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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.

Tweeting

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

@replies

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.

DM

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.

RT

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!

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