Twitter is a free online social networking and microblogging service. Twitter allows its users to communicate by sending text-based posts (up to 140 characters), also known as ‘tweets’.
How do I sign up
If you don’t already have a twitter account, signing up is free and easy to do:
1. Visit http://www.twitter.com/
2. Enter your full name.
4. Choose a password.
5. Click on "Sign up for Twitter".
7. Click on "Next" to get started.
How does Twitter work
When you sign up to Twitter, you can use the service to post and receive messages (tweets) with a network of friends and other contacts. When you post a new message (tweet) the message is shared with all of your contacts. Once signed in, a user can also follow other users and, by following a few simple tips (see below), can quickly build a network of friends. Twitter can also be linked in to other social networks, blogs and websites via use of the Twitter button as well as being used as a very effective marketing tool.
How does retweeting work
Reetweeing is a great way to quicky create networks with others with similiar interests or teach the same subject. Hover over any tweet and you will see the "Retweet" button. Click on the retweet button and anything you retweet will appear in the feeds of all those users who are following you. As well as benefiting the original poster, retweeting can also benefit you too. Retweeting can help build relationships with the original poster as well as provide value to your own followers however, be careful not to retweet rubbish, make sure what you retweet is relevant and of value to those who follow you.
How to stay safe using Twitter
One of the biggest issues with any form of social networking, particularly in education, is Privacy. Many teachers have already fallen foul of websites such as Facebook and MySpace with some extreme cases resulting in dismisal.
As a teacher, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself when using twitter. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Change your privacy settings
Twitter, like many of it's counterparts, allows you to customise your privacy settings and allow you to control who follows you.
To change your privacy settings:
1. Sign-in to Twitter.
2. Click on your profile picture.
3. Click on "Settings".
6. Click on "Save Changes".
2. Use an alternative profile picture
If you don't want any of your students or colleagues following you on twitter, instead of uploading a picture of yourself, upload an image of a family pet. If you want to be really creative, you could create a caricature of yourself using a variety of fun online tools (see examples below) - Just remember not to make it too life like!
3. Don't identify your place of work in your bio
Make sure that you do not identify where you work in your bio description, instead list your hobbies and interests (This can be useful when creating networks for your teaching subject).
4. Create a separate teaching account
Consider creating separate Twitter accounts, one for the classroom and one for personal use. You can even customise the background for each account so as not to get them mixed up.
What else can you do to protect yourself when using Twitter
The Teacher Support Network has published some general guidance for teachers on how to stay safe when using Twitter (available on TES). A copy can be found by clicking on the link below.
Twittering for Teachers - how to stay safe (Teacher Support Network)
Teacher Support network has launched a twitter account at twitter.com/teachersupport. By subscribing, you’ll be able to access quick updates to their latest news and information.
How to use Twitter in Education
As well as being a great networking tool for teachers, Twitter can also be a fun way to engage your students. Twitter can be used as a colloaborative tool to allow students to work on a project or used in a lesson as a class response system. You could even set up a Twitter for a school trip to allow students and parents to keep up-to-date with what's happening.
Remember: The are two types of Twitter profile: Public and Private. A private profile will only allow those which you approve to follow your tweets.
Meabh Ritchie has published a thought provoking article on TES which investigates the potential uses and pitfalls of using Twitter in education. Read the article here: Chirping about Twitter
TES has a range of ideas for using Twitter to promote learning across a wide range of subjects and age ranges, all submitted by teachers via Twitter. Download the resource here: Ideas for using Twitter in the classroom
How to get more followers on Twitter
Using Twitter for the first time can be a loney experience however, by following some simple tips, you will soon be able to grow your list of followers!
1. Invite people to follow you
One way to grow more followers on Twitter is to simply let people know you are on Twitter and invite them to follow you. If you have your own website you can place a Twitter sharing button on your home page or if you have your own teaching blog you can include a link to your Twitter profile in a blog post. Another effective method is to include your Twitter details in your email signature (Remember to use a different signature when emailing your students!).
Another way to gain more followers on Twitter is to promote yourself on other social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn. LinkedIn is designed mainly for professionals, such as teachers, so it is less likely that your profile will be stumbled upon by your students. (Remember: When using any type of social networking site - always follow the same guidance for staying safe online)
2. Reply to Questions
Asking questions is a great way to get exposure on Twitter however, replying to questions can be an even greater way to grow Twitter followers. Replying to other peoples questions can help develop connections with new users and encourage them to follow you on Twitter.
3. Make your tweets interesting
Believe it or not, not everyone is going to be interested in what you had for breakfast or when you last visited the toilet. The key to Twitter is sharing interests. People are more likely to share your tweets if they share a common interest or if they think what you are tweeting is of interest to others. Try to get the right balance between talking about yourself and talking about topics that are relevant and interesting. (Note: There is nothing stopping you from having both a personal profile and separate teaching profile. That way, you can just use your teaching profile for talking about your subject)
4. Keep Tweeting
This may seem obvious but the more you tweet, the more likely you are to have others follow you however, beware. If you tweet too much, you might end up losing followers. You may need to experiment to get the right balance.
5. Use the Hashtag
The hashtag (#) symbol is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created by Twitter users as a way to categorise messages.
You can use the hashtag symbol before a relevant keyword or phrase in your Tweet to categorise your Tweets and help the right people find your tweets more easily. Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message also shows you all other Tweets marked with that keyword. Education examples:
Education technology: #edTech #eduTech
Education chat: #edChat #UKEdChat
For more help on using hashtags, visit the official twitter hashtag guide: Using hashtags on Twitter
Despite the pitfalls of social networking, tools such as twitter can be a valuable teaching resource - as well as being fun too. As long as you are sensible and follow some basic advice, Twitter can be both an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Have fun tweeting!