Part II: Twitter
Our previous blog post mentioned a few ways teachers use Instagram in their classrooms. After all, photo sharing is always a great way to enhance learning, which explains Instagram’s appeal. Even so, teachers may want more features.
Like Instagram, Twitter uses hashtags to funnel certain tweets into varied news feeds. Both platforms also require the @username feature.
So, just what is Twitter, and why do educators use it?
Twitter is a social sharing platform that offers access to an amazing variety of topics, discussion groups, and ideas all in one place. Tweets—which is Twitter-speak for posts or messages—show up in real time on each user’s Twitter feed.
If big news breaks, expect to see the Twitter feed go wild with that trending topic-du-jour.
Why Use Twitter?
So what does all this mean for teachers and administrators?
Unlike Instagram and other social media platforms, Twitter allows users access to the most current, immediate thought. Twitter is, quite literally, what people are talking about right now. Educators can drop by educational chat sessions or read more about current teaching trends. Twitter is also great as a way to network with others who relate to your exact circumstances and teaching challenges.
Many teachers also enjoy creating a classroom Twitter account in order to ask questions of other classrooms—down the hall or across the world.
In fact, one class used Twitter to connect with a fellow classmate caught in Hurricane Sandy while visiting a relative. The boy and his mother regularly tweeted live updates about weather conditions, wind speed, and their own feelings. Meanwhile, classmates felt relief that their friend was okay.
Many people feel intimidated by Twitter at first, only because it looks so different from other social media platforms. Fortunately, the basics are fairly straightforward.
- Visit Twitter.com to create your account. Or select a preferred device and download the Twitter app that works best with that device.
- Enter the user name (aka Twitter handle) you want others to see, and then create a password. If you also use Instagram, use the same @username for your Twitter account.
For example, a first-grade teacher named Mrs. Moore might list her Twitter handle/user name as @MrsMoore1. This name then shows above every Tweet Mrs. Moore sends, so followers know the source of each 140-character message.
How to Start the Conversation
So, how does an educator find relevant conversation topics? In a word: hashtags. If you read our previous post about Instagram, you’re already familiar with how hashtags work. Remember always to use the /#/ symbol whenever you begin a hashtag, and never insert spaces or punctuation. Also, hashtags’ character count contributes to the total count of your tweet.
The main way that Twitter differs from other social networks is in its openness. You can follow conversations and trends around the world simply by searching topical hashtags such as #education, #elementaryclassrooms, #CommonCore, or any other topic that interests you. If you like a certain Twitter user’s page, feel free to follow that user.
Twitter can enliven your classroom if you use it to communicate with other students around the world. You might collect questions from students and tweet something like “Our class wants to know what animals you see in New Zealand” or “Send us photos of the big snowstorm in your city.” Just remember to preface each tweet with the intended recipient’s Twitter handle.
You can also attach photos of your classroom, art project, or favorite books to inspire other teachers.
Keep in mind that Twitter users do follow certain social protocols, such as referring to original users when retweeting their post or thanking other users for following.
To learn more, reference Twitter’s beginner’s guide and/or ask an experienced Twitter user for help.
If in doubt about Twitter—or any other social media platform—consult your school’s digital citizenship policy or create an updated policy as fellow teachers and administrators. Once everyone agrees with the policy, put it into motion.
Our final blog post in this series will discuss Facebook. Stay tuned!