To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Using Twitter to build my PLN


I’m not sure I’m a Twitter convert yet.

Oh sure, I’ve heard it from a zillion reputable education sources that Twitter is the best thing that you can do to transform your teaching and learning, but I’m not there yet.

I started a Twitter account at a Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century PD. I had heard “Twitter is the best thing you’ll ever do for your teaching” one too many times and created an account on the spot, ready to see what all the fuss was about.

My first thought was “This is ugly”. Twitterheads will probably get all #mad and tell me #youarewrong, but if you really take a step back from the familiar interface, your Twitter feed looks ugly. It’s full of links, hashtags, too much punctuation, and too few correctly spelled words, all in the name of getting as much as possible out of 140 characters.

Once I got over this initial revulsion, I looked into what I could do to build my Personalised Learning Network. In a stroke of brilliance that was sure to expand my PLN from zero to hero, I tweeted my first tweet:

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 9.44.08 pm

As you can see, I got a grand total of zero replies, and an anticlimactic one favourite. This was disappointing but I didn’t give up.

Since then, I have been slogging away, learning about Twitter by pestering my most Twittersome colleague and just googling everything I want to know. Slowly but surely, I am beginning to see the benefits of Twitter for myself.  I am currently and primarily using Twitter these three ways:

  1. To ask questions of other teaching professionals (and hope I have used good enough hashtags to get their attention).

    Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 9.56.29 pm

    Exhibit A: Asking for help from the pros!

  2. To publicly get in contact with techie businesses to ask for help. Making this public allows other people to get in on the conversation; it’s not relying on one person or perspective for the answer, and it allows others to share in the solution.

    Help me, please.

    Help me, please.

  3. To share my blog posts and cool stuff I’ve done in the classroom so people can use my ideas. Twitter needs both give and take.

    #Here's a cool thing I did that I want to show off.

    #Here’s a cool thing I did that I want to show off.

For me, Twitter is exciting because its full of thousands of brilliant people with brilliant ideas, and I can share in them without having to leave my chair. Every time I read my Twitter feed, it is humming with the ideas of educators who are pushing boundaries, taking risks, being leaders in their field, loving what they do and transforming learning for their students. They are educators who are not afraid to share ideas in case someone else gets the credit. They are educators who do not have all the answers but are still happy to have a go at your questions. They are educators who believe in change, and are not going to allow things to stay how they are. They are inspiring.

They are also educators who love inspirational quotes on semi-related out of focus backgrounds. I am not a fan of this. It’s almost a dealbreaker.

If quotes like this make you reach for a bucket, Twitter may not be for you.

If images like this make you reach for a bucket, Twitter may not be for you.

Using Twitter to build my PLN is definitely making changes to my teaching, but could be heaps more beneficial. I need to stick with it and focus on using it more… my guess is that I’ll get out what I put in. My Twitter goals are:

  • Blog at least once a fortnight, in order to have more meaty stuff to share on Twitter
  • Learn which hashtags I need to use more frequently
  • Be part of a Twitter meet-up.


Things I can teach you about Twitter that I wish someone had taught me at the start:

  • A favourite could mean a few things, mainly: someone wants to show you that they ‘liked’ your tweet, or the tweet has been ‘saved’  or bookmarked for someone to come back to and read later.
  • In a sea of words, almost words, links and tags, a picture will make your tweet stand out from the crowd, in my opinion.
  • Hashtags are important as a way to get to your intended audience. Find out which hashtags are related to your tweet. Here are some: 
  • Rubbish: there’s a lot of it. You will get used to scrolling past the junk and grabbing onto the delicious stuff.
  • Get your feet wet. Just get into it and share some stuff or reply to someone. There is so much going on in there, no one has time to #judge, so just have a go and see where it takes you.
  • If you’re thinking about getting into it, The Edublogger Blog has written a post on how to get started.
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  1. Hi Em,

    Great post. It is both honest and thoughtful and at the same time entertaining!

    I think the thing about Twitter is, the longer you use…the stronger your PLN gets and that’s when the magic really happens. Before I became ‘hooked’ I created an account twice and deleted it…I didn’t take to it straight away but 4 years later…I am thankful I stuck with it. There is no way I would have had the same opportunities and experiences in the last 18 months if it wasn’t for my many Twitter connections.

    And…as nerdy as it may sound…I have actually made some great friends through my PLN and that’s an added bonus!

    Keep at it, it will be interesting to hear your thoughts in another year or so! 🙂


    1. Thanks Bec. Well it’s good to know that it didn’t work for you straight away. I’m fading in and out with interested but I’m trying to push it a bit at the moment. I’m always hearing stories of people meeting twitter friends in real life, and thought heck no, my twitter is just not going that way. I’ll press on and see what happens. By the way, I am getting some serious Twaction from this post. Yay!

    2. This is a wonderful introduction for educators new to twitter. It serves as a tool to acclimate educators to personalized professional development. Thank you for sharing.

      Tiawana Giles

  2. Your message about jumping right in, is so on. It takes some time to grow and mellow so you have to keep going at the beginning when everything seems so bland. The spice definitely comes!

    1. Thanks for your comment Meg. I think I’m starting to get there but I probably need to start putting more in. I’m also looking at something like Tweetdeck to help me get more out of it. 🙂

  3. Tweetdeck definitely helps make twitter feeds less “ugly” – as someone who favors user-friendly and visually appealing interfaces, Twitter just doesn’t cut it for me. I still cringe when I have to “misspell”/abbreviate a word for the sake of 150 characters – I don’t know if I’ll ever (or should ever) get over that 🙂

    As for the most meaningful connections I’ve made over Twitter, those have definitely been through Twitter chats. Although they’re visually “uglier” than a normal twitter feed, try twubs or tweetchat to simplify. Answering tough questions and conversing with others all at the same time makes one feel truly connected and broadens your horizons.

    Happy tweeting!

    1. Hi Megan,
      It’s good to know I’m not the only person who hates how it looks! Twitter is so difficult to read!
      Thanks for the suggestions – I’ll check them out. I’ve been watching some twitter chats, next step is to be brave enough to participate! I always feel like the rookie when there are so many brilliant people with lots of great stuff to say.

  4. Thank you! I’m just starting – only 20 followers and nobody has liked or retweeted or commented, so I’m just tweeting into nothingness. I’ll try harder!

    1. Hi Cindy,
      Make sure you try to use hashtags to get a little bit more attention. #vicpln is a good place to start if that’s your local area. What is your twitter handle? I’ll add you so you have 21!

  5. It seems like there should be an easier way. I may be too old fashioned but I do understand the need to learn successful tips from others…why all the garbage? I don’t have the time to treasure hunt.

    1. Hi Dora,
      Please excuse the slow reply! I’m in holiday mode…
      I completely agree – I wish it was easier and having to search through rubbish to fold gold is time consuming and petty annoying! Having now had more experience using Twitter, I’ve found that culling the list of people I follow has cleaned up my feed a fair bit and now I find way more stuff that I’m interested in. I have also found that using Tweetdeck to manage my account makes it easier to see what I want to see – you can use it to create columns for certain users or create lists for accounts you really like.
      Hope this helps!

  6. Hello Emily.
    Hello everyone
    I have a Twitter account that I do not really use it because i did not know its utility and how to make it work.
    Thank you now I’m starting to understand a bit more about it so I’ll try to be more active member, for start I plan to become a member in some educational communities.
    Οne step at a time.

  7. Hey all,
    Your article was very helpful, and is a great idea for educators. I could use this with communicating with my parents concerning students high school applications.


    1. Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s interesting you bring up parents in relation to this issue – I find parents are a lot more unsure of twitter than even teachers. Would love to hear how it goes if you use it.

  8. Hi Emily,
    I am apprehensive about using Twitter to build my PLN but not because I feel it’s a waste of time or isn’t a very innovative and useful tool. My apprehension stems from the fear of improperly using the icons, right hashtags, or how to add links and photos. Not to mention just how to simply leaning how to respond to a tweet. I know once I get the hang of it, it will open up a new global community that I can use to share my ideas, or solicit help for ideas for projects or STEM lessons, I can gleam from my peers, and just connect to other educators in a very organic way. I will definitely use it for my Professional Development.
    Therefore, I will take the plunge and create a Twitter account and begin to bulid my PLN. And yes, I plan to follow you.

    1. Hi Saundra,
      Thanks for your comment. I think using a new tool (so publicly) is daunting for a lot of us. It definitely was for me. I find Twitter to move so fast that there is no time to see people making mistakes (like a half finished but still posted tweet, haha!).

      I recommend you just work on one thing at a time, for example – get confident with how to comment on others’ posts or to write your own tweets or delete it if you are not happy with it. There are lots of tutorials and how to guides about how to use the different functions in Twitter so you might find them helpful to get you going at first.

      I recommend you to connect with a group by finding a ‘chat’ that is in your field of interest. This way you can participate in live conversations about a topic you like and get to know people and of people in real time. #digitaledchat or Teach Tech Play are a good place to start.

      Let me know how you go!

  9. Hi Emily!
    I am an educator who is new to twitter and my primary purpose for my account is to build my PLN. After reading your article, I believe there are several ways to achieve this goal. I need to follow more educators. I have followed some but it would be beneficial to follow some of the people they follow. I need to check it at least once a day for 10-15 minutes for several weeks. I need to post specific questions to get information. Finally, I need to take the plunge and start sharing some of my ideas, reflections, resources, etc. If you have any other suggestions I would appreciate them.

    1. Hi Sherrie,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s great that you’re going to try out Twitter. It does take a bit of work but it really is rewarding. I often find that if I just tweet a question or resource and I haven’t been participting much lately, then I won’t get much in return but the more active I have been on other people’s tweets, the easier it is to share my own and be seen (Twitter moves so fast!).

      I would also recommend that you participate in some Twitter chats or events so you can be part of a discussion that is happening at that moment. I would recommend Teach Tech Play or #digitaledchat as some very active and positive discussions that are very kind to newcomers.

      Good luck – I’d love to hear how you get on and make sure you follow me so I can find you 🙂

  10. Great read! I have been hesitant in joining the twitter world…..all the hashtags are annoying. However, it seems like a good place to get ideas from other educators as well as connect with parents…..especially younger ones.

    Lisa J

    1. Hi Lisa,
      I find that I barely see the hashtags now because my eyes are trained to see the real stuff. The hashtags are just there to direct the tweets the right way. I would love to hear how you go using Twitter to connect with parents… I haven’t had much of that yet.

  11. This is a great overview for educators touting the benefits of using Twitter. Connecting with other educators and sharing ideas by using Twitter has limitless potential to help me grow professionally.

  12. I am new to all of this. I am finding some great ideas here. Why didn’t I do this a long time ago. this new world technology is putting me in touch with the world. thanks for the tips.

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