Are you on Twitter yet?  If you’re a teacher, you should be.

“No man is an island.”  Someone really great said that.

Teaching often feels like one.   I have a saying, “If you’re more than two rooms past me, or farther than the bathroom, I won’t see you till June.”  That’s not the way teaching should be, but it often is.  I once introduced myself to a woman at a conference–turns out we’d worked together for two years.  She was on the other side of the school.

That’s terrible–but the fact is, teachers often get isolated.

Sometimes we’re put together in work groups so we’ll see a couple people, but in many schools teachers feel totally alone teaching away from the rest of the world.  Thanks to modern technology, you no longer have to feel alone.

Twitter connects you to the outside world.

Twitter is an amazing space for teachers.  You’ll find a ton of educational resources on Twitter.  The most valuable are the education chats which connect teachers from all over the globe.

There are chats for every subject, in every time zone, and on every aspect of education.  They’re accessible by simply looking at the calendar and jumping on at the right time.  Follow the chat by putting the hashtag (#) in your window, and chime in, using the chat’s hashtag in your post.

Can’t be online right then?  Search up the hashtag when you have time, and you can read the tweets later on.

If you haven’t tried an education chat, commit to doing so.  You can lurk–just watch and read the feed–or you can participate right away.

What are the benefits of Twitter?

Twitter gives me a network the size of the globe.  Suddenly, instead of speaking with a few like-minded teachers in my school, I was having conversations with people all over the world, based on interest and passion.  I went from having a couple people that thought like me to having dozens and dozens.  I felt like it was friend and colleague Christmas.

I’ve met people all over the world with ideas, inspiration, and enthusiasm on a variety of subjects.  I’ve inspired and been inspired.  I’ve met partners and worked on projects.  I’ve bounced ideas back and forth, and had deep conversations about how–truly–to change the world.   I’ve used Twitter in my class.  We’ve tweeted newsworthy people, thought leaders, authors, and politicians.  They respond.

Twitter is an instant connection to the world. 

On difficult days, I’ve always found someone on Twitter to put things in perspective and give me a few ideas to make it right.  Education’s a tough place to be, and we all need a cheerleader.   Some of my Twitter relationships have gone from Twitter–sharing articles and tips–to real-life professional connections.  This is where the magic comes alive.  I’ve met people for coffee and at conferences.  What started as the desire to become a better teacher ended up as a powerful professional network.

Twitter folks call this their PLN:  Professional Learning Network.  This isn’t about saying hi for an hour each week, it’s about making relationships that challenge us all to reach for the stars–even if we don’t seem to get out of our classrooms enough.  Twitter is that vehicle that lets me go anywhere in the world–for free.

New to Twitter?  Twitter 101:

Twitter takes a bit of getting used to.  I grabbed a teen a few years ago and made her my consultant. In a week or so, I was up and running and I felt comfortable.  Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • To tweet, say something in 140 characters or less.
  • Get a profile picture up there right away.  Don’t be “an egg.”
  • To talk to a person, use their handle which starts with the at sign. Example @thebroketeacher
  • Most people chat on timelines, public to the world unless you make yours private (don’t do this!).  You can also send a DM–a direct message–by clicking on the little envelope on the top of the screen.
  • People fear public things.  You can make your tweets private.  If you are, you’ll miss connecting with most of the world.  Be public on Twitter.  It’ll be okay, I promise you.
  • You may post a picture with your tweet.  This uses some of your characters.
  • Tweets are public and searchable–even if you take one down, it’ll be out there.  “When in doubt, leave it out.”  Use the rules of good digital citizenship.
  • To reply to someone, use their handle in the tweet.  Example:  @thebroketeacher  You’re great!  That tweet goes to me as if we were having a 1:1 conversation, although it could be seen if someone looked at my tweets.
  • If you want your tweet to be seen by everyone–maybe you’re replying to me, but we’re in a chat so everyone would benefit from the tweet–you must put a character before my name.  Then, everyone can see.  Example:  .@thebroketeacher You’re great!
  • To join a twitter chat, remember to follow the hashtag and then use the hashtag in the chat.  Everyone will focus on that hashtag and see your tweet.  Example: A4: Schools should serve ice cream daily #mychat
  • Twitter chats are usually a set of questions that guide the conversation.  You might get “Q4: What should students eat for lunch?”  To answer a question in a twitter chat, you start with the letter A for Answer, then the number of the question you’re answering.  Example: A4: Schools should serve ice cream daily #mychat
  • Retweeting things places them on your timeline.
  • Quoting tweets is a retweet but also gives you the chance to comment on it.

There are a ton of resources and guides to Twitter out there.  These tips are just a few to get you started.  I hope you’re convinced Twitter’s a place you want to be.

Once you’re online and feeling good about Twitter, visit Jerry Blumengarten’s (aka “The Cybraryman”) resources and Education Twitter Chat Guide to find a chat you’re interested in following.  Pick one or two to start and really start connecting with some of the participants.  Then branch out to a few others as you come across them.

For me, Twitter was a game changer.  I realized there are people who think like me.  Twitter encouraged me to get out there in public and to develop in ways I never thought possible.

It will do the same to you–that’s a Broke Teacher promise!