically occur at the same time every week and always use a custom hashtag so that people can follow along.  There are tons of Twitter chats for educators.  Some chats are content specific while others are more general but focus on a particular state or region.  To participate in a Twitter chat, all you need to do be online at the designated time slot and follow the hashtag for that chat.  The moderator will introduce themselves and then discuss the topic and format for the evening.  Questions are tweeted out with Q1, Q2, etc and respondents answer with A1, A2, and so on.  Please note that some of these chats move very quickly.  It can be hard to keep up on the larger ones.  You can always search the chat’s hashtag afterwards to re-read all of the tweets related to that session.

Here are some of the more popular chats you can consider checking out.  This is a very small list of educational Twitter chats.  If you do not see something here you like, there’s an official list of ALL educational Twitter chats that can be found here.

Chat Hashtag Day of the Week Time (EST) Topic
#EdChat Tuesday 12:00pm-1:00pm|7:00pm-8:00pm Education (HUGE Audience)
#EdTechChat Monday 8:00pm – 9:00pm Educational Technology
#Satchat Saturday 7:30am – 8:30am Educational Leadership
#EngChat Monday 7:00pm – 8:00pm English / Language Arts
#MathChat Thursday 8:00pm – 9:00pm Math
#SciChat Tuesday 8:30pm – 9:30pm Science
#SSChat Monday 7:00pm – 8:00pm Social Studies