Embrace the Power of Twitter

When inspirational speaker Ken Shelton, @k_sheltongave the keynote speech at our school district's first Institute Day this fall, he challenged educators to join Twitter. Many thanks to Ken for inspiring the educators in our school district! 

We now have a more widely used hashtag and more of our teachers are beginning to use Twitter to document some of the great things happening in our classrooms, primarily through text and a photo. This is a very good start, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. This post is dedicated to educators who are just starting to step into the world of Twitter and for innovative educators and tech coaches to share as you lead the way.

Why Tweet? 

Twitter is a quick and efficient method of exchanging information and ideas in order to learn with a global audience. Twitter is a great way to become a connected educator and engage in the exchange of ideas that could lead to positive transformations in your own classroom. This powerful method of connecting with others who share your passions can be life-changing.

Twitter Basics 

Twitter is considered to be a micro-blogging service because it allows users to send and receive quick bursts of information that are limited to 140 characters or less. Regular tweeters learn to use Twitter slang or cave man language to conserve characters and make room for hashtags, often abandoning punctuation. There is an art to writing a tweet, just like there is an art to writing a clear and concise message. Tweeters are allowed to break traditional spelling and grammar rules, as long as the message is coherent.


When you sign up for Twitter you will need to create a username, which starts with the symbol @. Your username can be a form of your own name, but your name may already be taken. Educators are encouraged to set up a professional account to keep your personal and professional lives separate on Twitter. Tweets are public and they do become part of your digital footprint.


Hashtags are Twitter labels that are searchable. They help users find tweets about specific topics, but more importantly, they help users find people to follow and connect with who tweet about those topics. Anyone can create a hashtag for your own group or initiative, as long as it starts with the symbol # and contains no spaces, for example #iPadEd

Let's say you're interested in learning more about the common core standards. You can search the hashtag #ccss and find a running stream of relevant tweets. If you find something interesting you can tweet about it yourself and include the hashtag of your group. If you find someone who seems to have a lot to share, you can follow that person. This is a good place to start if you don't quite know how to behave in the Twitosphere. For those of you who are relatively new to Twitter, you might appreciate the The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags for Education by @TeachThought to find some great hashtags for educational use.


When you follow people, their tweets show up in a steady stream on your Twitter home page. Since a tweet is 140 characters or less, it's fairly easy to sift through a lot of information in a very short amount of time. Of course, 140 characters does not allow a tweeter to share more than a preview or a quick idea. To fully maximize the power of Twitter, tweets usually include links to more information. As users sift through their tweets, they click on the links to dig deeper into the ideas behind the tweet, often following the author of the Tweet or the author of the article itself. Twitter will notify you when someone follows you. They also make recommendations about who to follow that show up on your own home screen.


If you come across a powerful idea on Twitter, you can retweet it. This allows your followers to see the tweet in their home feed. Better yet, you can use the abbreviation MT, mention tweet, in a tweet you quote. You can then add your group's hashtag to the end of the tweet to share that idea with colleagues who follow a specific hashtag. You can also compose your own tweet, add a link to the source of information and add a hashtag to the tweet. This is how ideas fly across the Twitosphere. Your followers will read the ideas you share, they share those ideas with their followers, they follow others and so on. There is no faster or more efficient way to share ideas.

Sharing Your Own Ideas 

To maximize and share the great things you are doing in the classroom through Twitter, include a link to more information inside of that tweet. This helps others learn from you by digging deeper into the ideas and practices behind the text or photo. Link to samples of student work, link to resources, like to your blog or website with more information or link to lesson plans published on #GoogleDocsFellow tweeters will connect with you if your own tweets lead to more information, ideas and learning. This is how you can inspire others and establish collaborative global relationships based on common interests.


If the information you share on Twitter is useful to like-minded Tweeters, they will follow you. Use the reply button at the bottom of a tweet to ask questions, send a thank you for the information and start a conversation about the topic of the tweet. Often, tweeters will share your ideas and add their own hashtags to bring your ideas to their group. This is how you learn with other, build your PLN and expand your learning and knowledge beyond the classroom or school walls. We are all learning together and this is maximized through the use of Twitter.


When you you tap the star icon below a tweet you are adding it as a favorite. This lets the author know that you read their tweet and liked it. Twitter will notify you when someone favorites one of your tweets.

Twitter Chats 

Twitter chats are informal exchanges of ideas at prearranged times. Twitter chats utilize a hashtag to encourage conversations about specific topics, such as #1to1iPadChat. Twitter chats usually include a moderator who asks questions by adding, Q1 to a tweet with a hashtag for the twitter chat. Participants use A1 to answer that questions and start conversations. 

Participants in Twitter chats often end up following each other to continue exchanging ideas. Twitter chats are usually archived so interested Twitter users can sort through it all when the chat ends. Twitter chats can be very confusing when using Twitter alone, and they are much easier when using a service that provides users with a dashboard to manage your Twitter feed and the feed from the hashtags you are using. Tweetdeck is a popular Twitter tool used by participants in Twitter Chats.  Sue Waters, @suewaters has compiled a great resource to help educators learn more about Hashtags, Tweetdeck and Twitter Chats for Education

Take Aways 

Twitter is an efficient and powerful platform for exchanging ideas and information to extend learning beyond the classroom, school, or district. This global exchange of information can truly help educators adapt and succeed in our rapidly changing educational climate by building on the expertise of educators across the globe.

October is Connected Educators month and there's no better time like the present to embrace Twitter to connect and build a global professional learning network!