Once upon a time on a dark and stormy morning, I created a Twitter handle. I started reading, and when I looked up it was 5 p.m.! I was hooked and little did I know, but I would be forever changed.
Twitter provides a place for educators to interact with each other across the world. With Twitter, my PLN (Personal Learning Network) grew from people who live close to me (and with whom I interact face-to-face) to anyone, anywhere in the world. Edutweeps (Tweeters who tweet about education) are caring and helpful. I’ve learned new strategies and routines from people I would have never met before like, @mathkaveli, @pearse_margie, and @MHS_Ferguson. Before Twitter, I would have only been able to learn from @TracyZager, @bloomberg_paul, and @smventura by reading their books or attending a conference session, but now I have access to their ideas—and them—much more frequently and directly. I have learned about Numberless Word Problems from @bstockus. I’ve discovered from @MrNiksMathClass factoring puzzles that can be used much earlier than when students begin working with trinomials, and Same But Different from @LooneyMath via @robertkaplinsky. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m kinda a math nerd! But math isn’t the only thing teachers can learn on Twitter. Twitter is full of resources, no matter your content, role, or passion. Twitter can be the place you come to learn what you want, when you want. It is the professional development you have always dreamed about: timely, relevant, and self-directed.
When you first start with Twitter, you may look at it and feel overwhelmed by its mysteries. Don’t worry—I’ll walk you through it!
- Create an Account: When you first start with Twitter, you will need to create an account by providing your name, your phone number or email (to unlock your account if you lock yourself out), and your birthdate (for age verification; this is not shared). You will then set some preferences.
- Upload a Picture: This step is essential! Without a picture, you will just be a generic profile of a person. Many people will not follow or interact with you if you do not have a photo, because many spammers do not upload pictures.
- Tailor your Recommendations: You will be asked about your interests. Providing interests helps Twitter suggest people for you to follow so your timeline (the tweets you see when you log into your account) will be fuller and more relevant to content that’s actually of interest to you. The only tweets you will see are the ones from the accounts you follow or ones that have been retweeted by those accounts. Education is not one of the options prepopulated on the interest list, so you will want to add it.
- Follow Accounts: Up next is “suggested people to follow.” Select those you wish to follow.
- Notifications: You will be asked if you want to turn on notifications. I do not have my notifications turned on because it gets to be too much. I would spend all my time on Twitter, if I got a notification every time someone I followed tweeted!
- Hashtags: The next mystery is hashtagging (#). You will see tweets with hashtags like #coreadvocates, #mathconceptions, #literacy, or #edtech. Hashtags do two things. First, they allow for your tweets to show up in a feed based on that hashtag. If you have an idea for math instruction, using #iteachmath will have your tweeted idea appear alongside those of others tweeting about teaching math. The second benefit of hashtags are that they enable you to find all the tweets that have to with that hashtag. For example, if I wanted to follow along with the tweets from a conference, I would type in the conference hashtag in the search bar, and I would be able to find all the tweets from everyone, not just the people I follow.
Hashtags also play an essential role in Twitter chats. Twitter chats are one of my favorite things about Twitter. A Twitter chat is a real-time conversation between people from anywhere who want to discuss a topic. Questions are posed, and everyone participating in the chat answers the questions. All are welcome to join, and you don’t need to register or sign up in any way to engage. Education Twitter chats occur weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly you can find out about when different Twitter chats happen here. And here, you can find out about each chat. Most Twitter Chats use the Q1, A1 format. This means that each question asked has a number Q1, Q2, etc. and when you answer you include A1, A2 at the beginning of your answer, so everyone knows which question you are answering. Don’t forget the hashtag! The hashtag is how everyone involved in the chat will see and interact with you, even if you don’t follow each other. It’s a great way to meet fellow educators and make new friends!
The quote from Helen Keller pictured in the graphic above makes me think of Twitter. Alone, or even with the teacher down the hall, there is only so much we can do. However, when I leverage Twitter, there is so much that can be accomplished and so many ideas I can use. Whether you are new to Twitter or you’ve dabbled in it, I encourage you to jump in! My Twitter handle is @EduOptimus1, and I’m here to help you get started.