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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How to Use Twitter to Grow Your PLN

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

Editor's Note: This article was updated on December 7, 2012.

For many people, Twitter conjures up the worst of the internet: disjointed, meaningless phrases, unrecognizable abbreviations, and endless drivel about where someone's getting their double mocha today.

So, Why Tweet?!?!

For the inquisitive educator, there are some jewels herein that can lead to stimulating discussions, new resources, and an ongoing supportive network. You just have to know where to look.

To that end, here is a list of educationally focused chats that we recommend (listed by day):

Chat for educators teaching 4th grade #4thchat
Mondays
8pm ET/5pm PT/7pm CT

Chat for educators teaching social studies #sschat
Mondays
7pm ET/4pm PT/6pm CT

Chat for music educators #musedchat
Mondays
8pm ET/5pm PT

Chat for ELL educators #ellchat
Mondays
9pm ET/6pm PT

Kindergarten Chat #kinderchat
Mondays
9pm ET/6pm PT

General education chat #edchat
Tuesdays
12 noon ET/ 9am PT
7pm ET/4pm PT

Chat for science educators #scichat
Tuesdays
9pm ET/6pm PT

Chat for new and pre-service teachers #ntchat
Wednesdays
8pm ET/5pm PT

Chat for parents and teachers #ptchat
Wednesdays
9pm ET/6pm PT

Chat for arts educators #artsed
Thursdays
7pm ET/4pm PT

Chat for educators teaching world languages #langchat
Thursdays
8pm ET/5pm PT

Chat for educators teaching in the elementary level #elemchat
Saturdays
5 pm ET(US)/7 am Sunday (Sydney)

Be sure you add the hashtag (#) to each of your tweets to ensure it's included in the chat! And check out this list of popular education hashtags.

Okay, okay, I'll "tweet." How does it work?

Part chat, part short-form blog tool, Twitter operates on the idea that you can "follow" anyone else. Once you're following someone, you'll see their tweets. Likewise, whoever follows you will see your tweets. The more people you follow, the more disjointed and noisy your feed. So choose wisely! Now, to get started...

Set up an account

1) Go to Twitter.com and click Get Started Now. Fill in the fields. Where they ask for your Full Name, we suggest using your real name if you want to use Twitter as a professional networking resource. This way, people can recognize you.

2) Once you've completed the registration process, click Create my account. It will ask you to enter some text to ensure you're not a robot.

Find people to "follow"

3) Now that you've got your account, Twitter will present you with a whole bunch of interesting folks to follow. If you're feeling adventurous, by all means, go through this wizard.

4) Or just keep it simple and start by following some of these recommended folks. Just visit these links and click "follow." You can probably find other names you recognize by clicking on the names on our page, and following them. Don't be afraid to explore!

:: a) Go to Edutopia's main feed

:: b) Follow list of Edutopia staffers

:: c) Follow list of Edutopia bloggers

We recommend that you only follow people who genuinely interest you. You can always un-follow someone, later. (They will never know.)

Listen

5) After you've started following some folks, take some time to listen to what they're saying. Don't be ashamed to ask if you're confused, or an abbreviation doesn't make sense. When you're ready, jump in!

Participate in a chat

6) Note on the listing above that each chat is designated by a word preceded by a #. A hashtag is a unique keyword preceded by a # sign that allows you to focus your discussions on specific topics, like science education or project-based learning.

7) When you participate in a chat using a hashtag, you will be able to see some people whom you are not following. You can certainly choose to follow some of these new folks. This is, in fact, a great way to meet others who share your interests, and thus build up your personal learning network (PLN).

We suggest you use Tweetchat.com to participate in chats. Click the link next to the chats above to preview each chat via Tweetchat.com.

Expanding Your Network

8) Your participation does not have to be limited to chats. As mentioned above, you can begin to grow your network by following people and finding additional hashtags of interest to follow.

Twitter abbreviations

You will see a number of abbreviations used on Twitter. Here are a few of the most common ones:

@username is how you respond to someone else directly.

#topic_name is how you designate a topic for a chat.

RT means Re-tweet, which is someone passing along a Tweet that was generated by someone else.

Twitter is a powerful tool, but it can be a little confusing. Please feel free to ask any questions here. Or, if you're an experienced Twitter user, we'd love for you to weigh in on what's working for you.

--Betty Ray (@EdutopiaBetty)

Comments (33)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Anna's picture

I have actually done some research about Twitter and have come up with some strengths, weaknesses, and other resources that have helped me learn more about this tool. Here is Twitter in Plain English: http://www.commoncraft.com/twitter

* Resources:
o Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/
o Twitter Guide Book: http://mashable.com/guidebook/twitter/
o How One Teacher Uses Twitter in the Classroom: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/how_one_teacher_uses_twitter_in_the...
o How Twitter in the Classroom is Boosting Student Engagement: http://mashable.com/2010/03/01/twitter-classroom/

* Strengths:
o Builds classroom community when all students are involved in updating, checking, and maintaining Twitter account
o With use of Public Timeline, students gain a better understanding of the important issues occurring in the world
o Twitter allows for instant feedback between teachers and students
o Allows for all students to participate in discussions
o Free source for teachers and students
* Weaknesses:
o Twitter only has a 140 character limit per "tweet"
o Privacy issues with other people who are not part of the class
o Some content on Twitter may not be appropriate for school aged students
o Poor archiving of previous posts
o Twitter may be blocked by school districts
* Opportunities:
o Allows students to connect with peers and teachers in a new way
o Students, teachers, parents, and others involved are able to learn about the happenings in the classroom
o Teachers can take advantage of teachable moments from student posts
o Teachers can connect with students and families outside the classroom setting
o Students are able to access a forum they are familiar with and integrate it into the classroom
* Threats:
o Students may become/take part in cyberbullying their peers.
o Others that are not involved in the class may target underage students.
o Private information may be exposed to a wide range of people.
o Some content may be inappropriate for younger students.
* Ideas for the Classroom:
o Can use Twitter as a way to post important information from the classroom (homework, assignments, activities).
o Can be used to post announcements for families to see.
o Students can ask the teacher questions that they may not want to share with the whole class (anonymous factor).
o Teacher can post a question for students to answer as a form of an assessment.
o The teacher can take a poll on certain topics or contents concerning the entire class.

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
Staff

[quote]Anna Wrote:

I have actually done some research about Twitter and have come up with some strengths, weaknesses, and other resources that have helped me learn more about this tool. Here is Twitter in Plain English: http://www.commoncraft.com/twitter
[/quote]

Super helpful list, Anna. Thanks for posting that.

Alphana Hobbs's picture

As an IT professional who hopes to break into education (technology integration to be specific)I've been toying with creating a twitter account. All of the pros I've seen seem to point to twitter being an excellent way to obtain information and make connections with others with similar interests and backgrounds. As an education newbie I could use all the support I can get. I think this article may have convinced me to take the plunge.

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
Staff

Very exciting! Let us know how it goes. :)

Gr8English's picture
Gr8English
8th Grade teacher in rural South Caroina

Thanks for the resources. I'm new to Twitter--mainly because it is blocked on our school computers. Do you know of chats specifically for middle school English teachers?

Gr8English's picture
Gr8English
8th Grade teacher in rural South Caroina

I appreciate the resources. I am just beginning to use Twitter--mainly because it is blocked by my district. Do you know of any chats specifically for middle school English teachers?

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
Staff

[quote]I appreciate the resources. I am just beginning to use Twitter--mainly because it is blocked by my district. Do you know of any chats specifically for middle school English teachers?[/quote]

I don't -- but that doesn't mean you can't start one yourself! I suggest you put it out there in the Twittersphere and see if there's interest. Or you may find that someone else has already created it.

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
Staff

I am not sure how I missed your original note here, but let me just say that I hear ya with Twitter. It's not for everyone.

Regarding face to face events, I encourage you to go to edcampoc (a f2f event happening in Orange County on January 15). You could also connect with Joan Weber, the facilitator of our Arts group. She has some efforts cooking for mobilizing arts teachers.

Hope some of this helps! Let us know if you find anything.

warm regards,
betty

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