A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter

Twitter is apart of my life almost every day because:
–    It’s a great source of news.
–    There are rich conversations among educators and edtech people.
–    People post entertaining, interesting, and very useful links.
–    I enjoy the easy interaction with others from around the world.

Most people start off in a rocky relationship with Twitter.  It doesn’t seem to be as easy or as useful as everyone has said, it takes awhile before you find your niche, and there is an overwhelming amount of information to deal with.  But, just hang on – it’ll be worth it!!!  This is a guide to help teachers, or anyone for that matter, have a smoother and more enjoyable experience.  It is, by no means, the most comprehensive list of tips but hopefully it’ll be helpful.  If you need a little more convincing that Twitter is amazing, check out Mark Marshall‘s post “Twitter – What is it and Why Would I Use it?”

Getting Started

  • Your picture: you should definitely have some sort of picture – people seem to respond better to actual photos, but avatars, cartoons, or logos are fine, too.
  • Your bio: it is very helpful to include keywords here because often, when someone is deciding whether to follow you or not, this is where they’ll get their “first impression” of you.  And, Twitter Grader scans bios for keywords for their ‘search’ feature.
  • Your URL: this is important! People will want to know more about you than your bio and what you tweet.  Even if you don’t have a blog or website, you could post a link to your school’s website or another account you have, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Classroom2.0.

Managing your Life on Twitter

Finding People to Follow

This can be the biggest challenge at first.  Not anymore!  Here are some great ways to do it:

Not Getting Overwhelmed

You’ll hear people talking about the Twitter “stream”.  This is derived from a beautiful metaphor in which the tweets people send out can be considered drops of water in a stream.  You’re standing on the bank, enjoying the stream as it passes, but you can’t worry about enjoyoing every drop of water that’s there.  Don’t worry about the tweets you missed – I promise that there are always, currently, very interesting things to read.  But – it is nice to catch up sometimes by browsing old tweets on peoples’ profile pages.


You’re limited to 140 characters, but this seems to do the trick.  Here are a couple of links to help with your tweets:

  • TinyURL – if you want to tweet a link, but it’s very long, this will shorten it to 25 characters.
  • Bit.ly – this also shortens a link, and it allows you to specify part of the new URL.  If you sign up for an account, you can track how many clicks your shortened URLs get.
  • TwitterSymbols – fun symbols you can insert into your tweets.

Other Ins and Outs


If you start a tweet with @(username), this will automatically land in that person’s “@replies” folder.  You’ll notice that if you reply to something someone said, your message will automatically start with this “address”.  These tweets will show up in your friends’ tweet-streams only if they have chosen to see @replies – you can change the settings for this.


This stands for Direct Messages.  These are private messages that most people choose to use to introduce themselves or to bring an elongated “@reply conversation” over to a more appropriate venue.  You can DM someone from your DM folder or from the sidebar of their profile page, but only if they are following you.


This stands for ReTweet.  If you want to share what someone else tweeted, it is only polite to give them credit by including “RT @(username)” somewhere in your message.

“Following” Etiquette [more on this topic in the ‘comments’!]

Some people say that it is polite to follow anyone who follows you, others choose to follow very small, select groups.   I have found a happy balance by following *most* people, but having select groups of people that I really don’t want to miss out on in my Tweetdeck.   There are probably only two types of people that I avoid following:

•   Those who only write mundane, one line messages, like “This coffee is good”.  I want to be able to  have conversations with people.
•    Marketers – there are a ton of marketers on Twitter.   Be wary of someone who’s following 5,000 but only has 18 followers.  Sometimes they’re worth following because they are actually interesting, but do not feel obligated to follow them if they are not.  I find it’s best not to clog up my Tweet-stream with advertisements.

My Favorite Twitter-related Tools

*note: some of these require you to enter your Twitter username and password – I cannot guarantee their security, but I’ll say that I’ve used all of these and have never had any problems (yet…)

  • Searching Twitter: Tweetscan – & Twitter Search
  • What’s hot on Twitter: Twitscoop
  • Who’s hot on Twitter:  Retweetist
  • Cool Stats about your account: TweetStats & Twitter Counter
  • Who’s following you compared to who you’re following: Twitter Karma & Friend or Follow
  • Make a poll to tweet: TwtPoll
  • Tweetdeck –  This is a free download that gives you a separate window (your Tweetdeck) that has multiple columns to display tweets concurrently – with a live-feed, too!.  You can choose their content – personalized groups, an entire column just for your DM’s or @replies.  I like to keep it in the background of my computer-work all day.
  • Twistori – live-feed for tweets that include “love”, “hate”, “think”, “feel”, “believe”, or “wish” – the result could be called art.
  • TwitterMosaic – Create a mosaic with pics of all of your Twitter friends – put it on your blog, or a coffee mug, or a t-shirt.

Useful Links regarding Twitter

Christine Morris put Twitter to use in her class for some real-time research and shares the experience and great tips here.

Here is an extensive and helpful list of ‘100 Tips, Apps and Resources for Teachers on Twitter’.

Twitter for Academia

**21 (and counting) Interesting Ways to use Twitter in the Classroom**

Nine Reasons to Twitter in Schools

Twitdom –  a Twitter application database, with over 300 tools to play with!
TwitTip –  a blog bursting with Twitter tips
Twitter’s Blog – enough said

@butwait has a ‘Twitter for Newbies’ page here, with TONS of resources.

If you’d like to follow me, click here.

And, if you’d rather read this guide in Portuguese, see Rodrigo Vieira Ribeiro’s blog!

Happy Tweeting!


Filed under Apps, Education 3.0, Instruction, Technology, Web 2.0

68 responses to “A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter

  1. ElenaBen

    Impressive, great job.
    My 0.2 cents:
    Why not a table or sth like it for the Twitter-related tools part? It might be clearer.
    Sth like:
    Twitter clients: Tweetdeck, Twhirl, etc.
    Twitter polls: twtpoll
    Twitter meta analysis: friendorfollow, etc etc
    Twitter eye candy: http://www.twitbacks.com/


    Well done, again. I’m forwarding it to a friend of mine who’s a twitter newbie 😉

  2. Great job for those beginning. Agree with the first comment to separate the tools for another post to be less overwhelming and more clear. Your tools post can then get into things like tinyurl/bit.ly/tr.im/etc. AND also put in your recommendation for tools to get started and then jump to more advanced tools once they get the hang of it.

    Also, I like your comment on picture (and although the best option) I’d also put the disclaimer that it’s ok to put in a logo, avatar, etc. if they simply don’t want to put a picture. You can also link to faceyourmanga.com as a helpful tool… or save it for your tools section/post.

    This is a good jumping off point. The most important thing is to just go out there and try it. There’s not too much you can break and no one gets offended easily there… but use common sense.

    Great job!

  3. Hi,

    per your DM to me requesting feedback, I think that your post is well-written and concise.

    I would disagree with only one statement, that it is polite to follow back someone who follows you. While it’s true that it might be polite to follow someone who follows you, there is another factor to consider: real community.

    Specifically, I know someone who currently has about 19k followers. She follows only about 1200. And yet she still can’t actually read her Twitter stream.

    I have wrestled with this issue, and I have decided that I am just going to have to apologize to my followers and say that I can only read so much, so while I am really really grateful to everyone who follows me, I can only read so much in a given day.

    So I follow people whom I have a specific reason to follow. For example, if I know them IRL (in real life). Or if they are a thought leader in the Free Open Source Software community. Or if they are a member of the Digital Tipping Point community (I am the producer of the Digital Tipping Point movie and archive).

    I know that I have lost lots of people because I didn’t follow them back after then followed me, and I can fully understand and appreciate their logic. But I would rather had fewer people and actually interact with them, rather than follow lots of people and have a lower quality interaction with them, or perhaps no interaction at all. As a result, I am currently following 69 people, and even at that rate, I have to skim _lots_ of posts.

    Christian Einfeldt,
    Producer, The Digital Tipping Point

  4. Kate Klingensmith

    Thanks for all of your suggestions! Keep em’ coming!

    This guide is definitely just a starting point, a work-in-progress. I wanted to put *something* out there, to encourage more new people to try Twitter, and to help newcomers not give up out of frustration once they’re there. I’ll be putting together a more comprehensive collection of Twitter-related tools for another post.

    As for the issue of following those who follow you – I agree with you, Christian. I’m following around 700 right now, which means that I miss a huge number of tweets. But, I am enjoying the broad cross-section of people that I hear from. Every once in a while, I use Twitter Karma to cull my herd – I’ll browse who I’m following and revisit some people that I don’t “recognize” (meaning they haven’t been tweeting or what they say hasn’t been drawing my attention).

    This is a good time to mention how awesome Tweetdeck is, because you can create groups of specific people, and dedicate entire columns (entire tweet-streams) to them. I have two of these groups, with probably 15 people in each of them – this way I never miss their tweets!

  5. Tweetdeck rules.
    I agree with Christian, you don’t have to follow back (otherwise you’re not being free, remember the no-apology :)). It depends on many factors…but netiquette shouldn’t take over free will, I guess.

    I just wanted to add another site (for the eye candy section) to customize your twitter background: http://www.freetwitterdesigner.com/

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  7. stephen king

    I’ve only been on Twitter for a month and consider myself a newbie. I can see myself revisiting this blog as I want to know more! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Danny Silva

    This is great, I will send people here when they need to learn more about Twitter. I put a link on my website.

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  13. rodrigovr

    Very usefull.

    Now I understand about twitter to change my uses!

    Thank you for sharing.

    If you agree I’ll translate to portuguese and put this link on my blog to my students.


  14. Pingback: Um Guia para professores usarem o Twitter « A coisa é pessoal…

  15. Cyndi

    Great advice, smiles, cyndi

  16. Thanks for the info, I have been hearing so much about Twitter but was still on the fence about it. I may decide to give it a try.

  17. Thanks for your collection. I’ve been on Twitter for about 3 months trying to become acculturated and aware of how to use the tools.

    This weekend I felt ready to launch my first Twitter experience – “How to Stay Home and Use Twitter Tools to Network a Major Conference.”
    I figured out how to network at the ASCD 09 conference remotely with Twitter tools and a live Word Cloud.
    See how it’s working and how to: http://tinyurl.com/d9qgqg
    I’ve made great contacts and expanded my PLN. Also figured out a few things I’d do differently (For awhile, I think I lapsed into spamming, oops!)

    Anyway, so much to learn about social networking!


    Peter Pappas

  18. rodrigovr


    I’m so glad with your visit and comment on my blog!

    Thank you again!

  19. Kate Klingensmith

    I’m so happy to hear that people are finding this useful. Thanks for all of your comments!

    @Cyndi 🙂

    @Rodgrigo – you rock! Thanks for translating this into Portuguese!

    @Peter – great use of Twitter! TONS of conference tweets and links! I’m checking out your ASCD cloud right now – very cool.

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  29. I decided to scrap my blog post about Twitter because you said everything I was going to say! Great job covering all of the bases. The one point I do not agree with you on is that it is polite to follow everyone back. To an extent Twitter is a very selfish tool. I only follow people that truly interest me. I don’t have a problem unfollowing people who I find offending or dare I say……….uninteresting. I certainly do not expect everyone I follow to return the favor. It is nice to follow someone back, but it is certainly not necessary. If someone feels like they have to follow everyone then setting up groups in Tweetdeck is the way to go.

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  36. Great to see teachers making use of Twitter instead of just businesses and spammers. Excellent post!

  37. Good starting point.

    The web designer in me, though, needs to give some *constructive* advice: your headings/sub-headings are blue and underlined, which is the standard convention for hyperlinks. So, all of your headings look like links, but actually aren’t. It’s best to never underline any text in a web document. If you want emphasis, use the tag instead.

  38. As a top Twitter business user, I was sent an advance copy of the Tweet Adder System for my review. This is by far the best Networking Tool I have used for Twitter!

  39. Nik

    Great page, absolutely superb – thanks. What do you think about the risks of teachers using Twitter? And blogs for that matter?

    Professional use only, or is it OK to have a personal Twitter account out there?

    Be really interested to hear your thoughts as have just qualified as a teacher, am new to Twitter (@nikkeefe) and am just about to start a mixed-use blog at http://www.nikkeefe.co.uk.

    Should I *also* be keeping a blog/Twitter page for school purposes as well as my own stuff?

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  46. That blog is really very good. i like the views that you shared, thanks.

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  48. Thanks for the info, I was thinking about making a Twitter account so I’ll keep all of this in mind when I do

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