An Assistant Principal in an Australian Primary School
Twitter is by far the most powerful professional learning network (PLN) I participate in. Using it is like being at a teaching conference every day. I am constantly exposed to new ideas that inspire and challenge me to try new approaches and rethink old ones. Through Twitter I’ve met a great group of educators from around the world, all of whom are passionate about teaching. We have great discussions and share resources.
However, I know that for many, Twitter is a bewildering experience. It’s easy enough to join, but what then? How do you move from sending random thoughts into the ether, or following a small network of friends, to making connections with inspiring educators from around the world?
I thought I might share what I’ve learned so far on my Twitter journey in the hope that it might help others get started.
If you are planning on using Twitter to build a PLN it helps to have a public profile. That way its easier for people to find and follow you. Using a real name will add credibility to your account, but many people use nicknames, and that’s fine too. If you worry about mixing your personal and professional lives, you can always create an account just for your professional network and a separate one for private use.
You will also need to set up a bio. If you want to make connections with other educators, they need to know what you are about. If a random stranger starts following me without a bio, I am unlikely to follow them back, but if their bio describes them as working or interested in education, I usually add them to my list right away.
Its a good precaution to add a disclaimer such as ‘opinions are my own’ in your bio, making it clear that anything you say on Twitter is your own opinion and does not represent the views of your employer.
Here is a screenshot of mine:
I find these educators and organisations particularly helpful: @tes @daveandcori @gcouros @principalj @patrickmlarkin @edutopia
To find more people, have a look at who the people you are following follow.
Another way to find people to follow is to use the search function. For example, today I did a search for “Flip Classroom”. Have a look at the results:
Not only did I find some great links about flipping the classroom, I also found some great educators who might be worth following!
It’s possible to get a lot out of Twitter just by lurking and seeing what others have shared, but since I’ve started joining in the conversation I’ve found my experience more rewarding.
One way to begin contributing is to simply retweet links that other people have shared which you find useful. People appreciate this because it sends their message out to a wider audience. As you begin to share links that are useful, other people will begin to find you helpful as well, and your network will grow.
If you find a useful or thought provoking link, share that as well. For me, sharing is at the heart of what my PLN is all about.
Another way to contribute is to comment on what people have shared with you. If you found a link helpful, reply to that person and tell them you appreciated it. If you have a question or a thought about it, share that. You can start some great conversations that way.
Hashtags are a very useful way of sending out and searching for information on twitter. If you are sharing a resource about educational technology for example, add the hashtag #edtech. This way other people who are interested in educational technology will find it, even if they aren’t following you.
A great list of educational hashtags can be found here.
Hashtags are also useful for retweets. For example, you could change #edtech to #edchat. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it will allow the tweet to reach a different group of teachers than the original tweet. Secondly, you will avoid creating spam in the original feed.
It took me a while to figure out lists, but as my network grew, it became essential. I reached a point when my twitter feed became overwhelming and I couldn’t keep up with the amount of information. To solve this I created lists that group the people I follow into areas of expertise or interest. I have a list for my friends, a list for teachers, a list for educational policy and several more. If I want to catch up with my friends, I click their list and it will block out all the other traffic.
For more ideas for getting started, have a look at this article by Danny Nicholson (@dannynic): Ten Twitter Tips for Teachers
I also like this one by @syded06, which very much describes my own journey: Teachers – The Ten Stages of Twitter
Do you have any Twitter tips? Leave them in the comments section.