5 Effective Ways Teachers Can Use Twitter for Professional Development

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June 10, 2014
What has started as a simple answer to the question "what are you doing?" has now developed into one of the most popular online social networking platforms  with 255 million Average Monthly Active Users (MAUs) as of March 31, 2014 . The potential of Twitter in education is uncontested and the research literature in this regard abounds with accounts of teachers leveraging it in their instruction. Twitter is also a powerful medium for teachers professional development and below are some of the ways you can use it to enhance your PD.

1- Real time search
Besides being a social networking site that connects people from all around the globe, Twitter is a powerful real-time search engine. I often find myself using it more than Google to look for reading materials for my research. The difference between Twitter search results and Google search results is the added layer of filtration found in the earlier. Twitter search results  contain links to web pages and articles that have been filtered by others before they were tweeted . And while Google disposes of a very sophisticated filtration algorithm, nothing beats the human-induced filtration represented by tweeters, which we call curation. People often tweet things they have read and approved and hence the high likelihood of finding relevant materials in Twitter search than Google search.

2- Twitter PLNs
Another powerful feature that Twitter provides to its users is the ability to create a personal/professional learning network. Having a PLN of people that share your affinity  is a good way to crowdsource help. PLNs are mines of first hand knowledge and a source of unlimited support. While I was working on the literature review of my MAEd thesis I often had recourse to my Twitter PLN for help with references and journal articles.There is always somebody out there with an answer to your query, just be persistent enough to seek it.

3- Hashtagging
These epiphenomena called hashtags have really revolutionized the concept of a community of practice. Hashtags are great for creating a community around a topic. They are open and anybody can access and use them. They are also a good way for searching topic-specific content on Twitter. This list contains hundreds of education related hashtags you can use to search for content related to your content area.

Besides using hashtags as a search tool, you can also use them to participate in education conversations with fellow educators from all around the globe. Edchat is one example of a hashtag that is being used to hold weekly discussions. This list features some other important Twitter chats.

4- Twitter Tools
There are several third party tools to use to enhance your Twitter experience. Some of the tools I use in this regard include :

This is my favourite web tool I use to organize and check my Twitter feeds. Using this app you can create columns for specific hashtags and each time you log in to Tweetdeck you will see the latest tweets shared using that hashtag. This way you can always stay on top of what is being shared in educational twitter chats.

B- Hootsuite
This is another great Twitter tool to organize your Twitter streamline and track hashtags. I personally do not find it much different from TweetDeck and you can do almost the same on both tools so whatever you feel familiar with use it.


TweetChat is like a search engine for hashtags. You simply type in the hashtag you want to explore and Tweetchat pulls out to you all the tweets shared using that hashtag. You don't even need to sign up to use Tweetchat.

This is another great tool to use to follow hashtags and to discover educational conversations taking place in Twitter. Similar to Tweechat, you can simply provide the hashtag you are interested in and Twubs does the job of bringing you all the tweets with that specific hashtag mentioned in them. Twubs also allows you to embed the hashtag feed into your blog or website.

5- Twitter Lists
A list is a curated group of Twitter users and a great way to organize your interests.  You can use them to categorize and organize tweets into different areas relevant to the information you are seeking. You can for instance create a list about educational technology and add to it Edtech tweeters you follow. In this way , you will have a pool of resources aggregated in a single page to access anytime you want. Check out this guide to learn how to create a Twitter List.

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