Twitter for Educators: 3 Essential Starter Tips
While some of us are Twitter fanatics, others may be skeptical of yet another social media platform. You might be thinking, “If I am already on Facebook, LinkedIn, Tioki, Edmodo, and others, why would I also need Twitter? And even if I did join Twitter, how would it help me as an educator?”
Now, it is quite possible that I am largely preaching to the choir on this one, because if you are tech-savvy enough to be on Tioki, it may be quite likely that you are also on Twitter. A recent report from MMS Education, which I posted about on the blog I write for, The “Core” of Education, highlighted how teachers are catching on to the social media craze, with 39% of responders in their survey stating they were on Twitter and education-centered platforms such as Edmodo and edWeb picking up steam particularly quickly. What that tells us is that beyond our basic desire for connection through social media, educators are seeking social media platforms that help them be more effective on a daily basis.
Can Twitter do that too?
The main utility of Twitter for educators is to help us all stay informed about the education climate surrounding us that is so rapidly changing. Moreover, Twitter allows us to easily stay up on news from a variety of types of sources, enabling us to have a more comprehensive view of the often partisan wrangling over education politics. With questions over standardized testing, Common Core, ESEA re-authorization, NCLB waivers, Race to the Top funding, and new technology in the classroom—to name only a few—all looming, staying abreast of changes is more difficult and essential than ever. I have it from a number of education PhD’s who have had their noses to the ground in education for a while that changes are coming much more rapidly in education than they have in decades past. This is where Twitter comes in.
Hopefully some of what I have learned while starting @CoreEducation1 for the education consulting company I work for, Core Education LLC, can be of some help to you as you consider joining or making more use of Twitter as an educator. Here’s what I’ve learned:
What are the basics?
- Get twitter on your smartphone. Twitter only began to thrive once more people had smartphones, and the beauty of twitter versus other social media platforms is its essential simplicity, so it works perfectly on even a small-screened phone. You can also use Twitter easily in any browser, or on other devices such as tablets.
- Get a good Twitter client. I use Tweetcaster, but there are many excellent ones out there for all platforms.
- Use Instapaper or a similar service to save articles and links you want to look at later. Instapaper integrates smoothly into Tweetcaster.
- Follow education lists, such as the one I created rather than having to follow all of the accounts individually. This means that you can keep your home timeline as clean as you like and choose when you want to look at education accounts.
- Be yourself, but remember that Twitter is public.
- Don’t make your account into a rant or complaint forum.
- Be knowledgeable yet modest.
- It’s ok to be a beginner.
- Remember, thou shalt not feel compelled to read every tweet!
Another helpful tool for Twitter is hashtags (#). These are a way of labeling tweets, so that others can search for and find them easily. A few common ones for education include:
Who is on Twitter?
For my purposes, I cast a wide net on accounts that I followed, but you could easily be much more minimalist in the accounts you follow. Out of the many, many education related accounts out there (chances are higher that a person or organization is on Twitter than is not), there are roughly 8 major types of Twitter accounts:
- Organizations or universities that tweet frequently – @AEIeducation, @AFTunion, @TeachForAmerica,
- Organizations or universities that tweet business-ish tweets infrequently – @NCSSNetwork, @UFT, @PiLambdaTheta
- Official government or school district accounts – @EdWorkforce, @usedgov, @ED_Outreach
- Individual educators who love twitter and post all the time, but not necessarily about things you care about. - http://www.mytowntutors.com/2012/12/100-perfect-twitter-accounts-for-teachers/
- Education related software or gadgetry accounts – @Tioki, @TeachingChannel, @flipped_class
- Individual education professionals who tweet – @judywillis, @coolcatteacher, @shellterrell
- Education news outlets or reporters who work for them such as – @educationweek, @postschools, @HuffPostEdu
- Bigwigs to follow – @arneduncan, @MichelleRhee, @rweingarten
Oh and some of my favorites - educationgadfly, @arotherham, @eyeoneducation, @All4Ed, @Edsurge, @alfiekohn, @TNTP, @hechingerreport, or @mcpssuper
If you are looking for a big list of all of these types of accounts to follow/not follow, I would recommend that you look at the over 700 education accounts that @CoreEducation1 is following and that I monitor regularly.
Ok, now you have got some accounts to follow, but what should you do from there?
Where can I go to learn more?
If I haven’t convinced you yet that Twitter is very helpful to educators, I will leave you with a short sample of some of what I see near the top of my timeline:
- @AFTunion: AFT president @rweingarten will be on CNN to discuss the #sequester. Please tune in.
- @educationweek: Blog: The Good News on Common-Core Tests http://bit.ly/14584i9 #roundtable
- @sjunkins: 7 Online Quiz Tools for Classrooms. http://edudemic.com/2013/02/online-quiz-tools/ … #edtech
- @ASCD: How do we prepare #students to be literate, self-directed learners in an increasingly interconnected world? http://ow.ly/i8TIm
Evan L. R. Hays is an MAT student and aspiring high school history teacher. He has been a tutor for C2 Education Centers since 2006, has a BA and MA in History, and also blogs for The “Core” of Education. His personal twitter handle is @inkling84.