Twitter and Ed Tech go together like peanut butter and bananas – they are simply meant to be. But a lot of teachers seem to get lost as to what they’re doing with twitter, quickly becoming overwhelmed with the thousands of tweets that run through their stream – it’s simply too much to keep up with. The possibilities and reach of Twitter are endless, so today we’re going to simplify things to help you move forward without the overwhelm.
1) Create a Twitter Account
If you already have one – great. HOWEVER, I’m going to suggest that you consider creating a new account that is dedicated solely to your classroom. If you’re a single subject teacher it’s really easy. Simply make your account and keep the name relevant to you. Something like @EdnaKrabapplesClass should do fine. Multiple subject teachers might have a little more work to do, but I’ll still endorse the single account for now.
2) Share Your Handle
This twitter account is not for your socializing or to follow your favorite comedians, but rather it’s dedicated completely to your teaching. Let your students, their parents, your co-workers and your admin know that you’ve got an account. This will not only show your transparency, but it will also help keep you accountable should you neglect your account for too long. Be aware that not everybody uses Twitter. That’s fine – they can always go directly to the page. Mine is at http://www.twitter.com/EdTechPrincipal – you don’t need an account to see what I’m writing. Your students won’t either.
3) Don’t Stress the Numbers
Again, you aren’t creating this for a popularity contest. Depending on the size of your class, you may only have 10-20 people following you. Some of your students may not follow you at all because they don’t want you to see their accounts. As long as they have access to your account, you’re golden. In connection, you may want to set up guidelines with your students. Depending on your relationship you may want to decide that you will never follow your students on Twitter, or you may choose to follow them in a way that feels comfortable and safe for everyone. Everybody has a unique situation, so make sure you consider it carefully.
4) Get to Tweeting – Almost!
Before you run off let’s pull in those reins! It’s important to be purposeful with your tweets. What use do they serve? Are you using them to assign homework? Share interesting links? Give extra credit? All of the above? Remember, if your tweets aren’t purposeful, your students are going to have less incentive to check on them. Remember who’s looking, so what’s going to be more valuable? “TGIF – can’t wait to heat up that frozen pizza!” OR “I’ve got some free time today at 3 – anyone who needs help with their homework can come to my classroom.” Here’s a list of potential things to tweet about:
- Homework assignments (Great for parents to be able to check on!)
- Links to relevant content
- Reminders about classroom rules (Ever notice how things seem to slip for many students at the same time?)
- Praises for top performing students
- Extra credit questions
- Special announcements
- Hints and advice (“Having problems with question #4? – check out page 132)
- Etc. Etc. Etc.
Remember, you don’t have to be tweeting 24/7. Your goal here is not to be the most prolific tweeter or the most modern and hip teacher (though this won’t hurt) – your goal is to facilitate the learning process by any means possible.
5) Don’t forget the #Hashtags
For those who don’t know, a hashtag (also known as the “pound sign” on your phone) is a way that many online services help users distinguish and organize different topics. They look like this: # Hashtags may not be necessary for everyone, but I haven’t forgotten you multi-subject teachers! Those with small classes or who teach the same thing to multiple classes probably don’t need to complify* things with hashtags, but if you’re teaching Science, History & P.E. – well, you may need a way to distinguish which group of students you’re talking to. Make an agreement with your students as to what hashtags are connected to which class. May I suggest keeping it simple and obvious? Some examples might be:
“Here’s a link to the anatomy video we watched. I’d recommend watching it again. youtube.com/123 #Sci101”
“Extra credit to anyone who completes the questions on page 46! #Hist”
“Gentlemen! Deodorant is your friend! #PE”
[hr] We could and will go into a lot more on Twitter in the future, but for now the most important thing is to remember to practice discipline and use it here for the sake of your students and improving their learning. The rest of the stuff can come later!
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*You bet your butt I made that word up. It rules!