My first ever blog post was Twitter: PD at your fingertips. I wrote about my love of Twitter, and how I use it to connect with other educators and share ideas. As I said, I believe that more and more educators will be joining Twitter over the next few years because it’s such a fantastic resource.
However, the feedback I hear from others is that it’s confusing. I totally understand! It is strange and different to other social media platforms. However, these differences make it perfect for educators. Unfortunately, people give up on it before they have had chance to get used to it. I have therefore created this guide to its functions and even a baby steps guide for getting started.
Twitter handles and mentions: Your Twitter handle is your username on Twitter (starting with @). E.g. @AhillAdam. Other users can mention you in their tweets if they include your Twitter handle. In the example above, I have mentioned Google Maps. They will have received a notification about this. You can include Twitter handles of people even if you do not follow each other.
Follow: There are no friendships or requests on Twitter. Simply click ‘Follow’. Their tweets will now show in your feed. These users may choose to follow you in return, but they don’t have to.
Feed: This is your homepage where your tweets, and the tweets of those you follow, appear. Flick through your feed whenever you have a few minutes. If you follow the right people, you’ll constantly find ideas and resources that interest you.
Tweet: A message that you share with your followers. These are limited to 140 characters. You can share media as part of tweets, but they also take up some of your character allowance.
Hashtags: Add hashtags (#) to your tweets, almost like labels. Tweets from around the world with the same hashtags will be grouped together. For example, search #assessment to see all of the tweets that have included this hashtag. Using a hashtag also allows you to reach a wider audience than just your followers.
Retweet: This means that you share someone else’s tweet with your followers. You can just retweet, or you can ‘quote tweet’ to say something about it.
Replies: You can reply to someone else’s tweet. It’s just like leaving a comment.
Likes: You can like a tweet by clicking the heart icon. Liking tweets shows your appreciation to the Twitter user, but it will also be added to the ‘Likes’ list on your profile. Liking tweets is useful if you want to refer back to them later.
Direct messages: Unlike tweets, direct messages (DMs) are private between the sender and the recipient. These are not limited to 140 characters (they were in the past). However, you can only send DMs to users who follow you.
Twitter chats: Twitter chats are organised and facilitated by a designated person. This person will tweet questions, along with a hashtag (E.g. #pypchat). Participants can answer the questions with their own tweets. Because everybody uses the same hashtag, it creates an online discussion forum. If you see tweets starting with Q1, Q2, A1, A2, etc., it’s most likely a Twitter chat. Chats are absolutely fantastic for learning with other professionals.
Like I said, it’s common to give up too quickly. The above jargon tends to scare easily. Here’s my seven-day challenge to get you up and running. Twitter might not be for everyone, but find out for yourself with these baby steps:
Create your account and Twitter handle. Add a photograph and write a short biography. These things are so important! Users won’t be interested in you if they don’t know who you are or what you’re about.
Find other educators who inspire you with their tweets and click ‘Follow’. Their tweets will now appear in your feed. It’s difficult to suggest people for you to follow. We all have unique interests and specialisms. Just start by following colleagues who are on Twitter and look through their ‘following’ lists for new people. Please note: Many new users are confused to see other people’s tweets in their feeds (people who they do not follow). They are most likely there because followed users have retweeted them.
Look through your feed and find tweets that interest you. Like them by clicking the heart icon or retweet them (or both). Remember, liking tweets will keep them in your ‘likes’ list and retweeting them will share them with your followers (if you have any at this point – don’t worry if you don’t).
Find a web page that you want to share with your followers (feel free to use one from this blog). Look for an icon that allows you to share the page on Twitter (usually at the top or bottom of a page). Click it to prepare the tweet. Add some text and a relevant hashtag. You first tweet – well done!
Search for a hashtag of your choice. Look through the tweets and use them to find new educators to connect with. Follow, like, retweet or reply at your own leisure.
Share something of your own by composing a tweet. It could be a photo, reflection, something that went well in class, anything! Add a relevant hashtag. Also, continue to look through your feed at the tweets from others.
It’s day seven! You made it. Just keep using it at your own convenience. Keep sharing, connecting, retweeting, liking, etc. Also, keep an eye out for upcoming Twitter chats!
I hope that this guide is useful to you. I can’t wait to hear about your adventures in the Twitterverse and I look forward to following you! Give it a chance, and you’ll learn to love it. Any questions, just ask.