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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

Beverly Colvin's picture

Thank You Betty.
I had no idea that Twitter had blogs for educators. I did go to the blog for general education and found it was very beneficial for me. Thanks for the information.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Hi all-

Just wanted to let you know that if you'd like to follow Edutopia staff that tweet, you can do so with this Twitter list.

Also, I came across this powerful blog on "Twitter as a PLN" that makes a strong case for Twitter as an effective tool for professional development.

Here's one of the statements that just blew me away from the blog:

"I have found more resources and got more useful advice for professional development in 3 months on Twitter than in the previous 5 years without it."

That's HUGE! On a personal note, I use Twitter everyday to network with educational professionals. I have found that the chats are a great way to forge solid relationships with like-minded individuals and the teaching community on Twitter is like none-other. Everyone I've met has gone out of their way to help me if I have a question, been courteous, and most importantly engaged me in a dialogue that broadens my perspective about educational issues.

I hope you'll join in on the conversation,
Elana
@elanaleoni

Keli's picture

I use twitter daily for my learning. I often find resources on blogs, etc to share with the teachers I coach and my fellow staff developers. I appreciated this article!

Keli
@kelik0
Instructional Coach

malcolm bellamy's picture
malcolm bellamy
Teaching and Learning Consultant in Southend, Essex, U.K.

Hi Betty, well done on your post. I can only speak from my personal experience and say that Twitter has transformed my educational connections and networking with amazing colleagues. I explain how I came upon Twitter in my blog entry "How I got here" http://malbell.wordpress.com/about/
I am a regular contributor and learner in the early #edchat on Tuesdays (12 noon E.S.T.) and always make a special effort to be at my computer to debate and find out information from colleagues all over the world.. it is a great piece of PD.
I hope your post gets others to start out on the "Twitter Road" I can assure them that they won't regret it and the rewards can be brilliant.
@malcolmbellamy

Patricia Donaghy's picture
Patricia Donaghy
ICT teacher from Dublin, Ireland

Hi Betty. Wow, didn't know there were other chats going on apart from #lrnchat!! lrnchat. Have now added them all to the Edubloggers Educational Events Google Calendar

Two useful directories for finding other 'edutwitters' can be found at Twitter4Teachers and the International Edutwitters Directory.
Patricia
@pdonaghy

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

Betty Ray,
I just received an email from you and have spent over 30 minutes trying to figure out just where to look on Edutopia to respond to you. Next, I want to tell you, as I have said to some one else. Getting onto Twitter is pure hell!!!! Plus, the edchat is at 4pm, which is when most of my staff is in school on Thursdays for many meetings!

Wow. The internet can be frustrating!! Every little victory on the internet is amazing. Great to know 12 year olds, only they are never around when I am on Edutopia!!!

Anyway, I am reading Sir Ken's book. I love him. Thank you for the great introduction.

Has anyone thought of an Edutopia Conference of Art Teachers to share ideas face to face. The internet is great but seriously, nothing replaces people interacting and growing off of one another's verbal ideas through body language and the excitement of learning by the art of listening and sharing idea's from each other. Making physical contact will never replace the internet. I get up everyday to go into my classroom filled with people.

We really need some stimulus here in Southern California where the Arts are number one to many PEOPLE, but are not important in the schools? I would love to see a big push of sleeping politicians and stimulating teachers awaken the public to the need for imagination and creativity in the ARTS in the Schools.

I would be thrilled to begin the process.
Anyone interested?

Eric Brunsell's picture
Eric Brunsell
Asst Professor of Science Education @ UW-Oshkosh
Blogger 2014
Facilitator 2014

Dr. Lewis,
#scichat just started this past Tuesday. It looks like it will happen every other Tuesday, but if the demand is there, it can happen every week. I'll be posting a brief overview and poll for the next topic soon. Info will be available via Edutopia -- I'll tweet it out too (@brunsell).

[quote]Thanks, Betty Ray. I just followed the link to the science educator chat page (#scichat) - I had no idea this chat platform was available via Twitter. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate it.[/quote]

Carey Rebecca's picture
Carey Rebecca
Senior English and AP English

I have found more resources, advice, and enlightenment as a professional in the past 3 years on Twitter than I have in 8 years of both mandatory and voluntary PD in my district. It took some time to get into it, and understand the process and why it works, but now that I got it, I would be happy to share with anyone interested. I can help you with the process of getting started, and help you find the kid of people you want to 'follow'. It's not limited to just other educators either! I follow my favorite author on Twitter, and have become long distance friends in real life! I also follow NPR, CNN, the NY Times, the White House, etc. All of this is stuff you can use in your classroom, as an educator, a professional, and with your students.

I'm @TheGilch if you want to follow me, and let me know if you want help getting started. Just type "@TheGilch" in the message box, followed by your message.

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

[quote]
Has anyone thought of an Edutopia Conference of Art Teachers to share ideas face to face. The internet is great but seriously, nothing replaces people interacting and growing off of one another's verbal ideas through body language and the excitement of learning by the art of listening and sharing idea's from each other. Making physical contact will never replace the internet. I get up everyday to go into my classroom filled with people.

[/quote]

Totally agree that there are very real limitations of the virtual world. Don't know if you heard about EdCamp Philly, but that was a face-to-face "unconference" in May that is now being replicated in other cities. We've been toying with the idea of producing one out here in CA. Granted that's not an arts-only event, but we could certainly have breakout sessions for specific subjects, grade levels, etc.

That said, there are some amazing things happening online insofar as passionate teachers are finding one another and meeting and sharing ideas. That's not just happening on Twitter, but here and Facebook and many other education communities. Teachers now have access to so much more -- support, suggestions, lesson plans, research, new ideas, technologies, etc -- than they did even two years ago. Agreed there is no substitute for face-to-face, and we want to make that happen too. But all told, I think this shift is very exciting!

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