Ten Twitter Tips for Teachers

I’m a massive fan of Twitter. I have personally found it to be the best source of new ideas and tips out there, and it’s free! It can take time to build up a decent sized network, but once you follow enough people then you begin to see the benefits.

I’ve written a short guide to Twitter for Teachers before, but I’ve updated some of the ideas and added a few more things that you can do to make your Twitter experience much more useful.

The Twitter bird escaped

1. Follow Follow Follow

Twitter is all about following people. The more people you follow, the more tweets will appear in your timeline. There is a critical mass to Twitter. Early users often give up as the few users they follow may not yield many interesting or useful tweets. You need to start following lots of people (50+) to start getting useful communication.

Once you follow a few people – look at their twitter pages and see who they talk to, or who they follow. If they sound interesting, follow them too. Gradually build up a network of Twitter users who interest you.

Also – take a look at the “Who to Follow” page which will suggest other followers based on who you follow.  Very handy.

Hopefully, those people you follow will also follow you back. Which brings me to:

2. Add a Bio to your profile

Whenever I get a new follower I check on their Twitter account to see if they are worth following back, or whether they are an automated spam bot. The first thing I check is their bio – the short piece of information that you add to your profile. If they say they are a teacher, or a teaching student, then I will pretty much always follow them back. If there is no information here, then I am more wary of them, and most likely will not follow unless their tweets look interesting.

It’s important to put something here – even if it’s just that you’re a teacher interested in Twitter.

3. Keep an eye on Hashtags

Hashtags are short codes used to help keep information on similar topics organised on Twitter. You can add a hashtag to any tweet just by using the # symbol followed by a word or acronym. Hashtags are often used during Teachmeets or other conferences to allow everyone attending that event to discuss it, even if they are not following many of the people at that event.

Here are some good hashtags for teachers to follow : #ukedchat #edchat #mathchat #pgce #nqt #scichat #edtech #teachmeet

If you want to take part in the regular discussions like #ukedchat then just add that hashtag to your comment and everyone following that tag will see it. If you see people using that tag that interest you, follow them :) it’s a good way of meeting other educators.

UKedchat

4. Use a Twitter client

The twitter site is OK, but it’s not brilliant. Especially if you want to monitor several different things at the same time – such as several hashtags, plus keeping an eye on who’s talking to you. There are different Twitter clients out there, but a good free one is Tweetdeck. You can set up multiple columns that look for different things. For example mine is set up to show my regular timeline, any mentions of @dannynic, a column for friends/family tweets who might get lost in the general stuff, and then columns for #Scichat and #ukedchat.

It makes following Twitter a lot easier.

Go mobile – get a twitter client for your phone too!

tweetdeck

5. Protect or No Protect?

This is  decision you’ll have to make for yourself. It is possible to protect your tweets so that only people who you give permission to can follow you and see what you say. I don’t use this myself – I just make sure that I don’t tweet anything too personal that might get me into trouble. But some teachers might prefer to keep their tweets away from the general twitter stream. At least be aware that the option is there should you need it.

6. Dont be afraid to lurk

There’s nothing wrong with just lurking – not saying much but following the stream of tweets from others. It will give you a good idea of the way that Twitter works. But you will get more out of twitter if you start sharing. Share your experiences, share good websites you’ve found. If you have a tip or piece of advice – share it :) You’ll get more follow backs. Join in when you feel ready!

7. Don’t just broadcast – interact!

Do try and engage with other users out there. Twitter is about communication. There are many users out there who just tweet links or news about their organisation without any kind of discussion with their followers. Remember to use an @ sign in front of their username so they can see your message eg use @dannynic to talk to me.

8. Get an Avatar

The default twitter avatar is an egg. It’s not very exciting. Change this to an avatar of yourself – or, if you don’t want a real photo of yourself up there, something more fun. Here are some ideas for making avatars for online sites.

9. Beware of Spammers

Do be aware that there are a lot of automated accounts out there who will follow or tweet at you, who may not always be benign. If you receive links in messages that you do not trust – don’t click on them. Some can direct you to dodgy websites that may compromise your twitter account. You can also block and report other users for spam if you find their behaviour worrying.

10. Follow Back

Twitter will alert you when you get a new follower. Take a second to check out their profile, and if they sound interesting (and not a spammer) then follow them back. Over time your network will grow.

A lot of people call their Twitter friends their Personal Learning Network (PLN) and I can definitely go along with this. I follow 4000 people, so it is not possible to keep up with all the messages flying past. But when I dip into Twitter I can always guarantee there’s a couple of excellent nuggets of wisdom, or links to new websites/articles out there that I haven’t seen before.

There are thousands of teachers on Twitter already – get on board and join them!

Got any more tips? Share them in the comments below.

 

mosaic

Photo credit : The Twitter Bird Escaped by Netzkobold

Update – thanks to Rob Chambers for blogging about this post, and also adding some more useful links for teachers. Take a look.

Also a useful thing to know : How to use the Twitter @ Reply

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Author: Danny Nicholson

Danny is an author, Science teacher, ICT Consultant, PGCE lecturer and computing / interactive whiteboard trainer. He has delivered training courses across the UK, in Europe, and in Canada. Please get in touch with your training requests.

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post. I would only add, don’t feel like you need to read everything! A lot of teachers get stressed about following too many other teachers because they need to read every tweet. Like you say just jump in every now and then when you have time.

  2. Thanks Mike. Absolutely – never attempt to read the entire twitterstream :) Dip in and out as you can. Following some of the more useful hashtags can help too – get more focus on a certain theme.

  3. Hi Danny,

    Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check for comments.

    Please feel free to post there when you have anything you think is relevant to ELT teachers and would like to share.

    Best,

    Ann

  4. Thanks Ann – will go take a look!

  5. Thanks. May give it a go!

  6. Certainly using Flipboard on the iPad has made for massive amounts of tweets to be put in a magazine-type format. Use in conjunction with Evernote to effortlessly save tweets for later, in depth reading.

  7. Using twitter in the classroom has been a marvel for student engagement. A high-tech classroom is an opportunity for students to connect to the future and become global scholars that can compete with anybody…innovating new industries, products, ideas, and more. I teach simple and honest, my inventive techniques follow a model, an approach to build leadership & technology with the students, tomorrow’s leaders. Humanize the classroom experience…

    1. Follow a University: Follow a university to get the latest and greatest information to access scholarships and other incredible opportunities being advertised on Twitter.
    Extended Learning: Students write a report on the collection of twitter feeds that they retweeted, explaining what learned from the articles and tweets by an Ivy League University.

    2. Test REVIEW: Using a Hash tag, a List, @mentions, and other ways you can go over content standards, homework, test answers, and so much more.

    3. Host a HIGH_tech ACADEMIC Competition: Create a twitter account that will serve as the main timeline of team or individual responses to retrieve answers in real time, creating a more engaging experience for the audience and competitors.

    4. Station_learning: Since all students will follow your twitter account, you can post your learning resources on your timeline for students to find and read about. The problem with many sites is the web address is complex; therefore, twitter now gives access to any article online relevant to your lesson designed.

    5. Agenda_posts: Use the twitter tool to post an agenda beforehand, frontloading the pace of lessons. Giving students, parents and all other stakeholders an opportunity to help coach their scholar(s) to mastery. Good agendas will scaffold learning, getting students to the highest level of thinking by the end of the year. “Setting the pace.”

    6. Quizlet & Twitter COMBO: This is my favorite feature of real-time tools and the ability to create bank of knowledge that peers can deposit and withdraw from, making it a humanized experience for today’s student. Specifically, sign up for a quizlet account get familiar with its simplicity, then by using the twitter tool to transform the quizlet products into an empowering assignment-giving power to the student to create and share. Using twitter, go to the navigation panel and share with TWITTER.

    7. EXPLORE using your “bag of tricks” and use TWITTER chorus as an INTERACTIVE student notebook

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