Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Don't Use Twitter with Your Students

Maybe you’d like to say to me, “Jennifer, how can you say not to use twitter with our students? You are a huge fan of twitter and you promote it in your school.”

This is how I would respond,

“I am a huge twitter fan, and if you already use it with your students, GREAT!  
I want you to be selfish this one time.”

You see, as teachers, when we learn about a new technology, we usually ask, “How can I use this in my classroom? How can this help my students?” Those are good questions, and they are important ones. But I want to propose to you to use twitter FOR YOU.

Twitter is a fantastic way to increase your knowledge about classroom management ideas, current research, instructional strategies, motivational strategies, and more. When we use twitter to increase our knowledge about students and teaching, WE grow. We’re accustomed to putting kids first, and some would even argue that we’re wired that way. If it makes you uncomfortable to focus on yourself, then think of it this way -- When you learn and grow as an educator, your students reap the benefits.

So how do you go about using twitter for you? Here are 3 ways:

Join twitter chats
Twitter chats give a tweeters a purposeful time to be on twitter. A twitter chat usually lasts an hour, and the hosts will post question and the participants respond. Comments and side conversations usually develop to deepen understanding of an idea.

Follow twitter users who share links to content
Some users tweet links to articles, blog posts, and other information related to specific topics. Others have found the information, and they’re sharing it with you. Take advantage of it! Here are three suggestions: Follow me for information on leadership, education, and technology. Follow Joe Mazza, (@joe_mazza, host of the popular Parent-Teacher Chat, #PTchat) for information on how to connect school and home. Jon Mertz (@thindifference) tweets about developing leadership in Millennials.

Follow a hashtag
When you know the topic you want to learn more about, you can use a twitter hashtag to find all the tweets that are related to the topic. For instance, #scichat and #mathchat hashtags are for science and math educators and all things science and math, respectively. (For an extensive list of educational twitter hashtags, visit cybraryman’s site: While you can't "follow" a hashtag and have it populate your twitter feed, you can use a twitter tool like tweetdeck or hootsuite to create a column on the dashboard for a specific hashtag.

Feel free to email or tweet me with any questions you may have about Twitter.


  1. Really wish I had a leader in my local community saying these same things! Great job Jennifer.

    I think you commented on this topic once during a GHO, but I'll ask again. What terrifies many educators in my local area is this: "I don't want students following me." or "I don't want students trying to communicate with me through Twitter." or "What if you see something on Twitter like a tweet of a student doing something illegal or at a party with alcohol or..."
    My personal response to the first concern is non-twitter users just don't understand how Twitter works. I can't think of a reason why you'd want to moderate who is following you. In fact, in a professional sense, it's quite an opportunity to model effective digital citizenship and the value of a PLN.
    Second: My county's "acceptable use policy" for technology states "you are discouraged from engaging in non-professional communication with parents or students via social media." Key word being "non-professional", right? Not to mention, I think if an educator told students they won't respond or communicate with them through social media, I think students would leave them alone. I could be wrong though. The thought that educators are bombarded with comments/tweets/communication from students on social media has never been any experience I've shared.
    Third: If I saw something on Twitter that lead me to believe someone was in danger or doing something illegal, I would report it through the proper channels. I think most of the concern is that many non-twitter users feel they have a measure of responsibility if they follow students (through personal account or class account) and perhaps they would feel "guilty" if something happened and they didn't say/do anything about it.

    What say you?

    Derek Oldfield

    1. Derek thanks for your comments. In our district, we used to have a policy that prohibited/discouraged educators from having a conversation with students via social media. We could tweet them, but we weren't supposed to respond or converse. Times have changed (thank goodness!) and what I've learned is that the technology really highlights what's already there. It's not the device, it's the person.
      I agree with your thoughts in #1 and #2 above. As for #3, I believe that we DO have a responsibility to protect our students, sometimes from themselves. Again, tech highlights what's there, so if a teacher doesn't want to to see or report something from social media, it's most likely the same teacher who pretends not to hear the conversation between students in the classroom.


  2. You're right on with this, Jennifer. This is exactly why I have two separate Twitter accounts, one for my personal use (@Tim_Dawks) and one to connect with the greater school community/tell our school's story (@MrDawkinsSGF). I do believe that Twitter can be a powerful tool of connection (as I know you do, too), but having two different accounts helps me to continue growing professionally on my own time without feeling like I'm in a dual role after hours. Of course I've never been concerned about a student or community member finding my personal Twitter account. It just feels like a different space for me to engage in conversations.

    Also, I love how you characterize the thought process that goes on in an educator's head when they discover an new piece of technology. That has certainly been the case among my colleagues in the past.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Tim. I know several people who have separate accounts, but I personally don't think I could keep up with both. If it works for you, kudos! it truly is one of hte most powerful connectors for educators out there.

  3. I started a class Twitter page a few years back and never really got into using it as a tech tool in the classroom. It didn't feel like I thought it should. That same year, I started using Edmodo with my class. That felt like a better sharing/learning platform, at the time, for the 3rd graders I was tasks to teach that year.

    Now, even in the 5th grade, I still think there are better investments of student's time than tweeting out info to the Twitterverse. As far as professional development goes, If you are trying to do-it-yourself, I can't think of a better resource for teachers right now.

    I don't mind if students (or anybody else for that matter) follows me on Twitter (@ellication) and I've even started my own chat (#calmEDchat) in an attempt to connect, learn and grow with anybody else out there...including students.

    1. Thank you, Al, for your input. It confirms the blog post - use it to grow professionally and connect with others. I will have to try your #calmEDchat! Thanks for sharing.

  4. @EdCampELA students were on a panel. Teachers asked the questions. Here are students' thoughts on Twitter in the classroom:

    1. They don't mind teachers posting reminders about class assignments on twitter, but they don't want to use their personal twitter feed for class discussions. They like keeping school and personal life separate.
    2. The students said some teachers hear about a new tech tool and are excited to implement it. Students said no tech options like open discussion or online closed class discussion board is better than Twitter.
    3. Students like Twitter for shout outs about great things happening at school.

    I was so impressed to hear high schoolers talking about best teaching practices.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Heidi! I think it is a great reflection of our school culture and how ingrained twitter is in the life of our school. The next step is to allow students to tweet from the school account. Coming very soon!