twitter for teachers

how to set up and use twitter effectively to transform your teaching practice

why twitter?

Twitter is a fun, easy way to connect with students. You can use it for everything from posting the daily homework and sharing class happenings with families, to curating content for your students, live-tweeting, backchanneling, or your own personal PLN. Here's a good source for any general questions you have about what Twitter is and how its basic functions work. Or, you can watch this quick video on Twitter, by Twitter:

um, what?

If some or all of the above terms are unfamiliar to you, or if the thought of using Twitter is just too overwhelming for you to consider, just keep reading. The goal of this guide is to break everything down into simple, clear steps that will get you started in no time. You'll learn...

- how to start your twitter account
- basic management of twitter
- twitter language
- social norms on twitter
- ways to use twitter in the classroom, from simple to advanced

Just keep in mind the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

instruction does much,
but encouragement everything.

With that in mind...

ok, let's get started.

part one

Twitter actually makes this process pretty easy for you. Just in case you need a walk-through, you can view the video below. Basically, to open a Twitter account, you'll need an email address that you can go to in order to verify your account once you open it. Twitter will also ask you for your name, a username, and a password.

part two

what in the world is going on here?!

The hardest part of being a new Twitter user (which you must get past before moving on to using Twitter in your classroom) is the language. Twitter is actually studied by psychologists, sociologists, and linguists who thrive on its real-time language data. And despite the fact that Noam Chomsky, the famous MIT linguist, has called Twitter "superficial" and "shallow," the truth is, Twitter is exactly what its users want it to be: short, specific, dialectical, and dynamic if the reader chooses to click for more. In a way, your 140 characters are like a headline in a newspaper--if your reader is interested, she reads the sub-heading, then if she's still interested, the first sentence, and so on.

comprehending twitter

Here's a quick breakdown of the parts of a typical Tweet. The example I'm using is a tweet from Edutopia, one of the many amazing Twitter feeds you should (eventually) follow, but we'll get to that later.

Probably the most confusing part of Twitter for me when I was learning it was the concept of a hashtag. People joke about hashtags all the time now, and they're used for more than just categorizing or searching by keyword--they've become the snarky subtext of the web.

The hashtags in the Edutopia tweet above are simply keywords, though. If you were to click on #elearning or #k12, you'd get a feed that displays everyone who's recently used that hashtag in their Tweet.

At first glance, though, hashtags are confusing because they jumble words together and are often all lowercase. Combined with the weird shortened URLs Twitter uses for the sake of saving characters, these elements of a Tweet can be really confusing.

On top of the hashtags and such, Twitter's 140-character limit also spursa lot of shorthand. Here's a good list of some common shorthand, but don't be afraid to Google what you see (shorthand is usually an acronym, and most of the time is written in all caps) for a translation.

Other important Twitter concepts are listed in this article, such as a definition of @mentions, trending topics, retweeting, subtweeting, followers, and more. And when all else fails, don't be afraid to Google!

part three

Twitter is its own little community, despite the fact that it has over 550 million active users who as a group post 9,100 tweets per second and 58 million tweets per day. And with any human community comes a set of social norms, or behaviors that are accepted within a group. Usually, when people defy social norms, controversy occurs. So how do you participate without stepping on any toes?


a bit of business marketing before I go...

Believe it or not, a business approach to Twitter might actually be beneficial to you. Consider your students your customers and you and your class your "brand." Check out this guide to becoming "a Twitter ninja" for people who tweet for a living. I promise a business model for Twitter will be relevant to your classroom, and this is why:

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