Part 1: Grow your PLN and get help from those who’ve been there
Twitter is an invaluable resource for educators looking to share their successes and challenges in an asynchronous, on-demand way. It’s a low-stress entry into social media where you only have to post a little at a time to connect with educators both around the world and on the next block — sometimes as close as the next classroom away! Here’s some tips on making the most of twitter as an educator.
1. Find folks to follow
You’d be surprised at who’s already on twitter. Your teaching partners and their classes. Your school librarian. Your principal. Your school. Those cool-cat teachers you met at Dynamic Landscapes last year. That one amazing professor doing incredible work you keep hearing so much about.
People want to be followed on twitter, otherwise they set their accounts to private, so following does not = intruding. It’s a good thing!
Once you’ve got your account set up, you can find folks to follow in a couple of different ways. You can simply ask educators you know if they’re on twitter. You can google schools in your area. Or you can start being on the lookout for the blue twitter bird symbol as you’re reading teaching blogs and articles. People on twitter who want to be found on twitter really really advertise the fact.
Like us, for example. We’re @innovativeEd on twitter, and we’re a great account to follow! 😀
Over at the right you’ll see we’ve pulled together an even dozen twitter accounts connected with just one school. Follow those folks as well, then check out who they follow. Follow some of those people as well.
And uh, set a timer so you don’t wind up disappearing down the twitter rabbithole of an evening.
Just… trust me on this.
2. Expand your reach with hashtags
Hashtags are the words you keep seeing on twitter with this in front of them: #
They function as curation marks for topics of conversation. So if you search for a particular hashtag, you’ll pull up all tweets related to the topic marked by the #
This can be a great way to keep up with specific areas of interest that pertain to your teaching practice or geographical area. Including a hashtag in your tweets will let you reach people who are specifically interested in the topic you’re tweeting about.
Tweeting with hashtags is a great way to get people to follow you on twitter, as they let potential new followers know some of the topics you like to tweet about. When people follow you on twitter, it automatically brings all your tweets into their main twitterstream. It means they’re particularly interested in what you’ve got to say.
A cursory look at some of the hashtags being followed by the Richmond Elementary School twitter folks looks like this:
You can also see some other popular hashtags such as #stuvoice, which celebrates student voice in the classroom, and #nerdybookclub, which does what it says on the tin. It’s nerdy, it’s a book club, and it’s on twitter.
But what about those hashtags that end in “chat”?
3. Sit in on twitter chats
Twitter chats are regular (or semi-regular) scheduled online, hour-long chats where you participate by tweeting while including one particular hashtag. Usually, a moderator will try to keep everyone on topic by introducing 5-7 questions and curating the answers.
Twitter chats are a phenomenal way to stay on top of what’s happening with your particular content area, such as #artsedchat (8:30pm EST, second Sunday of each month) or #fslchat, for French language learners (9-10pm EST, every Sunday). Others are for specific topics in education, such as #stuvoice (student voice, 8:30-9:30pm Mondays EST) or #bigbeacon, “transforming engineering education” (Wednesdays, 8-9pm EST).
While most twitter chats take place in the evenings, especially a bit later for those of us here on the East Coast of the U.S., that just means you have time to change into your pajamas and slippers. However, some twitter chats function on a less scheduled basis and tend to be an ongoing, curated stream of related links and thoughts. Check out the #edchat hashtag for an example.
Check out The Cybraryman’s exhaustive list of ongoing twitter chats to find one that works for you.
On Wednesday, in Part 2, we’ll look at ways educators can make the most of twitter by incorporating it into their classrooms. Stay tuned!