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Building your PLN with Twitter: A Beginner’s Guide

So you have heard about education quickly taking over the social media site “Twitter”. People have claimed that Twitter is a great way to connect with other educators and build your Professional Learning Network (PLN). This is true. Understanding how Twitter is being used and incorporating it into your teaching practice can have a positive impact on both you and your students.

Educators from around the world use Twitter to share best practices, create 21st century learning opportunities, solve problems and support one another. Twitter allows for backchannel conversation during conferences and is a way to take part in large scale events from the comfort of your home.  

As an educator, I have used Twitter for just under two years and it has changed my practice. As the only computer science teacher at my school, I have struggled to collaborate and develop ideas as my subject area is very specific. I reached out to other educators, using Twitter, to bounce ideas off of them and learn how their program is organized. I went from being a one man show to a connected educator gaining experiences and knowledge from all over Ontario, Canada and the World. This has greatly impacted my practice and, ultimately, my student’s learning.

Beyond just connecting with other Educators, Twitter is great to help you develop your own personalized PD.  Many of the education-based events throughout the world include their own hashtag to follow. For example, during all GAFE Summits, participants and presenters are encouraged to add #gafesummit to their tweets so that those in attendance have the opportunity to engage in the learning opportunity. If you have an area of interest that you want to learn more about, Twitter will open the door to resources and support, to help create your own PD experience.


Now that you have an idea of how Twitter can positively impact your practice, here is a series of steps to help you get started:

Create a Twitter Account

Go to twitter.com and create an username and password. When selecting a username, it is important that you create one that it unique and specific to you. When connecting with educators, your username will become your identifier. There are many users so you may need to add a number or two to help create a unique username.

Understand the Lingo

With Twitter comes a whole new language.  Here is a cheat sheet on some of the terms used:

  • A Tweet is the 140-character message that users post to Twitter.
  • A Retweet is when you share another members tweet. This tweet appears on your profile and links back to the original tweet.
  • You can Favourite tweets by other members. This is a great way to let them know that you like what they had to say. It also allows you to identify tweets you may want to review later.
  • If you like the tweets of another member and want to add their tweets to your home screen, you then become a Follower to that member.
  • If you want to send information to another member, but want it to be private, you can send that member a Message (like Facebook Messages).
  • Hashtags are used to group tweets together, for example under a particular topic or event. This allows members to easily search for and find tweets relevant to that topic.

Become Familiar with the Interface

When you are logged in on Twitter there are a few key features you need to understand how to use:

  • Home – The homepage will show recent tweets from those who you follow and suggestions on who else you may want to follow. You may also use the tweet box in the top right hand corner to quickly post a message.
  • Your Profile – By clicking on your name in the top left corner, you will be taken to your own profile page. Here you have the ability to edit your information and images by clicking “Edit Profile.”  This page showcases your information, your tweets and the tweets that you have favourited.
  • Notifications – The Notifications page is a one stop shop of all the events that have occurred which you are linked to. This includes retweets or favourites of your own tweets and tweets that you have been mentioned in.

Follow the Conversation using Hashtags

In Education, there are a ton of hashtags that you can follow to find information relevant to your grade, subject area,location , or skill area.  Here are a few hashtags to get you started:

  • #gafesummit – This is the hashtag used by all GAFE Summits across the world. Presenters and participants use this hashtag to archive all of the learning and sharing that occurs at each summit. This is a great bank of resources, and a great network of lifelong learning educators.
  • #cdnedchat – Want to know what other Canadian teachers are up to? This hashtag unites Canadian teachers and provides a support system specific to Canada.
  • #edtechchat / #edtech – Interested in learning more about how to bring technology into your classroom? This hashtag solely focuses on technology in education and is used throughout the world.

For a whole list of educational hashtags that address specific topics and concerns, check out TeachThought’s blog for a great list.

Follow Someone

Begin to build your PLN by following other members on Twitter. The more tweets you are able to find, the more information you are going to have at your fingertips. The more followers you have that are relevant to your interests, the more specific your Home Page will become, and the easier it will be to gain knowledge. Not sure where to start, try asking these questions to find members to follow:

  • Does your school post announcements using Twitter?  
  • Do any of your Co-workers, Administrators, or Superintendents use Twitter?  
  • During your previous PD events, who inspired or motivated you?  
  • Who is the author of the book your are currently reading?  
  • You are contributing members to hashtags that surround your interests?
  • Who are your other followers following?

Participate

Twitter is great for both passive and active learning. Every member has the chance to read and follow along without participating in any conversations.  You will find that when you step outside of your comfort zone and begin participating in the conversations on Twitter, your experience will be taken to the next level. You will find that your ideas are being built upon and shared and your questions are being answered (sometimes with even more questions). When you participate, your practice is challenged and quickly refined and developed into a better craft. Take a leap and reply to that tweet that created a question in your mind; let another member know about your experience or classroom practice that addresses their concern. By participating, you are taking hold of your passion of life-long learning and creating positive change to impact your practice and your student’s success.


As a connected educator, collaboration, resources and teamwork are only a click away. Twitter will help you transform from a sole-island educator into an evolving professional with a network of experiences and opportunities to further your understanding and stimulate student learning. Within the world of Twitter, there are many great users who create and share content. By searching for content using hashtags and following influential users, you can become connected with the world and integrate those experiences, perspectives and practices into your own classroom, no matter where you are. Connect with @LearningBird to learn more about great #edtech reads and professional development opportunities – just like this! #ConnectedChangesEverything

 

About the author

Emily Fitzpatrick

Emily is a guest contributor to the Learning Bird blog. She is a passionate teacher with experience in mathematics, computer science and special education classrooms in Orangeville, Ontario. As a Google for Education Certified Trainer she is focused on maximizing student success and engagement. Emily integrates technology, blended learning, and developing 21st century skills into her classroom. Emily brings international experience to her classroom from Belgium, the UK and Canada. Connect with her on Twitter @ugdsb_missfitz

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