Sunday, August 4, 2013

"So... how does one Twitter?" 5 simple steps to get Tweetin'

So you've heard people talking about Twitter, and how it's a great tool for teachers, and how every teacher should definitely be on Twitter. The question, though, it how to get started. What does it take to start tweeting? Here are 5 simple steps you can take to get you on your way:
  1. Sign up for a Twitter account. Pick a name that's relatively short1, write a sentence or two about who you are, and upload a picture. Sign in with your phone, iPad, computer, and whatever else so you can stay connected across multiple devices.
  2. Start following someone... anyone. Follow @CNN. Follow @Google. Follow @teachSDA. Better yet, take a look at this great Twitter Starter Kit and follow each of the fabulous teachers. Not enough? Educator extraordinaire Justin Tarte made a great video with even more suggestions:
  3. Interact with those who have something to say. People like to know that they're appreciated, so if/when you see a Tweet that hits you right, send a reply2 to the writer and tell them. If you've got a question or point about something they said, send them that, too. If someone asks you a question, respond, or if someone "retweets"3 something you said, let them know that you appreciated it.  It's called social media for a reason, right?
  4. Hone your following list. If you unfriend a high school or college friend on Facebook, that's somewhat of an act of war. On Twitter, though, people follow and unfollow others daily. If someone's tweets no longer mean anything to you, stop wasting your time with them; let them go. On the other hand, if you love what you're seeing from someone in particular, spy on who they are following and start adding them, as well. Remember—if your Twitter timeline isn't giving you good tweets, that's on you, not Twitter.
  5. Tweet yourself. Don't be scared of being labeled as narcissistic. Share your victories, challenges, ideas, lesson plans, resources, and life! You might lose a follower now and then, but you'll gain many more, and probably learn a lot along the way.
  6. ***BONUS STEP*** Participate in a Twitter chat. There is a Twitter chat for every subject, every state, every teaching technique, and more. Chats like #edchat, #CAedchat, and #teachSDA (self-promotion!) are great ways to talk, realtime, with other educators about a weekly topic. While they are a little overwhelming at first, they are easily the most rewarding and valuable way to make connections with others on Twitter. For an excellent rundown of what a Twitter chat looks like, take a look at my friend @davidtedu's stellar post "Twitter Chats: How to Survive and Thrive in a Twitter Chat... Hockey Style Eh?"
There is definitely a learning curve to "getting" Twitter, but as you begin to participate more and more, you come to recognize its immense value. Take some time to get to know this valuable tool, and once you fall in love with it, share it with other teachers! Truly, Twitter only gets better as more and more teachers join in and exchange their ideas.


Notes:
  1. Remember that every tweet is limited to 140 characters (spaces and punctuation included), so don't make your entire name a username. Try an abbreviation and a number. With Twitter, you have to learn to be economical with what you write. Using "&" instead of "and", "ne1" instead of "anyone", "Ts" instead of "teachers", and "Ss" instead of "students" will help you say everything you need to in a smaller package.
  2. If a tweet begins with a person's name, like this:
    it's a reply, which means it will only be seen on the timelines of yourself and the person referenced. It is not 100% private, though—if you need to tell someone securely, use Twitter's direct message feature.
  3. A retweet (denoted by this icon: ) means that the person is taking what you said and adding it to their timeline (with you still cited as the original writer). It's one way that someone on Twitter shows all their followers that they liked something you said.