Two years ago, I did not even know that educators used Twitter to better themselves or to help students; This was not on my radar. Teachers at my school were not using it either, so as far I knew, it was not a resource geared for teachers. When I envisioned Twitter, I assumed it was for celebrities and their millions of fans.
I will never forget when I attended a conference led by the lovely Julie Smith. She said, “Educators are the fastest growing group on Twitter.” I was absolutely shocked by this. Furthermore, I did not want to miss out any longer, so in that moment I decided to join Twitter. This monumental decision I made was the single best thing I have ever done for my students learning and my own personal growth.
Whether you already have a highly collaborative team at your school, or you feel like a silo, Twitter can help you become deeply networked and supported while you gain new perspectives that you never knew you needed.
While you continue reading this post, remember this: You do not have to jump in and do every single tip I mention right off the gate. Just like any other learning adventure you decide to board, do so at your own pace in your own timing. As long as you are learning, you cannot go wrong.
Twitter Tips for Educators:
1. Keep your Twitter handle simple.
A twitter handle is how people identify you. You can use your first and last name, just your last name, your title: Mr./Mrs./Ms. with your last name, or something creative if you feel compelled. Nevertheless, do not over complicate it. Besides, you can always change it later if you want, so do not feel “locked in” to whatever you choose.
2. Add a professional photo of you as soon as possible
Change the default and gray Twitter picture so people can see you are a real person.
You do not have to hire a photographer- My Twitter photo was actually taken with an iPhone. Yet, when I say “professional”, I am referring to choosing an appropriate and positive picture that displays you as the respected professional that you are. A headshot photo with a smile is always friendly and inviting. Feel free to add your own burst of personality as well.
3. Add a bio that lets others know who you are
A bio solidifies who you are and helps others in similar positions with common interests connect with you. Include your job title, passions, and interests.
4. Tweet and Retweet (RT) thoughtfully
When you send an idea or tweet out, it will show your profile picture and Twitter handle next to the tweet
When you RT, it will repost someone else’s tweet to your profile. RT ideas, blog posts, photos, and videos that resonate with you. Be respectful and always remain professional; Recognize that your followers and the global community can view and find anything that you post or RT to your profile.
Replies also give you the opportunity to respond back to ignite a conversation with others.
5. Follow other educators and leaders and follow back those who follow you
You cannot grow a meaningful network or Professional Learning Network (PLN) if you do not follow other people. Plus, following others shows that you want to grow as well. When educators and leaders follow you, follow back those who you know you can learn and connect with. But, be sure to check out their profiles and tweets
When educators and leaders follow you, follow back those who you know you can learn and connect with. But, be sure to check out their profiles and tweets BEFORE you follow back. Stay far away and never follow back spam accounts who post inappropriate content and be careful of people who pose as educators, but are not.
Important Note: Do not worry about the number of followers you have. Just be you and authentic- That is what counts.
6. Report and block spam accounts
When you see an inappropriate account, report them. You can also block accounts when necessary going to Settings > Block Accounts.
Keep in mind: When you follow an educator and they follow you back, or vice versa, then both individuals can direct message one another. This is another reason why it is so important to check profiles and tweets before following others. You can also always unfollow people as well to eliminate their ability to direct message you, if necessary.
7. Check with your school district about social media policies for teachers and students
Through meeting other educators across the nation, some educators say that their districts require all school Twitter accounts to be public, while some say that they are required it to keep the accounts private. Additionally, some educators say that their district does not have social media policies for Twitter and/or other social media outlets.
Not every district is the same. Make sure that before you begin a professional Twitter or classroom Twitter, that you always verify with your school district to gain the proper information on policies.
For the past couple of years, I have collaborated with my school district on developing clear social media policies and presenting those policies to our staff and families across the district to keep them in-the-know and to propel connected education. Once you gain the proper information and approval, share that information with others, too.
Lastly, do not follow students or communicate with students via the private direct messenger. But, some districts allow teachers and students to publicly tweet one another, where everyone can see, with school related questions. With this said, do not assume your district policies. Read them and then double check with your building principal; Student safety is always paramount.
With this said, do not assume your district policies. Read them and then double check with your building principal; Student safety is always paramount.
8. Hashtags are used to join communities, conversations, or to solidify a point
You can use a hashtag day-to-day to connect with a community or to add the hashtag onto your tweet where it is applicable.
Many educators use Twitter Chats to conversate with other educators and leaders in subjects or topics that are important to them. Some join the chats just to read and gain content information, while others join in and send tweets back and forth. Do what you feel comfortable with and ease your way into the chats over time.
There is a Twitter chat for almost every topic and interest, while new Twitter Chats are always popping up. Twitter chats are usually once a week at the same time that lasts between 30 minutes to an hour. But different chat variations are also out there like “slow chats.” During slow chats, usually, one question is posted throughout the week for people to respond to at their own pace.
You can also start your own hashtag for your school or classroom to unite your school community AND to share awesome learning with families and staff! I have done this and seen such astounding results! Search other hashtags on Twitter before you start your own hashtag to assure others are not already using it.
- The Official Twitter Chat List is HERE, too. Search for keywords on the website by clicking “Ctrl+F” (PC) or “Command+F” (MAC) to quickly decipher chats that would interest you.
- Check-out the full educational Twitter Chat Schedule HERE to find what day and time the chats occur. Don’t forget to choose your time zone on the left-hand side once you are at the website.
- Use Tweetdeck or HootSuite to organize your chats and hashtags (I prefer Tweetdeck).
9. Build lasting connections that will last a lifetime
My favorite part about Twitter is not the “tweeting” itself, but the lasting friendships that I have built over these past two years with other educators and leaders. It takes time to build kinships, but it is the most valuable piece. Get to know other educators and leaders that can help push you to new levels and see things differently.
Nothing can substitute a good role model, and with Twitter your role model can live anywhere in the world! Having others that you can build bonds with and ask questions back and forth, at any time of the day, is priceless.
10. See every contact as a way to help students
Every person I have “met” on Twitter has made me a better educator for the colleagues and students I serve. Having the opportunity to help connect students and staff on a GLOBAL scale is always my goal. When other educators share what they are doing, it ultimately helps my students. ALL the students in the world are OUR students. What helps one, may help all.
Moreover, Twitter is often the springboard for other ventures. Just this year alone, we helped connect our students in our school to other children’s authors, teachers, students, classrooms across the world, and field experts in areas like STEM through outlets like Google Hangouts and KidBlog. Some experts have even traveled in person to our school!
I often present about being a connected educator, and due to the phenomenal powers of Twitter, I am able to see the growth these educators make over time as they become connected. It is compelling beyond words. One educator even told me that,“Being connected saved her career.” I have found that Twitter is less about the tool and MORE about the power it has to change our lives and the lives of our students.
I wish you the best of luck while you continue to venture into Twitter. Whether you are new or a veteran to Twitter; We are all in this together.