Texts on Tuesdays: Twitter for Professional Development. Try it!

Today's Text on Tuesdays is going to be a little different...instead of focusing on a book or journal, I want to talk to you a little bit about what might be the most powerful professional development opportunity available to you, Twitter.

So when I first signed up for Twitter a few years ago, I did it because I was curious.  It took me a few different attempts at playing around with it before I started to see its potential--but when I did, I realized the tremendous impact it could have.

For those of you who DO use Twitter professionally, I'd love for you to leave your best suggestions below--and for those of you who haven't tried, I'm going to try to convince you to give it a try.

First of all...the basics.

1. Twitter is a "real time" social media experience.  Unlike Facebook, the big "thing" with Twitter is the 140 character maximum.  "Tweets" are meant to be short and quick bursts of information or ideas.  You will find lots of links on Twitter--to professional articles, blog posts, and so on.

2.  To connect with people and groups on Twitter, people use "@" and "#" symbols.  "@" attached to a username is like a "tag".  A reply is a response in the form of a post to another user, usually to answer a question or in reaction to an idea that has been posted. To reply, type in the '@' sign followed by the username, i.e. @username and then follow with your message. If you want to make sure I see tweet, for example, write your tweet and type @fourthgrstudio in the message.

A "#" ("hashtag") can be inserted into your text to allow people to search for things and helps to organize Twitter. You can use commonly used hashtags such as "#education", use the hashtag of a particular chat (more in a minute!), or--like some people do--to express a point.  

"I just ate six pieces of pizza. #noselfcontrol #dietstartstomorrow"

Most people on Twitter truly use the hashtags to help connect with people using similar hashtags.  See the image below for a screen shot of parts of my most recent two tweets.  You can see I used #edchat and #elemchat and #4thchat...people following those hashtags are more likely to see these tweets because of that. This becomes important because if you only have 12 followers, the chance of anyone seeing your tweets is slim!  It's a little lonely when you first start Twitter because you wonder if ANYONE is seeing your tweets--and they may not be...YET.

Go into Twitter with the idea that you want to learn from others, share with others, and interact with others.  Here are a few suggestions for getting started.

*Find amazing people to follow.  Big name authors, researchers, and organizations tweet often and tweet meaningfully.  When you see something you like, "retweet" it!  This will let your followers see that you value it and helps spread your reach on Twitter (which builds followers along the way!).  If you want to "favorite" a tweet, it makes it easier to go back later to find it or read it.  I do this a lot when I see something I want to read but don't have time.  

Check out this recent tweet...do you see at the top how I retweeted this blog post from my friend Donna over at Math Coach's Corner? I wanted my followers to have access to it...so let's peek at the bottom of this image.
There are a few symbols at the bottom of every tweet...the arrow on the far left is a "reply" button.  If I wanted to reply directly to Donna, I would hit that button and tweet something like, "Great blog post--thanks for sharing!"  Because it is a reply, I don't need to mention her name or anything...it goes right to her.  Remember that Twitter is very public, however, so others will see that I replied.

The next symbol with the double arrow is the "retweet" button.  This post had 8 retweets at the time I screen shot it...that means 8 people saw the tweet and wanted their viewers to see it too.  The star is the "favorites" button.  That can be used to acknowledge that you appreciate the content--but also marks it for you so you can go find it again.  The ellipsis offers more menu options--but we'll stick to the basics today!

3.  So finding tweets that are meaningful to you is one way to use Twitter as professional development...but another very exciting thing to try is "Twitter Chats".  This is much like a conversation you might have via Facebook or texting--but with the possibility of many, many people being involved.  Because of this, chats can sometimes move VERY quickly and can be overwhelming.  Many people try them and then give up because they are overwhelmed.  Don't give up! Here are my suggestions to get you started.

*Find a chat you are interested in...and "lurk" for a few sessions.  Just watch other people, read the tweets, and get the feel of it.

*Use Tweetdeck or Tweetchat (free) to step a little bit "outside" Twitter to keep your chats organized.  When you chat, you will be using a hashtag to keep everyone in a "room" where everyone is chatting about the same thing.  Most people use Tweetdeck, but if you are nervous--try Tweetchat.  It will ask you to put a hashtag into the first screen and then you will ONLY see the tweets with that hashtag.  By using it, you will not have to enter the hashtag for each tweet you write during a chat.  Remember, the hashtag is what keeps information together.
This is the page to enter your chat hashtag...

Here is what an ongoing chat looks like.  You type your chat into the "Tweet into" box.  Do you see how the #edchat is already there for you?  All the "stream" of the chat will follow below...and big chats will move fast.  Sometimes you need to just sit back and read.

*Make sure to follow people you find in the chat that seem interesting.  This is a great way to find new people to follow--and for people to find YOU once you feel confident participating!

*Make sure you pay attention to the format of the chat.  Most chats use a Q/A format.  For example, the moderator will tweet out a question in a format similar to this:

Q1:  What do you feel is the number one thing you can do to improve morale in your school?

When people want to reply, they will reply in a format like this:

A1:  I plan to send encouraging emails to new teachers.

This way people will know what question you are discussing...because the speed of the chat may start to get the questions all mixed up!

So...I know this is a lot of information if you are new--but I can't stress enough about how much AMAZING information I have learned from Twitter.  I have had Twitter conversations with famous researchers and authors--opportunities I would NEVER have had in any other situation.  On Twitter, everyone is an equal, and I really see that "big names" who are active on Twitter really and truly want to interact with their followers.

Want to give it a try?  Here are my recommendations.
1.  Set up your account.
2.  Find a small group of people to follow so you can get the "feel" of it.  My recommendations?  Try these to get started...

@Fourthgrstudio (that's me--and you can tweet AT me with questions!)
@NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics)

By just following a few organizations, you will start to see the flow of tweets, can try retweeting and favoriting, and then can start to see other people/groups to follow.  Once you find people to start to follow, you will see who THEY follow and can pick and choose from them as well.

Remember, Twitter is all about interacting...so retweet often, favorite things, and even reply to someone who posts something that is extremely meaningful.  When you are ready, consider a chat...and I'll do a follow up post soon with some suggestions about good elementary teaching chats--and maybe I'll even do a "practice chat" for anyone who is interested!  Let me know in the comments if that is something you might be interested in!

Sorry if this was overwhelming...but I think it's time for teachers to realize that we need to open our minds to new ways of learning.  I am CONSTANTLY sending tweets to my administrators with great information I find on Twitter!  What do you think?  Are you ready to give it a try?  Let me know how I can help...feel free to ask questions and I'll do my best to answer them...and let me know if you sign up and I'll be your latest follower!


  1. Meg, thanks so much for this amazing, informative post! I have a twitter account, but I don't ever use it because it all seemed overwhelming. Thanks to you I'm excited about the possibilities and I'm going to give twitter another try! I'd love to do a practice chat.
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    1. Oh good! I'm so glad it was helpful! I will see if I can gather a few others and we can do a practice chat!

  2. This post came just in time! I've been "lurking" and retweeting but did not know how to reply or how to get in on a Twitter chat. So many new things to learn!!! Thanks,