You swore you’d never do it, but you finally took the plunge — you signed up for Twitter. Now it’s time to make sense of the symbols and acronyms, so you can follow what’s going on in your newly created community.

We’ve put together a list of the most common Twitter terms, the schedules for some of the best education-related chats, and some tips and notes on Twitter etiquette to help you get the most out of your new account.

Symbols

@: Means “reply to.” Use this symbol to address or reply to another Twitter user. For example, if you wanted to ask me a question or respond to one of my tweets, you would type “@lisalearner” followed by your message to me.

You can view all tweets addressed to you by going to your Twitter home page and clicking the “@[your username here]” link on the right-side menu. Hover over any tweet, and options to reply to or retweet the message will appear. Click one to continue the conversation.

#: A hashtag. Use this symbol to participate in a conversation on a particular topic. For example, if you are looking for interesting ways to integrate technology in your classroom, you might add #edtech, #elearning, or #iste to the end of your tweet. Then, anyone who is following the edtech, elearning, or iste tweets will see yours as well. If you don’t include a hashtag, only your followers will see your tweets.

You can add as many hashtags as will fit in the 140 character limit. Find popular hashtags by visiting hashtags.org and searching for keywords.

Acronyms

RT: Means “retweet.” When you see a tweet you like, click the retweet link. It will repost the tweet for all of your followers to see. When you see an “RT” in a tweet, you know the tweet was originally written by someone else and then passed along.

To see which of your tweets have been retweeted and what you have retweeted, click the “Retweets” link on the right-side menu.

PRT: Means “please retweet.” If you need to spread your message or question quickly, add “PRT” to the beginning of your tweet and ask for extra help.

DM: Means “direct message.” Use this acronym to send a private message to one of your followers. For example, if you typed “dm @lauren_learning” followed by a message, that tweet would only be available for lauren_learning to view. These messages still have to be 140 characters or less.

OH: Means “overheard.” Use this acronym to preface a quote you overheard at school or at a conference.

Tips and Etiquette

Bit.ly: At this website, you can shorten a lengthy URL to just a few characters. This way, if you’d like to share a great link with your followers, you won’t waste your 140 characters on the URL.

TweetDeck: Download this free program to tweet from your desktop or personal computer. It offers many features to make your tweeting experience more enjoyable.

Follow your followers: When people follow you, take a look at their profile to see if you’d be interested in following them back. Very often, you will find common interests among your followers.

Say thank you: After participating in a chat, thank and recognize Twitter users with whom you interacted or who provided some good insights. For example, you could say “Thanks to @taylor_learning @stacy_learning @carter_learning for a great chat.” Just include the Twitter handles for each user you’d like to thank.

Chat Schedules

The fastest way to create meaningful communities on Twitter is by participating in a Twitter chat. First, type the hashtag of the chat you’d like to join in the search bar on the right-side menu. Each week, the moderator will present a new topic for the chat. Read what is being said, and when you’d like to contribute or ask a question, use the chat’s hashtag in your tweets.

Here is just a sampling of all the Twitter chats going on each week:

#ellchat (Mondays at 5:00 p.m. EST)
Discuss topics related to English language learners

#kinderchat (Mondays at 5:00 p.m. EST)
Discuss topics related to early childhood education and kindergarten

#edchat (Tuesdays at noon and 7:00 p.m. EST)
Discuss a wide variety of education topics with educators from around the world

#spedchat (Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. EST)
Discuss topics related to special education

#eltchat (Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. EST)
Discuss topics related to English language teaching

#ntchat (Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EST)
Especially for new teachers — share ideas and help others become acclimated to the profession

#elemchat (Thursday at 5:00 p.m. EST)
Discuss topics related to elementary education

For more education chats, take a look here. If you participate in any chats not listed here, please leave a comment with the time and topic so we can join in!

If you have any questions or additional tips, please contact me, @lisalearner. I’d love to hear from you.