Twitter is a micro-blogging platform which allows users to post no more than 144 characters. This means that content is in bite-sized pieces. Additionally, Twitter tends to be more open than something like Facebook. On the one hand you want to be careful about getting too personal, but on the other hand this allows for fantastic networking opportunities with educators around the world.
The ability to tag “tweets” with hashtags (ex. #education) also makes Twitter great for discovering new content in an area you are interested. For example, searching the hashtag #ipaded will bring up tweets that others have tagged pertaining to using iPads in education.
Using Twitter as a Professional
I have only started using Twitter professionally within the last 2 years and only really started actively tweeting in the last 6 months. I created a new account to establish my online presence as an educator. I retain a personal account as well. I know some educators who prefer to use a single account for all purposes. My only concern with this is drawing the line between private and professional life and the nature of some of the more personal tweets. However, this might also help build trust with others online as they get the occasional peek into your private life.
Creating Your “Brand”
When the internet was in its infancy it was all about anonymity. “Never use your real name on the Internet” was a rule I often heard. Now, with the popularity of Facebook which requires that users sign up with their real names to work, the Internet is becoming more transparent. Because of this your name itself becomes a brand. What do you want people to associate your name with?
I’m quite upfront with what I most often tweet about in my profile. This allows prospective followers to see the kinds of content I will be posting.
Choosing your “twitter handle” also takes some consideration. If I was creating an account for personal/private use I might have a more anonymous handle. I chose my full name as my professional twitter handle. While it is a bit long to type (shorter variations were already claimed) it once again helps to establish who I am and build my credibility.
(I don’t have time to tweet but I’m interested in what others are saying)
A lot of teachers are hesitant to start using Twitter because they feel like it is just “one more thing” in an already busy career. I started using my professional Twitter as simply a news feed for new ideas in education. You can follow some interesting people and browse it at your leisure. Because tweets are limited to 144 characters, a lot of the tweets end up being headlines to articles, thoughts/observations or short commentaries so it makes them easy to skim/favourite articles for later when you have a moment.
(Join the conversation!)
Tweeting regularly takes some effort. Most of what I tweet are things that I find interesting that are related to my curriculum (ICT and Media Arts). I use the Fever RSS reader for my daily news fix which is catered to my own tastes. If I find something worth sharing, I can tweet directly from my reader. It is also important though to generate original content, even if it is a question or thought, and engage with other Twitter users. There are many reader options such as Zite and Flipboard.
There are scheduled Twitter “chats” which are organized by hashtag. For example, a chat which I recently discovered (but have not yet been able to participate in) is #LevelUpEd which takes place on Thursday evenings at 6 PST. This chat centres around teachers using aspects of video games in their classroom (also called “gamification”). In order to participate in a chat, you just need to make sure you’re logged on at the time that it is happening and follow the corresponding hashtag. Its a neat way to interact with other teachers around the world and hear what they are doing!
However, if you find that you aren’t able to tweet very often don’t feel bad. According to the University of Illinois, 15% of Twitter accounts post 85% of the tweets.
Hashtags to follow (and tag within your own tweets)
Some popular hashtags for teachers are:
- #sd36learn – the tag for Surrey School District
- #tamalearns – the hashtag for Tamanawis teachers
- #edtech – anything related to technology in education
- #edchat – ask or share education-related things with teachers
This Google Doc is a great place to start if you want more subject-specific hashtags.
Twitter can be a powerful way to extend your learning community outside the 4 walls of your classroom and beyond your school. At the very least, being a passive “listener” of tweets can help you stay current and be aware of what is happening in education around the world.
You can check out my Twitter feed here: @nathanaelpowell