Using Social Media to Grow and Develop
Using Twitter to Supercharge Your Professional Development
by Howard Pitler, Ed.D.
Something I recommend in my work with schools and districts is to leverage social media to their advantage as a professional development tool. When I ask a group of educators how many are using Twitter, either personally or professionally, I am frequently saddened by the lack of hands I see raised. Many teachers think of Twitter as a waste of time – something with no value in the education realm. After all, how much content can you receive in 280 characters. Just the opposite is true.
Twitter might be the strongest professional development tool available – and it’s free!
The secret to getting the most out of Twitter as an educator lies in knowing how to use hashtags (#) – those things we used to call the number signs last century. I would recommend educators new to Twitter do a few things to begin getting the most out of this great resource.
- First, if you don’t already have one, get a Twitter account. It’s fast, easy, and free. Go to Twitter, click on login on the top right, and then click “New User.” Fill out just a little information, and you now have a Twitter account. Be sure to complete your profile and include in that profile that you are an educator. This becomes very important when you begin building your professional learning network (PLN).
- Once you have an account, look for the search window on the top right next to your name. In the “Search Twitter” window, type #edchat and then click return. Edchat is one of the oldest and largest education-focused chats on Take a few minutes to browse the archives. Read the rich discussions that happen every week on this chat. You can also browse the archives by going to Edchat. Every weekly Edchat conversation is archived there. Look at the listing by date and then click to read. Some of the top names in professional development are regulars on Edchat.
- While Edchat is it one of the largest and oldest chats on Twitter, there are scores of focused chats that might appeal to you even more. Find a chat that most appeals to you by going to Twitter Education Chats. This Google calendar lists all of the major education focused chats by interest area and lets you know when they occur.
- Some are geographically focused like #MOEdchat for Missouri educators or #Africaed for African educators. Others are content focused. #ELAChat focusing on English and Language Arts and #Precalcchat discussing Pre-Calculus issues are just two examples. There are also job-alike sessions like #ElemMathChat, #SpecEdChat, and #SuptChat. At first, you probably will join a chat and just watch the conversations. This is called lurking and is a perfectly acceptable way to get started in live chatting. At some point though, you will have a question or feel compelled to reply to a comment. Just compose a tweet and be sure to add the hashtag of that particular chat at the end of your tweet, so it appears in the flow of conversation. That’s it!
- The final step in getting the most out of Twitter is to follow smart people. When you follow someone, you will see his or her tweets when you log onto Most people will follow you back. The more people you follow, the wider and more powerful your PLN becomes. Unlike Facebook where friending someone you really don’t know in person is frowned upon and just a bit creepy, following other educators on Twitter is widely accepted and considered smart. Start by following me (@hpitler) and I promise to follow you back IF you have mentioned in your profile that you are in education.
Once you get involved in Twitter as a way to grow professionally, the possibilities are almost limitless. Gather research for an article or blog post by posting questions to your PLN. Receive constructive criticism on a lesson plan, presentation, or idea from other educators. Share tips and get advice on things like parent/teacher conferences and open houses. Collaborate with others to solve a specific issue at your school. Once you get started, you just might become an evangelist. I know I did.