Twitter for Teachers: A Professional Development Tool
Bernadette Rego, B.Com, B.Ed.
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Introduction With a growing number of educators joining Twitter, there is increasing potential for using this tool to develop a space for quality professional development. I have personally found Twitter to be a great source of online professional development over the past two years. I have been privileged to learn with a group of educators from all over the globe who have freely exchanged their ideas and resources on a daily basis. While my network has continued to grow, I have professionally grown along with it. In this guide, I will share with you ways that Twitter can be used as a tool for free, quality professional development. If you haven't already, I would encourage you to sign up for a Twitter account at http://www.twitter.com so that you can implement some of the suggestions in this guide as you come across them. Best of luck with using Twitter in your professional development. Bernadette Rego (http://twitter.com/rego_b)
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Table of Contents What is Twitter?
Using Twitter for Professional Development
Sharing Links to Educational Websites
Sharing Links to News Articles Relating to Education
Asking for Support on an Education-Related Topic
Participating in or Hosting a Discussion Relating to Education
Inviting Followers to Attend a Conference or Workshop
Inviting Followers to Read a Recent Blog Post
Sharing or â€œRe-tweetingâ€? Other Educators Tweets
Sharing Links to Recorded Presentations
Sharing Links to Educational Videos
Sharing Online Resources Via Social Bookmarking Sites
Finding other Educators on Twitter
Author's Final Note
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What is Twitter? Twitter is a micro-blogging tool where you can share updates (limited in characters) and send them to your network of followers. You can also stay informed of other individuals' updates by “following” or subscribing to users whose updates you wish to see on Twitter. When you log in to Twitter, your screen will appear similar to this:
The right hand side bar displays information about you such as: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6)
user name profile picture number of followers and those you follow lists to which you are subscribed “favorites” or list of favorite tweets search box where you can search for content in Twitter
To the left of the side bar is where you can post your updates or “tweets” (under “What's Happening?”). Below the Update box you can read the last tweet you sent and when it was last sent. Note that the number “140” is displayed just above the Update box; this means that you can tweet no more than 140 characters in your update. Under “Home”, you will find the updates from those you follow on Twitter and when they were last sent.
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Using Twitter for Professional Development Now that you are acquainted with what Twitter is, you are likely eager to discover how it can help you grow professionally. The following are ten ways educators are using Twitter for professional development: 1) sharing links to educational websites 2) sharing links to news articles relating to education 3) asking for support on an education-related topic 4) participating in or hosting a discussion relating to education 5) inviting followers to attend a conference or workshop (online or face-to-face) 6) inviting followers to read a recent blog post 7) sharing or “re-tweeting” other educators' tweets 8) sharing links to recorded presentations 9) sharing links to educational videos 10)sharing online resources via social bookmarking sites Sharing Links to Educational Websites When you discover sites that could be useful in the classroom, you might already be bookmarking them on your desktop or using social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, for example. With Twitter, you can tweet the links to these sites so that other educators are made aware of good resources online. When you receive valuable website links from your network, you can then bookmark them for future reference. Watch for sites whose content can be integrated into the curriculum and which are deemed safe for students to explore on their own. Also share sites that can be useful for teachers in preparing engaging lessons for students. Sharing Links to News Articles Relating to Education When coming across newsworthy articles in education, it is encouraged you share them with other educators. Articles that discuss latest trends in teaching or that address issues occurring among students (e.g. Cyberbullying) raise awareness among educators and can lead to improving one's teaching practice. Share articles which are freely accessible to the public and from reputable sites such as Edutopia and eSchool News, for example. Many news sites have the option to share their articles via Twitter. Watch for the “share” link to make it easier to share articles with your network.
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Asking for Support on An Education-Related Topic When teaching in the classroom, at times one feels isolated from colleagues and would appreciate timely support or feedback which is not readily attainable. Twitter is a place where you can post your questions to your network and depending upon who you follow, will give you helpful advice or direct you to an online resource for further assistance. Questions ranging from seeking a good online tool for a particular subject to seeking supportive feedback on a lesson can be posed and responded to within minutes using Twitter. However, it is important that you make the effort to reciprocate assistance in order to receive it. If you do not readily share useful links or do not generally provide support, you may not find the support from your network when seeking it. Bear in mind that depending where educators are geographically located, they may not readily reply to your questions due to time zone differences. You can check for replies by selecting “@(your user name)” in the right side bar as shown below (in my case, it is “@rego_b):
All replies to you will appear where you would normally see the tweets of those you follow. Always remember to thank those who have replied or who have re-tweeted your question to their networks. Participating in or Hosting a Discussion Relating to Education In addition to being able to share individual tweets with your network, Twitter also allows you to have discussions with other educators. The use of “hashtags” or tags which begin with the symbol “#” is an effective way to create discussion on Twitter. Hashtags enable users to keep track of what others are saying around a topic. By clicking on the hashtag, all tweets pertaining to it will appear. One of the more popular discussions held among educators is called “Ed Chat” (hashtag #edchat). On the following page is a sample of some discussion that recently took place on Twitter within this forum:
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For more information about #Edchat, please refer to Shell Terrell's post â€œWhat is #Edchat?â€? on the Teacher Reboot Camp blog at http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/2009/07/30/what-isedchat/. If you wish to start a discussion on a topic, please ensure you ask your network to add a hashtag of your choice to their tweets. Prior to tweeting a hashtag, first check that it is not already in use so as to prevent confusion when trying to read tweets around a specific discussion. You can do this by typing it into the search box (in the right side bar). Try to keep it short (no more than a few characters) to maximize space for educators to write their comments. On a somewhat separate note, following discussions on Twitter can help you in finding other educators to follow. Keep an eye open for any chats taking place in your network and watch for tweets from those you aren't yet following. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover other like-minded educators in the Twitter'verse already sharing resourceful links and ideas. I Inviting Followers to Attend a Conference or Workshop You might also be pleasantly surprised to discover that educators in your network live in your 7 Bernadette Rego (2010)
area and are attending an interesting workshop held locally. They might be attending a conference in another city, province, state, or country and would like to meet up during breaks or after the sessions. Twitter is a place where you can share links to upcoming professional development opportunities and let them know you will be attending. It is a wonderful experience to finally meet the faces behind the user names you see in your updates. If you are unable to attend a face-to-face event, it is possible that someone from your network will be attending and tweeting about it in real-time. Watch for tweets from educators who plan to attend an event, particularly for a hashtag that you can follow relating to discussion taking place while they are there. If you happen to be the person attending an event, tweet about it to your network if you are able to. Alternatively, you might be interested in attending an online conference or workshop and want to “meet up” with other network members there. Sites such as WizIQ and Elluminate allow individuals to come together and host online events. Watch for upcoming online events as this might be an easier (and relatively inexpensive) way of participating in quality professional development. If you are unable to attend an online event, you likely can view a recording of it at your own leisure. Remember to tweet a link to recorded events that you found engaging and worthy of listening to. Inviting Followers to Read a Recent Blog Post Many educators on Twitter also blog their thoughts on sites such as Blogger and Edublogs. If you blog about education topics, Twitter is a great place to inform your network about a recent post. I have found that most comments made on my blog have come from educators following me on Twitter. Whenever I post to my blogs, I tweet the post title, its link, and hashtag(s) depending on its relevance to any discussions taking place on Twitter. For example, if I tweet about a post from my blog for Modern Languages Teachers, it appears something like this:
Notice I added the hashtag #mfl (Modern Foreign Languages) and #français (for discussions pertaining to French language/culture). To ensure that your blog post is also shared more quickly by other members of your network, you may want to consider adding a “Tweet this” button to your posts. Tweetmeme's site contains code for embedding a Tweet button on one's blog or website. You can go to their website for further details at: http://tweetmeme.com/about/retweet_button With a tweet button, readers of your blog or website can click on it and will be immediately connected with Twitter to tweet about your site's content. Once the reader is taken to his/her twitter account, the link being tweeted will appear with a message in your status update box similar to the following:
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Also remember to add your blog address to your profile information so that other followers (and potential followers) can read what you are sharing. Sharing or “Re-tweeting” other Educators' Tweets As mentioned in the previous section, you can tweet about other educators' site content or blog posts which can aid other members of your network in their professional growth. In addition, you can “re-tweet” or tweet updates from those you follow to your network if you think it will be of interest to other educators. This is a great way of spreading valuable information and helping others expand their networks. For example, twitterer Julia Hengstler (http://www.twitter.com/jhengstler) shared a link about Pagetweet which I thought would be useful for other members of my network:
I click the “re-tweet” option (bottom right corner of the tweet) and am prompted to confirm whether I wish to re-tweet this to my followers.
After selecting “yes”, the re-tweet does not appear on my screen with the other updates.
Instead, I see it under the status update box (as shown just above).
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To check what items you have re-tweeted, you can select “Retweets” in the right side bar (see below):
I then select the “Retweets By You” tab and @jhengstler's tweet appears:
I would also recommend that you check for your tweets that others re-tweeted by selecting the “Your Tweets, Retweeted” tab (see below):
You can verify who re-tweeted your update(s) by selecting their profile pictures (shown below where Twitter tells you how many people re-tweeted your update). This helps you ensure you thank those followers who have shared some of your updates with their networks. Sharing Links to Recorded Presentations Often educators take part in online sessions on Elluminate or WizIQ for ongoing professional development. Due to time zone differences or other commitments in one's life, it is not always possible to take part in online sessions. Thankfully, you can access several presentations after they have ended by viewing their recordings (if available). Twitter is an ideal place for tweeting links to valuable online Professional development sessions and your followers will likely appreciate receiving such links.
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Sharing Links to Educational Videos Thanks to video broadcasting service providers such as YouTube, one can view videos online at no cost. There are several education-related videos worth watching which have come to my attention via my network on Twitter. Videos can be viewed from the comfort of one's home, shared in a staff meeting at school, or used in the classroom with students. Before sharing a link to a video, always view it in its entirety to ensure the content is appropriate. I would recommend adding hashtags to video links so that they can be easily accessed by those interested in a certain topic. For example, I would like to share the video “Savez-vous planter les choux?” with other Modern Languages Teachers who are teaching French (see below):
I can share the video with my network directly from YouTube by selecting the “Share” button:
I then select “Twitter” and will be connected to Twitter's site shortly. The tweet will automatically appear in Twitter ready to be sent as follows:
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Notice that I added the hashtags “#mfl” (Modern Foreign Languages) and “français”. Sharing Online Resources Via Social Bookmarking Sites Under the section titled “Sharing Links to Educational Websites”, I mentioned that you might likely be already bookmarking valuable online resources (such as websites) using social bookmarking tools like Delicious or Diigo. You can share these resources directly from most social bookmarking sites provided they have a “share” option as I showed you in the previous section on “Sharing Links to Educational Videos”. For example, after reviewing Kay McMeekin's fantastic blog “French Songs for Teaching”, I decide to bookmark the site using Diigo. After tagging this resource, I can select the “Twitter this” box (see below the URL and Title of the bookmark in the figure below):
I then select “Save” and it will take me to another box where I can modify and send my tweet about this bookmark (again please note I have added hashtags):
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The added advantage of tweeting your bookmarks is that you can also build your network within your social bookmarking community, particularly due to those followers who already have accounts with the same social bookmarking site as you.
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Twitter Lists Currently, Twitter allows individuals to create and follow lists in order to better organize updates received of those one follows. Lists to which you are subscribed are located in the right side bar of your Twitter page (please see below for some examples):
By subscribing to a list, you can follow the tweets pertaining to a specific area of interest. This experience will feel like you are part of a discussion pertaining to a topic in education (e.g. E-learning) and can be a more efficient way of engaging in professional development within your network. The Mashable site contains a Twitter List Directory for educators at this link: http://mashable.com/twitterlists/business-professions/education/ When you reach the directory, you will see the lists for educators (as shown below):
Once there, you can select to follow the lists of your choice by clicking the â€œFollow Listâ€? button next to each list profile (see below):
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Please bear in mind, though, that educators you follow might have varied interests; consequently, an educator within a particular list may be tweeting about things that are not relevant to that particular list. However, subscribing to lists at the present time is the most effective way of receiving updates in an organized fashion.
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Twitter Etiquette When using Twitter for professional development, there are some guidelines I would like to emphasize on good etiquette. It is important to keep the following recommendations in mind to ensure you maintain a good working relationship with other members. 1) Always remember to thank those who re-tweet your updates. The act of sharing updates suggests that others value what you have to say; furthermore, re-tweeting can help you grow your network as others may choose to follow you when reading your updates. The following is an example of a message thanking someone for a re-tweet:
By tweeting a thank-you message to those who have re-tweeted your update(s), you are also sending a message to them and others in your network that you appreciate they value your contributions. To find out who has re-tweeted your updates, please read the section “Sharing or Re-Tweeting Other Educators' Tweets” for further details. 2) Always thank those who respond to your questions. By thanking them, you are acknowledging their efforts in assisting you. If several people have responded, you may want to send one reply thanking all the users for their assistance. Alternatively, if only a few or less individuals responded, you may choose to either publicly or directly message them by using Twitter's “Direct Message” option (see below):
When you select “Direct Messages”, you will be taken to a screen where you can choose a user from the dropdown menu (just above the Message box) and type your message (see below):
The message will be privately sent to the user.
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3) When using Twitter for professional growth, always maintain a professional image. The occasional personal message relating to something you would be comfortable sharing with a room full of colleagues is acceptable. For example, if you and your significant other have just welcomed a child into your family, it is perfectly fine to share this joyous event with your network. It would be best to avoid tweeting about personal issues such as marital problems or challenges with a particular colleague. 4) Never verbally attack anyone on Twitter. Even if someone has tweeted an update with which you strongly disagree, it is best you address it privately with that individual in a professional tone. If the individual in question also follows your updates, I would recommend you send a Direct Message to her/him so as to keep it private. However, you are limited in how many characters you can tweet in a direct message. In that case, you may choose to contact him/her via e-mail (if one is provided publicly in the user's profile information). If someone has personally attacked you by sending you a public tweet or direct message, respond in a professional tone. If the attacking persists, block the user so that he/she will no longer be privy to your updates. You can block the user by selecting their profile picture, then under “Actions” (in the right side bar) selecting “block”. 5) If you re-tweet someone's update, always ensure that individual's user name is included. If you are sharing a link that you came across in another social network (e.g. Delicious), give credit to that individual if you know they are on Twitter. 6) Keep your tweets as short as possible. This ensures that other individuals wanting to re-tweet your update will have enough space to add the “RT” (re-tweet) abbreviation and/or a brief comment. 7) Ensure your links are working before tweeting them. If you do not have the option to automatically share a link in Twitter (as shown in the section “Sharing Links to Educational Videos”), then you can copy the url directly from the address bar and paste it into the status update box on Twitter as shown in the steps below:
(copy the url link in the address bar)
(paste the link into the status update box)
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8) When members of your network tweet questions to which you can be of assistance, take the time to respond to them. This demonstrates that you are willing to help others and, in turn, they will likely be more receptive to assisting you with your questions in the future. 9) When a teacher follows you on Twitter, it is recommended you follow that individual as well. You may want to check their profile first and become better acquainted with the nature of their tweets prior to following them. If you find their tweets are mostly personal in nature (for example):
you may politely choose to not follow that individual. If they have little or no tweets showing, it may be due to having recently joined Twitter. You can find out when a user joined twitter by visiting the link: http://www.whendidyoujointwitter.com/ Once you are there, you can enter the user name and it will tell you when he/she joined. 10)If you wish to engage with another member of your network in a conversation that may not be of benefit to the rest of your followers, it is best to direct message that individual instead. For example, if someone you follow has tweeted a link to a picture of her recent trip, you can direct message her with a comment instead of sending a public tweet. 11) Do not re-tweet a user's update if their tweets are protected, unless you obtain his/her written consent. A user name with a padlock symbol next to it (please see below):
indicates the user's tweets are only viewable to those he/she permits to see them. You can direct message the user requesting permission to re-tweet their updates.
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Finding Other Educators on Twitter Now that you are better acquainted with how to use Twitter for your professional growth, you are probably eager to begin establishing your network if you haven't already. The following are some ways you can find educators on Twitter that you would like to follow: 1) visit Twitter4Teachers at http://twitter4teachers.pbworks.com/. This wiki is a space to search for educators by interest or content area. You can also add yourself to the wiki to ensure others can find you more readily. 2) Search by hashtags relating to discussions around teaching. For example, if you are a Modern Languages Teacher, you can type the hashtag #MFL and all tweets pertaining to Modern Languages will appear. From there, you can view user profiles to develop a better understanding of their professional background and the quality of their tweets. 3) Search for educators that other members you follow are currently following. I would particularly recommend this method in cases where you follow teachers that always share valuable updates. You can find out who they follow by selecting the user profile pictures in the right side bar under “Following”:
If there is a “view all” link (see picture above), you can select it and it will take you to a list of all the individuals they are following on Twitter. You can then select the “Follow” icon (see below) which you will find to the right of the user profile picture:
4) If you currently read other educators' blogs or education sites, check for any Twitter badges on their sites. If they have a “Follow me on Twitter” link, you can click on it and you will be able to add that educator or organization to your network from Twitter. 5) If you are a member of other education-based social networks that allow you to enter your Twitter ID, you can search for educators using Twitter by this method. Ning (http://www.ning.com) and LinkedIn (http://linkedin.com) both allow users to share their Twitter IDs, for example. 19 Bernadette Rego (2010)
6) As I mentioned in the section “Twitter Lists”, you can subscribe to lists which relate to education topics. You can also view the members within the list and follow them individually, rather than subscribing to the list. Simply go to the Twitter List Directory under the “Education” tag at http://mashable.com/twitterlists/businessprofessions/education/. Select any list name and it will take you to the list of those who are subscribed to it. You can then select the user name next to the profile picture, taking you to her/his profile information. You can then select the “Follow” button and the user's tweets will be added to your feed.
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Author's Final Note Twitter is a tool that can help you enhance the quality of your professional development. By establishing a network of teachers to follow on Twitter, you can continue to grow professionally daily and receive updates anytime and anywhere. The quality and frequency of your tweets will also determine who will follow you. Therefore, keep in mind that as much as you are scrutinizing the quality of other educators' updates, they are also scrutinizing yours. There are several ways you can use Twitter for professional development, as were outlined in the section “Using Twitter for Professional Development”. I would recommend you try to utilize as many of these suggestions as possible to demonstrate your resourcefulness within your network. Always think before you tweet, though. Always tweet links or comments that reflect positively on your profession. The section on “Twitter Etiquette” should adequately provide you with some useful guidelines around building and maintaining good relationships within your network. Many educators use Twitter for professional development. Please use the methods outlined in the section “Finding Other Educators on Twitter” so as to effectively establish your professional network. Please be aware that Twitter's policies and settings may change over time. The contents within this guide reflect Twitter's policies and features at the time of its publication. This guide was independently written by me and not endorsed by Twitter. This guide is under a Creative Commons License with some rights reserved. Please note that this guide must be attributed to Bernadette Rego, that no derivative of this copy is permitted, and that it is to be used strictly for noncommercial purposes.
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