When I first set up my Twitter account I thought it was a lot of random junk. Why is this something I would use as an educator? Then as I started to follow more educational users, and block some of the non-educational users I followed, I realized how valuable twitter could be to develop what educators call a Personal Learning Network, or PLN.
So if you have already set up a Twitter account and really haven’t done anything with it, this is a guideline to help you use twitter for your educational professional development. This is not a guideline for students to use twitter. Until you feel comfortable, do not try to teach twitter to students even if you believe they already are using this social media. Twitter recently announced a guideline of 13 and over use, but there is really is no age requirement when creating an account, therefore, I highly recommend not teaching twitter to students and even then only with high school students.
Here are a few tips for starting to use Twitter for education.
1) Remember it is very public. Think about it as presenting at Back to School or Open House except not only are the students and parents watching, but also other teachers and educators like your superintendent, the community you serve, even educators from other states and countries.
2) When first starting out, just follow a few educators that seem interesting and informative to you. Here is a list of a few I started out with.
3) Don’t tweet at first, but rather follow and observe what is being said by those educators you follow. You will see that the people you follow might post information about useful websites, blogs they have written, curriculum they like, or even lesson plans. Sometimes the people you follow will put hashtag (#) symbols next to a word. This is a way of following a particular topic. One of the more popular educational hashtags on Twitter is #edchat .
4) When you start to tweet, don’t tweet about your personal life yet. At first keep your tweets related to educational purposes only. You will occasionally see other educators posting personal tweets but I recommend watching other Twitter users’ feeds and seeing how often they post educational vs. personal tweets. This should give you an idea about how and what other educators share in a very public environment.
Later when you’ve tweeted some educational posts of your own and have established your twitter account as primarily for education, then occasionally you will be able to post pictures of your amazing vegan chocolate chip banana bread. 😉
5) Do not follow students on Twitter, but know that they may follow you. Very similar to teaching we have to be the role models when tweeting. There are so many reason why you shouldn’t follow students that I will just leave it as very strongly worded DONT.
6) Follow some fun Twitter users but keep it rated G to PG and related to your school persona. I really started using twitter for my science class when I followed the live tweets of the Curiosity Rover landing on Mars. From that, I found the Sarcastic Rover and still follow it. It shows my followers/students that I am a geeky science nerd with a sense of humor.
7) Do not follow celebrities, musicians, or politicians at first and when you finally do proceed with caution. Remember who you follow shows your followers who you admire and who you respect. I follow John Green because I’ve taught English, enjoyed reading The Fault in Our Stars, and believe him to be a positive public figure. Maybe you really like a famous comedian that uses a lot of profanity but following him on your educational twitter timeline might send the wrong message. Remember you are the role model for your students.
8) Block people you don’t want following you. When you receive messages that someone is following you, go to their profile. If the follower has a name you do not recognize, or the profile picture is an egg only, or something just doesn’t seem right about the profile, you might want to think about blocking them. Sometimes large for-profit educational companies will follow you. It might be nice at first to have them following you, so the numbers look bigger on your followers list, but know that the more individual edtech educators following you, the better your twitter timeline looks to others.
Did I forget something? Feel free to leave a comment or any questions and of course follow me on twitter!
Additional websites to learn more about Twitter for Education-
10 Ways Teachers Can Use Twitter for Professional Development – Med Kharbach @medkh9
25 Twitter Tips For Students, Parents, And Teachers – Katie Lepi @Edudemic
Twitter Handbook for Teachers – a downloadable pdf file, Tomaz Lasic @lasic