Twitter 101: How to Start Your Own Teacher Twitter Account
This is the first installment in our five-post Twitter 101 series
Educators know the value of collaborating with colleagues—after all, these connections are often where we get our best ideas! As the education world becomes increasingly digital, teachers have more and more opportunities to connect with each other, whether they work in classrooms across the hall or across the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, social media has emerged as an invaluable platform for professional development in the digital age. According to Education World, Twitter—a free micro-blogging platform that allows users to share their thoughts, 280 characters at a time—has emerged as a “virtual water cooler” where educators around the globe can share up-to-the-minute research, teaching ideas, and successes.
Why Twitter? The primary attractions may be the social media network’s extensive reach and ease of use. According to statistics from the Omnicore Agency, approximately 100 million Twitter users were active on the network every day as of June 2018, sending an average daily total of 500 million tweets. Thanks to the site's large, active user base, educators can learn from others' diverse backgrounds and experiences as quickly as they can type!
Indeed, teachers are taking advantage of this large, interactive platform to create their own professional learning networks (PLNs)—which, as THE Journal explains, consist of the Twitter users they follow and those who follow them back. Building an online PLN is an incredibly useful way to stay up to date on the latest developments in education and technology, all while building connections with other educators.
If you aren’t already using Twitter to build your PLN, getting started is easy. Just as you would when creating a resume or interviewing for a job, build your new Twitter account to be a clear, professional expression of yourself as a teacher. The first step? Craft your Twitter profile as an "online business card" to introduce yourself to other teachers, administrators, and education stakeholders.
Identify your primary purpose
Are you planning to use Twitter solely for your own professional development, or will you be connecting and sharing with your class as well? Some educators have taken to Twitter to host class discussions, encourage debates, and share student work online, while others prefer to use the site solely to connect with their PLN. Thinking about your primary purpose will help you decide how to present yourself, who to follow, and what to post and share.
Choose a handle
One of the biggest decisions to make when creating your Twitter profile involves choosing a username. Also called a "handle," this name must be unique to you and not held by any other Twitter user. Because your handle will serve as your individual identity on Twitter, take the time to choose a moniker that is both unique and professional.
Your Twitter handle is also your first chance to highlight your focus as a teacher. Are you a hands-on educator who loves to build and create, a gadget-loving technophile, or a globally minded teacher eager to diversify your students’ experiences by learning about education practices from around the world? Using keywords such as “create,” “tech,” and “global” in your handle can help your PLN more easily identify you and your purpose.
Of course, if you already have an online presence on another channel—such as an education blog or a YouTube channel—you should try to connect your Twitter handle to that if you can. Keeping the same or an extremely similar username for all interactions with your PLN makes you easier to find and connect with online.
Strike a pose
While you set up your profile, you'll notice that you have the option to upload an image that will appear next to your handle when another user views your page or reads your tweets. Much like you will when you craft your bio, you should keep professionalism and relevance in mind when you select your profile photo—your staff picture, another image of yourself, or even a logo or drawing are all viable options. That said, this icon will appear quite small on the site, so steer clear of detailed images in favor of a headshot or a simple, clear picture.
Write a bio
When writing your Twitter bio, brevity is your friend. As you only have 160 characters to work with, it's important to give a concise image of who you are and who you hope to meet! For example, if you plan to share examples of work from your classroom and are open to connecting with students and parents online, your bio might read something like this:
Literacy specialist at XYZ School District. Passionate about teaching #ELL and #diverseneeds. Come visit my class blog: http://www.yourbloghere.com
On the other hand, if you’re primarily looking to connect with colleagues online and grow your own PLN, you should focus your bio on your interests and the professional connections you hope to make:
High school English teacher, Shakespeare enthusiast, digital novice. Excited to learn more about self-paced models and personalized learning!
Some Twitter denizens use hashtags in their bios, as in the first example presented here. According to Twitter, hashtags are words directly preceded by the pound sign (eg, #digitallearning) that appear as blue, clickable links. Clicking on a hashtag will show you tweets and accounts that also used it, which is a great way to connect with other teachers and education leaders with similar interests! Before including a hashtag in your bio, do a quick search on Twitter to be sure it leads to an active, engaged education community.
Share additional information
As you begin filling out your Twitter bio, you'll notice that you have the option to include additional information such as your location, website, and birthday. Although you aren't required to fill out these fields, it may behoove you to do so. For example, if you hope to connect with other local educators, you might want to use your town (or the nearest large city) as your location. (For safety reasons, never post an exact address to your home or school.)
If you choose to add a URL to your profile, keep in mind that you should personally own and operate the website. For instance, the URLs of your teaching blog, your class website, or a photo-sharing site for class projects are all appropriate to include. That said, tread carefully before linking to your school or district website—when in doubt, double-check with your administrator or human resources department.
Personal identifying information (your birthdate, for example) is probably best left off of your professional Twitter account. Remember, while sharing information such as your school district, full name, or city could help you find and connect with your colleagues, it's also important to safeguard your privacy online.
When you create your teacher Twitter account, you're building an online business card that will introduce you to other educators and administrators around the world. By including clear, professional, and focused information in your Twitter profile, you'll make it easy for fellow members of the education community to find and engage with you based on your common needs and interests. Before you write your first tweet, make sure your profile represents the teacher you want to be and the PLN you hope to build.
Twitter 101: Start Your Own Teacher Twitter Account is the first installment in our five-post Twitter 101 series. Subscribe to the Lexia blog and receive the next 4 installments directly to your inbox!
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