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Connect with your Discovery Education Community on Twitter

Twitter isn’t just full of celebrities tweeting photographs of their lunch. It can be a very useful networking tool for teachers, and those interested in education. Many teachers swear by it as one of the best sources of new ideas and tips out there, and even better, it’s free!

Twitter can be overwhelming at first – there’s a lot to take in, and it can take time to build up a decent sized network, but once you follow enough people then you begin to see the benefits.

This guide should help you get started on Twitter, and offer some tips on things that you can do to make your Twitter experience much more useful.


Getting started

To get started on Twitter, the best place to start is on the Twitter website. Just fire up your internet browser and head to www.twitter.com. Here you can sign up for a username (also known as your Twitter handle) and away you go!

You can also get Twitter apps for your phone or tablet. The official Twitter apps can be downloaded for free from your Apple, Google or Windows app stores.  

There are several different ways to view Twitter, the default page shows your Twitter stream which is made up of all the tweets from the people your follow. You can also click on Mentions (within Notifications), which shows any tweets that mention you directly by using your username. The Messages button lets you send and receive direct messages that are private to you and the person you send them to.

How to Tweet

To type a tweet, all you need to do is to type your message into the What’s happening? box and press send. Twitter limits you to 140 characters, so you can’t write a long message, and sometimes you’ll have to commit a few crimes of spelling and punctuation to make your message fit!

Once sent, your message will be seen by anyone who follows you. It will also be visible to anyone on your profile page. You can protect your tweets to hide them from general view.

If you want to mention another Twitter user in your tweets, it will appear in their mentions column. In order to mention another Twitter user you should use their full username, including the @ symbol. So to tweet to Discovery Education, use @DiscoveryEdUk. You can also use the reply button below a tweet that automatically adds this in any reply - replying directly to a Tweet usually means you are commenting on that specific Tweet.

Liking Tweets

If you see a tweet you like, and you would like to save it you can click the heart icon underneath the tweet to “Like” it. Your Likes page (link to: https://twitter.com/i/likes) will show all the tweets that you have liked. Many people use this to bookmark tweets with useful links that they want to remember later.

Your Twitter account

There are two things you need to consider when you’re setting up a Twitter account.

  1. Protected or not?

    This is a decision you’ll have to make for yourself. It is possible to protect your tweets so that only people to whom you give permission can follow you and see what you say. You don’t have to do this, but some teachers might prefer to keep their tweets away from the general Twitter stream. At least be aware that the option is there should you need it.

  2. Anonymous or not?

    Linked to whether to protect your tweets is how much you identify yourself on Twitter. Some teachers like to anonymise themselves, and use a fake name or handle to hide their true identity. They make sure their tweets do not identify their location or their school.

Some teachers run two separate Twitter accounts. One protected account that they use for their personal tweets and to connect with friends, and one that’s open and only used for education-related tweets. 

Top tips for Twitter

  1. Follow follow follow

    Twitter is all about following people. The more people you follow the more tweets will appear in your timeline. There is a critical mass to Twitter. Early users often give up as the few users they follow may not yield many interesting or useful tweets. You need to start following lots of people (50+) to start getting useful communication.

    Once you follow a few people – look at their Twitter pages and see who they talk to, or who they follow. If they sound interesting, follow them too. Gradually build up a network of Twitter users who interest you.

    Also – take a look at Twitter’s Who to Follow page which will suggest other followers based on who you follow.  Very handy.

    Hopefully, the people you follow will then also follow you back. Which brings us to:

  2. Add a bio to your profile

    Many Twitter users, when they get a new follower, will check their profile account to see if they are worth following back, or whether they are an automated spam bot. The first thing to check is their “bio” – the short piece of information that you add to your profile. Putting teacher in your bio lets other teachers know that you share a common interest. They will be more likely to follow you back. If there is no information here, then they may be cautious, and most likely will not follow unless your tweets look interesting.

    It’s important to put something here – even if it’s just that you’re a teacher interested in Twitter. You don’t have to give your life story, or identify your school. Many teachers like to keep a bit of anonymity on Twitter, others share a lot.

  3. Keep an eye on hashtags

    You’ve probably seen hashtags mentioned at the end of TV programmes or in magazine articles. These are short codes used to help keep information on similar topics organised on Twitter . You can add a hashtag to any tweet just by using the # symbol followed by a word or acronym. Hashtags are often used during Teachmeets or other conferences to allow everyone attending that event to discuss it, even if they are not following many of the people at that event.

    Use the search box to see tweets using a particular hashtag.

    Here are some good hashtags for teachers to follow:

    If you want to take part in the regular discussions like #ukedchat then just add that hashtag to your comment and everyone following that tag will see it. If you see people using that tag that interest you, follow them! It’s a good way of meeting other educators.

    Some of these hashtags also run special organised chats once or twice a week on a particular topic. For example #ukedchat runs every Thursday at 8pm. Just monitor the hashtag to see what people are talking about, and jump in if you have something to say.

  4. Use a Twitter client

    The Twitter site is OK, but it’s not brilliant. Especially if you want to monitor several different things at the same time – such as several hashtags, plus keeping an eye on who’s talking to you.

    There are different sites and apps that can use to enhance your Twitter experience, but a good free one is Tweetdeck. You can set up multiple columns that look for different things. For example you could set it up to show your regular timeline, any mentions of your username, a column for friends/family tweets who might get lost in the general stuff, and then columns for any hashtags you are interested in such as #SpotlightOnStrategies or #UKDENchat.

    It makes following Twitter a lot easier.

    As mentioned earlier, get Twitter on your phone too!

  5. Don’t be afraid to lurk

    There’s nothing wrong with just lurking: not saying much but following the stream of tweets from others. It will give you a good idea of the way that Twitter works. But you will get more out of Twitter if you start sharing.

  6. Don’t just broadcast – interact!

    Do try and engage with other users out there. Twitter is about communication. There are many users out there who just tweet links or news about their organisation without any kind of discussion with their followers. While this is not a bad thing, it’s a bit of a dull way to use Twitter and you might not get so much from it.

    Share your experiences, share good websites you’ve found. If you have a tip or piece of advice – share it. You’ll get more follow backs. Join in when you feel ready!

    If you’re referring to someone or want to include them in a conversation, remember to use an @ sign in front of other people’s usernames so they can see your Tweet. Avoid starting a Tweet with a username, as this would imply it’s intended for that user only.

  7. Get an avatar (a digital image to represent yourself)

    The default Twitter avatar is an egg. It’s not very exciting. Change this to a photo of yourself – or, if you don’t want a real photo of yourself up there, something more fun. Here are some ideas for making avatars for online sites.

  8. Beware of spammers

    Do be aware that there are a lot of automated accounts out there who will follow or tweet at you, who may not always be benign. If you receive links in messages that you do not trust – don’t click on them. Some can direct you to dodgy websites that may compromise your Twitter account. You can also block and report other users for spam if you find their behaviour worrying.

  9. Give credit where it’s due

    Don’t “steal” people’s links by passing them off as your own. If you see someone tweeting something good, either retweet them or put the link in your own tweet and add (via @theirusername) to the end – give them credit, they’ll like you for it!

  10. Follow back and build a network!

    Twitter will alert you when you get a new follower. Take a second to check out their profile, and if they sound interesting (and not a spammer) then follow them back. Over time your network will grow.

    A lot of people call their Twitter friends their Personal Learning Network (PLN) and it’s hard to argue with this. If you follow the right people, then your Twitter stream can become an excellent source of CPD.

    Twitter doesn’t wait for you, so it is not possible to keep up with all the messages flying past. But treat Twitter as something you can dip in and out of, you’ll usually find a couple of excellent nuggets of wisdom, or links to new websites/articles out there that you haven’t seen before.

    There are tens of thousands of teachers on Twitter already – get on board and join them!