10 Ways Teachers Can Make The Best of Twitter

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December 22, 2014
As a micro-blogging platform, Twitter has rapidly grown to widespread popularity due mainly to its unique features that set it apart from other social networking websites. One of the foundational principles of Twitter and also a key element in its success is brevity. Tweets are limited to 140 characters which is a short portion of text yet a very powerful way to communicate. In a digitally focused world where distractions and short attention span are common currencies, people tend to connect more with short and succinct content, something which Twitter excels at providing.

 For us in education, the potential of Twitter exceeds all expectations. In a relatively short span of time, Twitter evolved into one of the best educational social networking platform of choice for educators and teachers. It has also become an essential element in teachers life-long learning and a key driver of professional development. As such, I deemed it necessary that I create this short introductory guide to help those of you who are new to Twitter make the best of this tool. There are also tips and resources for advanced users as well. Enjoy

10 ways to tap into the full educational potential of Twitter

1- Create a strong profile page
Your profile is the front facade people check to learn who you are. Spend sometime working on your profile and write a short descriptive bio to professionally introduce yourself to your community. Include a photo of yours and a link of your digital presence elsewhere (blog, website, wiki, about.me page …etc).

2- Separate personal from professional Twitter accounts
Your professional learning community do not need to know what movie you watched last night or what you had for super today.A good suggestion is to create a second Twitter account for family members and close friends with whom you can share your personal trivialities.  Keep your professional account professional and tweet relevant and insightful tweets that can add value to your learning community.

3- Twitter Etiquette
As teachers and educators, the purpose behind using Twitter is to primarily  connect with other teachers, and engage in mutual learning  experiences. In doing so we build a community of people that we interact with and for this interaction to be effective we need to abide by Twitter code of ethics. Corey Talked about 11 Twitter etiquettes which I converted into this visual:

4- Adding friends
Before you click that 'follow' button, make sure you go through some of the tweets of the persons you want to follow. Quickly scan what they have been tweeting for the last week or month and see if that relates to your intellectual interests or not. Needless to mention reading their bio and checking their digital productions if they have any.

5- Use Hashtags
Hashtags are Twitter's learning locomotive. Their purpose is to aggregate communities around content. Besides providing helpful resources around a given topic, Hashtags are also good for initiating conversations and discussions with others. There are now several chat-based hashtags for teachers and educators which you can join to take part in the discussion. You can also use hashtags to keep updated about proceedings of conferences, learning events, PD sessions, and many more. Here is a very good guide to help you better understand the concept of hashtaging.

6- Understand Twitter lingo

Due to its textual limitation (tweets can't be longer than 140 characters), Tweeters have developed a conventional set of linguistic terms and signs to effectively and interactively  communicate with each other. Understanding this language is key to an informed and educative tweeting experience. This visual guide will introduce you to the most popular Twitter lingo .

7- Anatomy of a Tweet
Now that you have learned about the different abbreviations used on Twitter, it's time you learn about the different components making a given tweet. This visual anatomy of a tweet created by Sandy Kendell does a good job illustrating what the various elements making the body of a tweet.

8- Integrate Twitter in your instruction 
If you are using or  planning to use Twitter in your instruction, I would recommend that you check this handy rubric created by university of WisconsinsThis rubric is designed specifically to help teachers assess students' Twitter use in instructional assignments.

9- Ways to use Twitter to look for educational content
Twitter search can be a very good alternative to the conventional search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The strength of Twitter search lies in the fact it provides timely relevant and already-curated content. There are three effective ways to use Twitter to look for educational content which this post illustrates more fully.

10- Use Third part tools
There are several web tools that have been created specifically for Twitter users. These tools can help you perform a wide range of activities you could not otherwise do using Twitter alone. Some of these tools can help you conduct effective searches on Twitter, others turn your twitter into a magazine with recent tweets as prominent headlines, and many more. Here are some titles I would suggest: