Thursday, October 14, 2010

The 9 Step Plan to Combating illTWITTERacy

The illTwitteracy epidemic that has afflicted many educators can be eradicated with a simple 9-step plan that will have those who follow it all aTwitter with plenty of ideas for harnessing the power of the Tweet. Following this plan will enable Tweeps (Twitter using peeps) to not only learn how to Tweet from their phone or computer, but they’ll also discover why they’d even want to by looking at real examples of education Tweeple (Twitter people) who use Twitter to enrich teaching and learning. Upon completion of the plan Tweeps will be on the road to achieving the basic Twitteracy necessary for success in the Twittersphere.

Step 1 – Understanding
You can’t use Twitter effectively unless you understand how it can enrich teaching and learning. Twitter is a great tool for classes or schools to use to share interesting and relevant information with the student body, staff, parents and family. No software to download and even with just one teacher cell phone per class, contributions can be made and modeled anywhere, anytime. Twitter also provides a terrific way for teachers to get an unlimited stream of feedback from students over a period of time on any subject.

Step 2 – See Real Examples of Tweeting Teachers and Leaders
Understanding is one thing but unless you see real examples it’s hard to really understand the value of this powerful teaching and learning tool.
1) Tweet Shout Outs to Students and Teachers
At the Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School Mr. Brown tweets frequently. During the school year his Tweets often consist of shout outs to his students and staff. He has his Tweets embedded directly on his web page which has the added benefit of making the home-school connection. Students and families are always in the know of what is being celebrated and focused on in the school.
Visit: Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School
2) Tweet What is Happening in Your Library or in Your Classroom
Do what library media specialist Tracy Karas does. Create a page for your library, lab or classroom and Tweet your latest updates out to your students/visitors/school community. Tweet what's new, what's hot, what's not.
Visit: Marta Valle High School Library Media Center
3) Tweet at Conferences
Since I started Tweeting I have gained so much more from conferences! They have moved from a isolated (despite many people) experience, to an interactive, dynamic experience. Conference session become a conversation. Just find out the conference tag i.e. ISTE, BLC10, Educon, and send your tweet. See who else is responding to you or tag. In Twitter look at your @(and your name) tweets and look in search for the Twitter tag. You're on your way to processing knowledge and having a conversation!
Visit: ISTE Tweets or 140conf Tweets
4) Tweet During Professional Development
I love incorporating Twitter into my professional development for teachers. To do this I share the Twitter tag with participants and ask them to Tweet before, during or after our time together depending on the task at hand. I provide the tag for Tweeting to give my students a place and way to share their thoughts and ideas. This serves as a great way I have specific times I check out the Tweets (i.e. work time) and when I bring participants back together we build on those Tweets.
Visit: This session on using Twitter.
5) Give School Updates
Schools can set up a Twitter account and provide all the staff with the Twitter username/password. This makes every staff member on the beat reporters able to quickly share school news with the school community and the world. Teachers can Tweet themselves or assign a daily Tweeter in their class responsible for sharing the Tweet.
Visit: or

Step 3 – See Real Examples for Tweeting Learners
1) Tweeting Reporter
At Marta Valle High School they held an innovation fair celebrating the successes of the innovative work teachers are doing with their students. Some students were selected as fair reporters. These students interviewed attendees with the question, "Please tell me in 140 characters or less what has impressed you most about what you've seen at our innovation fair." Students tweeted the responses using their school tag. The Twitter feed could be seen on monitors throughout the school using, and on their school website using an rss feed. This provided a unique way to capture their school celebration publicly and provided recognition of the work students were doing in an exciting way which they could share with their parents.
2) Tweeting on Field Trips
Tweet to capture reflections during field trips. If you're in a school where cells are banned, you may be able to have students bring them on field trips. If that is not allowed, the chaperon's devices can be used. Rather than have students walk around taking notes. Have them Tweet their reflections. You can set up a tag for your tweets if the place you are visiting doesn't already have one. Give parents the feed and they'll instantly know what their child did at school today and can have robust conversations about it. When students are back at home and/or school a review of the tweets could lead to powerful conversation or could serve as a launch for further study i.e. pick the most interesting tweet or set of tweets and create something to share with others about the topic you are tweeting about. This could be a podcast, video, blog post, etc. These digital creations can all be posted in one place as a reflection collection and even shared on the website of the school and place visited.
3) Tweet to Grow the Home/School Connection
Have students do a daily or weekly tweet about something that day. In his post “What Did You Create Today?” ( 08/22/09), Will Richardson shares some great possibilities that could be used in a daily tweet: What did you teach others? What unanswered questions are you struggling with? How did you change the world in some small (or big) way? What’s something your teachers learned today? What did you share with the world? Not only is this a great way for teachers to have a sense of what is going on with their students, it also provides students with a way to connect with each other and their parents.
4) Respond to Class Lectures
Use Twitter as a tool to capture student voice by having them respond to class lectures using Twitter. Texas educator Dr. Rankin had a tremendous amount of success with this noting how much more engaged students were during lessons, how they were able to make meaning in new ways, and her students note how this has really helped more students develop and share ideas. Hear from the teachers and students directly at
5) Connect with Experts
Instantly connect with experts and bring them into your classroom. I did this when I was looking for educational leaders and teachers who use social networks. I tweeted to find them and then skyped them in to my class when I was speaking with educators who were interested in using social networks with their students. Teachers or students can use Twitter to identify experts to invite to your classroom in every unit of study.

Step 4 – Join
If you’re convinced, it’s time to get on board and become a part of the Twitosphere. When you do, it’s important to put up your bio, ideally with a photo, and a url linking to your website, blog, or Facebook page. This way people will be able to trust you are a real person and not just a Twitter robot.

Here's How to Get Started:
  • There are three steps to follow to get started. 1) set up a twitter account 2) enable texting updates from your phone 3) select your tag.
  • To use twitter from your phone go to and set up an account.
  • Note: Teachers may want to set up a personal account as well as an account for their class where they can Tweet from.
  • Principals may want to set up a school account and give teachers access to send in Tweets.
  • You can Tweet from your phone by entering your number at and entering Twitter into your phone with this number: 40404. Don't worry that it is only 5 digits. Just send a text to it and it will show up in your Twitterfeed.
  • Next you'll need to to select a short tag (an approximately 6 letters or less searchable word or acronym) and then have your audience’s tweets include that tag. For context one of the more famous tags that made Twitter popular was IranElection. Schools can use an acronym. For example, Barack Obama High School might be BOHS. In New York City schools all have a district, borough, location (DBN) identifier i.e. 06M001. The DBN is a unique tag that could also be used.
  • Users can contribute by simply sms texting on their phone and ensuring the text includes the tag.
  • You can capture the tag-specific Tweets in any number of forms. The easiest is to do a simple Twitter search for the tag by typing it into the search box on the right side of the page.
  • For more information watch the "Twitter in Plain English" video tutorial at
  • You are now set up to start tweeting your way into the microblogging community.
Step 5 – Follow People
It’s no fun being all alone in the Twittosphere. You need to find people to follow who will make up your Twittosverse. One of the wonderful things about Twitter is the way it brings people from all over the world together to share ideas, collaborate and work to make education better. Here is how you can begin following people. Select "Find People" and type in the actual name or Twitter username if you know it. Then click on the icon that looks like a circular crank and select "follow."

Here are two easy ways to find people to follow.
1. See who other educators you admire follow. You can start with me @Innovativeedu. You can read about some of my favorite educators to follow in these two articles 1) Follow the Leader Who’s a Tweeter 2) Bravo to The Lady Leaders Who Are Bloggers and Tweeters!
2. See who is using a tag you are interested in and follow the people whose Tweets you like. Here is a wonderful list of education tags from @cybraryman and another list of Twitter Hash Tags for Educators from 6th grade literacy teacher Bill Ferriter.

Step 6 – Lurk
Take a look at what the people you follow are Tweeting about. Look at the links they share. See how they reply to one another and tag one another using “@” and the username to bring them into the conversation.

Step 7 – Reply / Retweet
Once you’ve found some people to follow and lurked your way around reply to a Tweet you find of interest or retweet something you think would be of interest to your followers. Retweeting btw is a high compliment in the Twittospere and often results in having people you follow, follow you back.

Step 8 – Initiate a Tweet
After completing steps 1 - 7 you are ready to take your first step in initiating a Tweet. But, what to Tweet? Let’s be honest. No one cares that you are sipping coffee or on your way to work. That’s what gives social media like Twitter a bad rap. Don’t fall into the trap. Instead, take the advice of my friend The Brazen Careerist who explains that Twitter is basically a writing platform and asks, “Why are people so uninteresting?” She advises that when Tweeting it is important to be interesting. Sending more Tweets that are not interesting is not as effective as a fewer tweets that are interesting. This post has 15 ideas about which you might decide to Tweet.

Step 9 – Join the Conversation
When using Twitter it’s important to remember that It's All About the Conversation. Twitter provides a beautiful platform for such conversations to take place. No long lectures. No one hogging the floor. Everyone converses in nice, digestible 140 character chunks. The result, intelligent dialogue among those interested in what one another is saying. One of the best ways to engage in such conversations as you are developing your following is to join an existing conversation. My favorite is “Ed Chat,” or as we call it in the Twittosphere, #edchat. It is a terrific way for educators to join the education conversation on an ongoing basis. It enables educators all over the world to participate in online discussions that take the form of a fast-paced chat room on Twitter about important educational topics such as, “How can we teach our students about their digital footprint and maintain a positive one ourselves? You can read more about #edchat in this article Keep the Education Conversation Going on Twitter with #EdChat.

There you have it. The 9 step plan to combating illTwitteracy. There’s a whole Twittosverse out there just waiting for you to join us. Happy Tweeting!

If you’re interested in helping others become Twitterate, visit this professional development session that takes participants through each of the 9 steps.

Related reading:
Twitter for Teachers -Resources for teachers who are new to twitter.

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