Twitter will change your life – why (student) teachers need to tweet

I tweet therefore I am.

Despite being glued to my keyboard from the day my family went online back in 1997 it took me until this year to really get the point of twitter.

Facebook was easy. All these names and faces from the past could easily be reconnected with by checking friends of friends. Facebook is also a great way of organizing events and keep people I already know informed with what I’m getting up to.

But twitter.

I just didn’t get it.

What could you possibly say in 140 characters that could be of any substance?

Why did I need to tweet when I could say what I needed to on facebook where I wasn’t constrained by a character limit?

But then my life changed.

I went from this:

to starting a new a career as a primary school teacher. All of sudden my social network, which had 1 primary school teacher, wasn’t really fulfilling all my needs and I needed to start branching out. Facebook, which is primarly a vechicle for organizing relationships with people you already know, just wasn’t cutting it.

Enter twitter.

The attraction of twitter is simple, it makes me want to have drinks with people I’ve never met. Twitter has been compared to the office water cooler but I liken it more to the coffee houses of Vienna (which may or may not have nothing to do with my obsession with strudel). But I digress, twitter is a place you go to share and to learn.

Over time you’ll gradually build a rapport with people which will become part of your Personal Learning Network or PLN. I think of my PLN as an extension of the support I have through my course, people out there to challenge my preconceptions, introduce my ideas and, when needed, act as a personal cheer squad.

So what’s the story with twitter? First up you need to sign up to twitter my piece of advice is to choose as short a username as possible because in twitter you only get 140 characters to get your point across. So the longer your user name is, the shorter the message.

Then you need to install tweetdeck as either a plug-in for chrome or as a desktop application. The reason you need to install tweetdeck is twofold. Firstly a lot of schools block twitter and secondly it enables you to manage twitter a lot more effectively.

My tweetdeck looks a little like this:

In column number 1 are all the updates from people I am following. When  one of the people I am following decides to post something: a blog post, an article of interest it comes up in that column. The people I’m following might not necessarily follow my tweets  but I’ve decided to follow them because I’m interested in them. Occasionally I might decide (for whatever reason) I don’t want to follow that person any more in which case I will stop receiving their tweets.

In column 2 is edchat. Whenever anyone posts anything that has #edchat it will show up there.  Using a hashtag immediately followed by a word in twitter is kind of like using a filter for a search engine. As a result, I don’t necessarily follow everyone who posts with the #edchat but it is a good source of general information, blogposts and newspaper articles on teaching and learning. What is awesome about this hashtag are the weekly edchats that take place for an hour at 9am and 11am on Wednesdays (NZST). Other hashtags that are of use are the #ntchat (new teacher chat) and the #elemchat (elementary chat). There are a whole bunch of different education related hashtags for teachers to follow. If you want to post anything to these chats, then you just post your message with #edchat or whatever chat you want and it will show up for other people (who might not be following you) to see and to share.

In column 3 are my references. In twitter if you want to respond to someone or perhaps direct them to something of interest then you need to put a @ and then the username. So for instance if you wanted to show me an article. you would say @traintheteacher and then post a link to the article. Sometimes someone might a think a tweet of mine is worth sharing so they will hit the retweet button in which case my tweet will be published with a RT in front of it. I try to make a point of thanking anyone who retweets or responds to my message because I think its important to nurture your followers.

There’s also a fourth column where I put my private messages. An important note on private messages, you can only send messages to people who follow you.

Who do you follow and how do you get people to follow you?

@rachelboyd (who I totally recommend you follow) has set up a google doc of New Zealand educators who are active on twitter. Perhaps of more use to student teachers are the educators who are willing to act as mentors to follow on twitter. If you participate in #edchats you might see a person that contributes some interesting thoughts, follow them.

At first I suggest you just read your feeds as they come in.  But the fun part of twitter (at least for me) is interacting with people from around the world so if I see a cool post or tweet I’ll respond back at the person. You might have an article that you might want to share, a blogpost or perhaps a thought send it out there. Someone might respond to your post or retweet which means that then all the people following their tweets will see your thought which gains you followers. If you see a tweet from someone else worth sharing, then retweet by pushing the button which sends their message out to their followers. The easiest way to get followers is through having someone introduce you to their followers. That’s how I meet the fabulous Australian student teacher blogger @AshleyAzzopardi from a tweet-out from @Kathleen_morris.

It can take a while for you build up your PLN but once you’ve built up a following your followers become a source of support. I’ve asked my PLN all manner of questions from the seemingly simple (what do you get your associate teacher for a thank you present) to more difficult questions about teaching and learning. Whenever I’ve asked for assistance, they’ve always been there.

With twitter there’s always a new idea to see or a new conversation to be had which is why I will continue tweeting long after I’ve finished studying.

Just 140 characters can say a lot.

I tweet therefore I am.

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30 thoughts on “Twitter will change your life – why (student) teachers need to tweet

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  1. What an awesome post!!! You have really explained Twitter so well. It is such an incredible support network! I am on study leave this year and am travelling around New Zealand visiting teachers I tweet with, visiting their classes, sharing, connecting, learning. I am an incredible learning journey because of Twitter….
    Anne K

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  2. Hi Anne.
    Thanks stopping by and for your lovely comment. That most be so cool visiting all the teachers you tweet with! I’m really looking forward to starting to meet a few of my PLN when I go to net hui and edcamp

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  3. I think you have perfectly captured some of the biggest benefits of Twitter. I am a student teacher myself and like you have found the support and ideas sharing with other educators that twitter provides so valuable. Since starting to tweet I have gained countless new ideas to try in the classroom and received feedback and comments on my own.

    I don’t know if it is the same for you but twitter gives me so much energy. To see what great things other teachers are up to is very inspiring and I draw a lot of strength and enthsiasm from it.

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  4. Thanks for your comment! I think that twitter has made what could have been a lonely and isolating experience (being an online student) and made it dare I say, more sociable than in real life!

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  5. This is a great post about Twitter! You’ve really summed it up nicely and I hope lots of teachers and student teachers read this.

    You’re right when you say that it takes time to build that rapport with people. You do have to put effort into checking into Twitter regularly to start to build your PLN. When you build those rapports Twitter is so much more fun and worthwhile.

    I am constantly telling teachers at my school that Twitter is my best form of PD. I’m starting to think they’re sick of hearing it! I think unless people really try Twitter for themselves, they just won’t understand.

    If I was interviewing a graduate teacher and they mentioned Twitter, I would be very impressed! Keep up your great work 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your comment Kathleen, I think that perhaps twitter is a tool that to quote a great NZ advertising slogan won’t happen over night but it will happen! It’s good to know that twitter is viewed positively as a tool for professional development!

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  6. Love your post. First thought that Twitter was just a big, fun distraction for me. But 12 months on I have made so many useful lonks to worthwhile material, loved following the journeys of the biggest tweeters and had lots of great responses on my own class blog, thus engaging my students globally.

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  7. Great post – well done!
    I hope you share it with other teachers on your course… Twitter is my best form of PD, I can follow my own interests and strengths as well as be interested to new, innovative tools/techniques.

    We tweet, therefore we think and we grow!

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  8. Love your blog! A great PLN is an incredible resource and one that’s been most valuable to me in my PD as I complete my first prac.

    Look forward to sharing and learning from each other! 🙂

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  9. What an excellent post on Twitter and actually just what I needed. The part about the hashtags was helpful, the time in NZ for the edchats is great, I might be able to look in on one over the next few weeks. Being out of the classroom this term will enable me to do that. I had been too lazy to figure out the time for myself.

    You have also convinced me to set up Tweetdeck. A job for over the weekend. Another good thing about being out of the classroom, no preparation time over the weekend!

    Oh and thanks for pointing out about having a short name! Too late for me, and mine is way too long. Mind you, yours is even longer if the counting on my fingers is correct!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Kathryn!

      There’s actually a nifty time zone converter thing here which makes things useful. Our time zone is often not conducive to chats, the nt chat is on at 5am!

      Tweet deck is easy to use once you get the hang of it, the other thing is that you can log in to multiple accounts (facebook, other twitter accounts) from the one app which makes it great.

      The short name thing was advice after the fact, some times we do learn from our mistakes!

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  10. Fine, you’re the first person to successfully convince me to join Twitter (many have tried and failed!). I joined it as my blog (not as myself, I’m not ready to do that yet). But I can’t find anyone or anything I know, I must be doing something wrong, I just don’t know what yet. I’ll give it a few days to catch my interest / imagination, but after that I’m giving up! I really don’t like trying new stuff (in case that wasn’t obvious :p ).

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    1. Hi Autism,
      What I suggest you do is look to see if any of the blogs you follow have a follow me on twitter button and start following them. I imagine that there would be a quite active autism community on twitter. Here’s a link to a whole bunch of people for you to follow: http://wefollow.com/twitter/autism

      Put a follow me on twitter your blog (there’s a widget on wordpress) which will also put updates from your blog onto twitter as well (Which is great for retweets).

      Twitter does take some time (think a few weeks) but I’ve found it highly rewarding.

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  11. I think your point about the time it takes to build rapport on Twitter is well-made. I was on Twitter for more than a year before I really became comfortable with my connections. It’s been very rewarding!

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