by TeachThought Staff
Success–however you define it–on any social media platform isn’t as out of reach as it might seem. There are indeed the titans of social media–“rock stars” (if you can stomach the term) that everyone knows and loves. But that doesn’t mean that you, as an educator, are destined for mediocrity.
You might just need to rethink you terms of engagement.
If you can be clear about your goals, and then are willing to summon your affection and creativity in pursuit, you’re likely to end up doing something good. The formula for success for teachers on twitter might be simple, then. Find a niche, and care a lot about it.
Twitter As A Simple Tool
Twitter is among the simplest of social media tools. Originally conceived as a “microblogging” platform that allowed for short messages to be distributed to followers 140 characters at a time, it has since been hijacked by users to do all sorts of things it wasn’t necessarily designed to do–or do naturally, anyway.
Conversations (via hashtags), curation (by favoriting), backchannel dialogue, and more have all emerged as powerful social tools for critical educators looking for an edge in their craft. Twitter is a compelling response to the question, “What’s the simplest way to connect, reflect, and improve as a modern teacher?”
So then, some tips for you as a modern teacher to help maybe see the platform–and your place in it–a bit more clearly.
10 Twitter Tips For The Modern Teacher
1. Define your goals
First, there is the vagueness of that idea–“success.” What does that mean for you? Followers? Impact? Conversations? Networking? Conversions? Challenges to your thinking? New ideas? It’s hard to know if what you’re doing is working, if you don’t know what working is.
It very well may be that you’re already using twitter perfectly if you only want your thinking challenged. If you want to push that, maybe you engage some of that thinking in twitter chats. It’s all about what you want out of it. Be honest and clear, and don’t be afraid to change along the way.
2. Find a niche
Once you’ve defined your goals, define a niche. Assessment. #edtech. Socioeconomic issues. Data. Higher ed. Elementary. Math. Common Core. Google. Mobile learning. Maker movement. iPads. Apps. Literacy. To infinity. Find a niche you care about, and dive in.
Obviously this can change, and you can step in, out, and around this issue all you’d like. But defining a niche–even if only in your own mind–can help you clarify your actions–your twitter purpose, if you will–and turn all that tweeting into something real.
3. Find a voice
As we discussed in What If Every Teacher Tweeted?, so much of success on twitter is about finding a niche and a voice. While the niche can be almost anything (see above), voice is a bit more personal. It’s a matter of expressing your personality in a way that others find value in. You can indeed simply “be yourself.” That will work for those teachers who have a natural charisma that others gravitate towards. But even for the rest of us, finding traction isn’t impossible.
You may just need to make a few adjustments–more or less open-minded; more or less contrarian; more or less snarky; less negative, more optimistic; more or less clinical; more or less focused on yourself; less focused on cliche issues (e.g., ed reform), and more interested in trends others care about.
It’s an edge we all walk in our daily lives as professionals. Twitter is no different.
4. Alter your tweeting “pattern”
Some users tweet dozens of times per day or more. Some just a few times per week. Find a pattern that implies that you value your twitter account, and communicates to your followers that they can expect some kind of content or thinking on a somewhat consistent basis.
That said, don’t overdo it. Spread the love. Don’t blow up your followers timeline every time you get upset or excited about something.
5. Engage with new voices
By @ messaging, retweeting, favoriting, and more, engage and interact. If nothing else, you’ll quickly learn how everything works, and the nuance of the way many use twitter. But further, extend yourself a bit beyond your comfort zone and reach out to others you typically don’t. Have a conversation. Compliment a tweet. Share a resource–but this time with someone new. They may not respond, and you may not “make friends.” That’s fine. Twitter is a busy place. Just keep doing your work.
6. Participate in “other” twitter chats
This can be considered of engagement. Twitter chats aren’t perfect; there are a lot of voices, and everyone is talking at once. But it’s a learning experience to have to “merge” onto that expressway of messaging–to match speeds, blend in, communicate, and so on. It’s also a good way to find others that care about issues that you do.
So when you do so, consider “other” twitter chats. The popular conversations around #edtech, #edchat, and others are fantastic, and aren’t doing anywhere. Push yourself by participating in others #whatisschool, for example, or even narrower topics–race, literacy, cultural self-criticism, and more.
7. Identify models that appeal to you
This is the part that’s a lot like stalking. Find a user, company, etc., that “does” twitter in a way you respect, and take cues from them. The way they use images, the timing of their tweets, their tone, linking, and more. Find successful models, and learn from them
8. Use complimentary apps
Also, what about other social platforms? What is the relationship between your instagram account, your blog, your twitter account, and your favorite facebook group? They each can be great apart, but can be transformative when used together. A tip: Don’t use any tool you’re not willing to take a close look at, and take the time to understand. There is enough mediocrity out there already.
9. Share new thinking
If you believe your chosen niche needs an injection of new thinking, either provide that new thinking, or find others that are already doing it, and share that.
And even think about the ratio of your “tweeted content”: messages vs resources vs images vs links vs RTs, and so on.
10. Consider twitter only as a means to an end
This may be the most important one on the list.
Being “good at twitter” is pretty silly. Being a twitter “rock star” is even worse. Figure out how twitter fits into your goals as a 21st century teacher, and use it accordingly. Don’t get caught up in hyperbole, drama, or other distractions. If it doesn’t help you design compelling learning experiences for students, it may be time to reevaluate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
Why are you on twitter? What are you hoping to get out of it? How will you know if you’re “doing it right?” And most importantly, what kind of voice–and within what niche–will help you create real change about an topic or issue that you care about? Without this kind of reflection, twitter can quickly become a giant, “me too” echo chamber of noise, self-importance, and digital indulgence.
10 Twitter Tips For Teachers