Twitter for Teachers – A practical guide to get started today

Twitter for teachers - The guide

As an educator in the 21st century, you’ll eventually come face to face with this question: should you be on Twitter?

If you’re entertaining the possibility of using this tool, do you know how to use it as an educator? In this guide, we’re sharing our favorite tips for how to use Twitter to extend your influence and expand your resources. Let’s get started.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is one of the most popular social media tools. It serves as a place for networking with others. It’s also an amazing service for getting up to date news (and opinions on those news).

Both the appeal and challenge of Twitter is that you’re limited to posting 140-character messages, so brevity is one of the most important aspects of this tool.

Should You Be on Twitter?

Here’s the million dollar question– is Twitter a good idea for you?

In this post, Education Week takes a fair look at the pros and cons of Twitter from an educator’s perspective. The general consensus is that Twitter is a tool that can help you connect with your fellow educators, your students, and their parents. It can give you access to a wealth of resources “in real time”. On the other hand, it can also be unproductive if you don’t have a clear reason for being on Twitter.

How to Get Started on Twitter

So, now that you’ve been introduced to Twitter, here’s a quick start guide.

> Sign up for Twitter

Sign up is free. The only question is whether to create an individual account or set up one for your entire classroom to use. Not sure which one to go for?

Signing up for an individual account means that you’ll post under your name. You will interact with other Twitter users as an educator.

A classroom account may be better if your students are not old enough to have individual accounts. However, any age group can benefit from a classroom Twitter account, as we’ll discuss below.

Signing up for a classroom account is the same as process as creating an individual account. However, you’ll probably use a more inclusive name, such as MrsHambysClass. Also, if you opt to set up a classroom Twitter account, I recommend using a tool named GroupTweet.

twitter for teachers - grouptweet

GroupTweet allows you to manage multiple contributors without sharing passwords. You can use this tool to quickly see who’s participating, download contributor tweets, etc.

Learn more about how to set up a classroom Twitter account here: Step by Step Guide To Managing A Classroom Twitter Account With GroupTweet.

> Complete Your Bio

As Kathy Schrock shares in her Twitter etiquette guide, be sure to include your status as educator in your Twitter bio.

twitter for teachers - kathyschrock

> Start Following People

Twitter will automatically suggest people to follow when you first sign up. However, you’ll definitely want to extend that list and follow Twitter accounts more closely aligned with your interests. Later on in this post, we’ve included a starter list of people to follow on Twitter.

> Start Posting

Twitter is a friendly place, and it’s also forgiving. Don’t worry about making a mistake because you will. You’ll forget to add a hashtag, you’ll misspell a word– but Twitter followers won’t mind.

> Retweet Other Posts

Come across a post that you love? Whether it’s inspirational, educational, or just plain funny, consider retweeting that post to your followers.

> Search Efficiently

You can easily search Twitter with keywords. In the search box, type in a keyword (or keyword phrase) you’re interested in discovering, such as space exploration.

> Use Hashtags

Hashtags are an important part of the Twitter culture. While you don’t have to use hashtags to post or conduct searches on Twitter, it does help. Hashtags help to categorize individual tweets, and it also makes search easier. So, if someone searches for “#airplanes”, the search engine will pull up all posts that use this hashtag. It’s more specific than searching for “airplanes” without the hashtag.

> Create Lists

If you follow a lot of Twitter users, you will eventually get lost in the never-ending, fast-paced news stream.

> Like Tweets

If you come across a tweet you agree with, be sure to “like” it by clicking on the heart. Liking tweets archives them and makes them easier to find for later reference.

20 Ways to Use Twitter

01. Participate in a Twitter Chat with fellow teachers

Twitter is a big conversation. To make the most of your time on Twitter, you should participate in Twitter chats, which are regularly scheduled conversations centered around a specific topic. A Twitter chat is usually moderated by one host who asks questions. To participate, you answer the questions and include the Twitter chat’s hashtag (example #edchat). Questions are usually presented as Q1 followed by the question, and to answer, you’ll use the form A1 followed by your answer to the question.

Here’s a list of 10 Twitter Chats for educators from PBIS Rewards to check out.

twitter for teachers - pbis

02. Encourage live student journalism

A free world requires a strong, impartial media. Teach your students how to use Twitter as a socially responsible journalist. Here’s Starr Sackstein’s advice on how to cultivate student journalism on Twitter.

twitter for teachers - student journalism

And here’s a live example of how language arts and journalism teacher Angie Jameson uses photojournalism on Twitter.

twitter for teachers - angiejameson

03. Send announcements

Need to update your students and their parents on upcoming news and events? Is school cancelled? Has a field trip been postponed? Use Twitter to make timely announcements.

Twitter can also be used as a general bulletin board to keep in touch with older students or the parents of younger students. Inform them when class is in session, what’s due, and the latest homework assignments.

Here are a few more ideas on how to use Twitter to make class-wide announcements.

04. Create a hashtag for your class

If you’re using Twitter to communicate with your students, don’t forget to create a hashtag for your classroom so that tweets will be easier to search and archive. Check out Terry Heick’s Complete Guide To Twitter Hashtags For Education for popular hashtags and trends.

05. Share lesson plans

Get inspiration and lesson plans from other teachers on Twitter. For example, follow @ShareMyLesson on Twitter to be updated on free and valuable resources, including lesson plans.

twitter for teachers - sharemylesson

06. Follow current events

Twitter is great for keeping up with current events. Incorporate Twitter in your social studies and any class discussions on hot topics. Here’s a New York Times’ post on how to use Twitter (among other tools) to teach current events.

twitter for teachers - nyt

07. Follow inspirational people

Find out what other educators are doing and thinking by following them on Twitter. Here’s Education World’s list of the Top 15 Educators on Twitter. Also, check out Rasmussen’s list of 33 Education Twitter Accounts to follow.

twitter for teachers - rasmussen

08. Answer questions

This idea is specifically geared toward older students. Consider hosting an in-class presentation and then accepting questions on Twitter. This can be a more organized method for Q&A, and it can encourage more people to participate who may not feel comfortable enough to stand up and ask the question in person.

09. Create a quote/photo of the day

Use Twitter as a way to inspire or encourage contemplation and discussion. Posting a photo or question of the day can kick off classroom conversations.

10. Tweet as a historical or literary figure

This is one of the most creative uses for Twitter. Assign each of your students a character (historical or literary) and let them tweet as that person. It’s an immersive way for your students to learn more about the character. Plus, it’s fun for the entire class as they tweet each other during role play. They’ll learn a lot more about the story, the characters, and the time period simply by interacting with each other on Twitter.

To get you started, here’s a free Twitter activity created by Rachel Kozloski that you can download at Teachers Pay Teachers.

twitter for teachers - tpt literary tweet

11. Connect with experts

Use Twitter to find experts to speak to your class. Twitter is a valuable resource for finding fellow teachers, authors, or other influential individuals who can speak to your students. Here’s Adam Schoenbart’s advice on how to develop a personal/professional learning network with Twitter.

twitter for teachers - aschoenbart

12. Share photos of projects

Photo journaling and Twitter go hand in hand. Encourage students to chronicle photos of their projects and experiments, step-by-step, and then post to Twitter (with your classroom hashtag).

13. Brainstorm on Twitter

Use Twitter to brainstorm ideas with a class. Twitter is perfect for near instant communication, and messages can also be kept private. Here’s an example from Dr. Jeremy S. Brueck on how to use Twitter for brainstorming in early elementary.

twitter for teachers - brueck

14. Foreign Language Practice

Teach a foreign language? Use Twitter to connect with native speakers. Here’s advice on how to join foreign language chats and locate language resources on Twitter. While it’s geared to Spanish language, it can be applied to any language represented on Twitter.

twitter for teachers - spanish4teachers

15. Promote classroom discussions

twitter for teachers - teachhub classroom discussion

16. Update parents on the day in class

Younger students rarely relay to their parents the awesome stuff that they’ve learned during class time. Twitter can provide a channel for updating parents on what you’re teaching. Here’s an example of how educator John Fritzky uses Twitter to provide snapshots of the students learning.

twitter for teachers - john fritzky

17. Take a quick poll to get student feedback

Solicit feedback from your students on Twitter. Use the poll feature on Twitter to ask your students quick questions. This can also apply to fellow educators, too. Here’s an example of a Twitter poll:

twitter for teachers - twitter poll

18. Students ask each other questions

Encourage your students to use Twitter to ask each other questions, too.

19. Create Tabletop Twitter

Do you love the idea of Twitter, but don’t want to fool around with the Internet? Perhaps your students are too young to participate on Twitter. Enter Tabletop Twitter. Check out this idea by Colleen Noffsinger who used blue butcher paper to create a Twitter Chat-inspired bulletin board. Armed with questions, kids write their answers in short, tweet-like form, signing their name as @John or @Marie. It’s a fun way to teach digital literacy.

twitter for teachers - literacylovinggals

20. Use it to create short stories

Create collaborative stories on Twitter. Kevin Mulryne suggests using a Twitter presentation tool like Twitterfall to create short collaborative stories on Twitter that are then peer edited.

twitter for teachers - kevinmulryne

Best Practices for Using Twitter

Keep these practices in mind when you begin using Twitter:

> Consider protecting your tweets.

This is a good idea for many educators because you can control who views your tweets. Tweets won’t show up on third party sites, either. Here’s more information about protecting your tweets.

> Check your school’s policy on the acceptable use for social media.

Make sure you post in adherence to your school or district’s guidelines.

> Provide proper disclosure forms to parents and students.

Get permission from parents before posting images of their students on social media.

> Teach your students proper digital citizenship.

Before engaging on Twitter, teach your students how to responsibility interact with each other and with the general public on social media.

> Don’t talk about yourself (or self-promote) all the time.

Share useful information with your Twitter followers the majority of the time.

> Practice brevity.

Twitter is all about short communication. Avoid continuing tweets, when possible.

> Make it a habit to follow new people frequently.

Some people follow only a small number of people to reduce the “noise”.

> Don’t take it personally if people don’t follow you back.

Add new followers at least once a week.

Here are Education-Related Hashtags to Get Started:

#artsed – arts in education
#edchat – education
#edtech – technology
#elearning – eLearning
#engchat – English
#gtchat – gifted and talented
#homeschool – homeschooling
#historyteacher – history
#kinderchat – kindergarten aged children
#geographyteacher – geography
#musedchat – music in education
#scichat – science
#SSChat – social studies chat
#STEM – STEM education
#TLChat – teacher librarians
#TeacherTuesday – Teacher Tuesday (promote others to follow)

Extra Resources:

Here are a couple of additional resources to help you use Twitter like a power user:

twitter for teachers - teachthought 20 additional

Final Thoughts

Twitter is one of the most important social tools for educators. With Twitter, you can expose your students to real world, real-time learning, teach digital literacy, and connect with other educators and resources. With a huge (and growing) community of users in the education sector, there’s never been a better time to get involved with Twitter. Use these tips to help you make the most out of this popular social platform.

Are you already on Twitter? Let us know in the comments how you use Twitter as a educator currently.

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Jacqueline is an award winning writer who specializes in brand development and new media. When she's not writing, she enjoys drawing, Star Trek reruns, and chocolate. Say hello on Twitter (https://twitter.com/kyothomas).

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