9 Step Guide for Administrators New to Twitter (From an administrator relatively new to Twitter)

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Written by Jaysen Anderson (@jaysenanderson), Assistant Principal, North High School, St. Paul, MN. Article reprinted with permission from Mission Driven Leadership (http://missiondrivenleadership.com/)

BOLD STATEMENT ALERT…Every school administrator, and really every educator, needs to be on Twitter. This is not a statement I realized to be true until I was actually active on Twitter, but now I regret waiting so long. There are several Twitter startup guides out there, but this one is unique (I hope) as it focuses on administrators and educational leaders new to Twitter, from the perspective of an administrator fairly new to Twitter.

There are so many reasons to be on Twitter; self-reflection, professional development, current data and research, collaboration, and modeling tech savviness to staff and students. But how does one get started?

1. Get Over Your Fear

Twitter is the only social media site that I use. I gave up Facebook years ago, and was never really into that in the first place. I have a linkedin (www.linkedin.com) account as well as a Google Plus account. These are important for establishing your digital footprint; but I confess I did not do much more than that.

I was wary of getting on Twitter for the same reasons I shunned Facebook and other social media apps. I did not care for aimless chatter or the other nonsense people seem to post on those sites. I did not realize Twitter was different than Facebook…especially different for those of us in educational leadership positions.

There is nothing to be afraid of. Follow the advice below and you will have a stream of useful resources and reflections. Once you jump in the pool you’ll realize the water isn’t that cold after all.

2. Set Up Your Twitter Account

There is a ton of info and resources out there on how to set up your account. From my perspective, here’s a simple process:

  1. Go to www.twitter.com
  2. Fill out the info for “New to Twitter” and sign up
  3. Complete all necessary registration items (tip: use a professional but non work attached email…you’ll get a lot. A gmail works great)
  4. Create a twitter username that can be kept and used consistently. (tip: name is different than username. Name can be anything, typically your actual name. Username is the unique @johndoe that people use to connect.) I used my name. Your name may or may not be available. To still use your name some simple variation is recommended: i.e. “John Doe” becomes @john_doe or @johnmiddlenamedoe. If you use random symbols that can complicate it for others. If you use your school or position i.e. @johnspringfieldelemprincipal you connect yourself to a position you may not keep forever. You cannot simply change your twitter name later without really complicating things
  5. Upload a picture of yourself…imagine a headshot. Some people use a graphic or cartoon, but I recommend you use an actual picture that is a good representation.
  6. Add some info about yourself on your profile that illustrates the depth of your character. This info shows up along with your picture and can help add some balance (see my Twitter profile as an example)
  7. Need more guidance? Twitter’s official directions at https://support.twitter.com/articles/100990-signing-up-with-twitter

3. Start Following.

At first you will do much more following of others than creating content yourself. Following others is also a great way to build your own network. It’s pretty easy to follow most people or organizations. Simply go to their Twitter page and click the “follow” button.

To find people go to the search bar on your Twitter page and type in a name, organization, etc.

For educational leaders great places to start include: George Couros (@gcouros), Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) and of course Jaysen Anderson (@jaysenanderson).

Organizations that I suggest following include: ASCD (@ASCD) Huffington Post Education (@huffpostedu), Education Week (@educationweek), Edutopia (@edutopia) and [editor's note] MASSP (@massp).

More: Certainly follow your local sports, news, and other personalities. What fun would Twitter be without a little balance? (tip: who you follow is public…so follow @justinbieber at caution)

As soon as you start following certain people or organizations you will get recommendations of others to follow. Going back to fear…unlike Facebook there is no weirdness in following people you don’t know personally. You are expected to network in this fashion.

4. Learn the Lingo

You’ll quickly see there is a whole world of new terms, symbols, and lingo associated with Twitter. This is often a point of fear for people as they struggle to understand what’s going on. Like any new venture it just takes some getting used to…soon enough you’ll be using the lingo yourself. Some common things you’ll see include:

  • # – This is a hashtag, formerly known as the pound sign. This is a way to categorize tweets from all over. People will add all sorts of hashtags that can be searched and sorted. Many schools, sports teams, and events have their own hashtag. Tweets that have this hashtag can be organized. For example search the hashtag #vikings and you’ll see tweets from Vikings fans across the world. Anyone can create or add to a hashtag.
  • @ – connects to usernames. When used in a tweet (i.e. @jaysenanderson) it will connect to that person’s profile and that person will be notified you tweeted about them.
  • RT – short for retweet. Retweeting is a way to send out someone elses tweet to your followers. People retweet things they like, interesting articles etc. You can either retweet word for word, or add your two cents.
  • MT – Modified tweet. Similar to a retweet. A retweet is someone elses word for word, while a modified tweet is the same idea, but with a few words changed.
  • DM – Direct message. A personal conversation between the sender and recipient. Cannot be seen by general public.
  • PLN – Professional Learning Network. The group of people you rely on for your learning.

There are many more, but these are certainly the major ones. There are plenty of Twitter encyclopedias out there with all of the abbreviations. Twitter’s official page is found at https://support.twitter.com/articles/166337-the-twitter-glossary

5. Start using Twitter on your devices

The great thing about twitter, as you probably already know is that it is accessible for all of your devices. Setting up and getting started on Twitter may be easier on your computer, but Twitter is designed for the mobile world.

When you download Twitter on your phone or tablet, you’ll get the official Twitter App in which you can certainly access and use. However, many people like 3rd party applications that fit their tastes.

For Apple Products (Ipad, Iphone, Ipod) I recommend Tweetbot; found at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tweetbot-3-for-twitter-iphone/id722294701?mt=8

For Android Products (and what I personally use on my Samsung Galaxy phone and Google Nexus tablet) I recommend Plume for Twitter, found at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.levelup.touiteur&hl=en

There are dozens and dozens of these apps, search and tinker with what works for you.

6. Start Tweeting and Retweeting

If you’ve done the above you probably have some followers now. Don’t be intimidated by those with thousands and thousands of followers; everyone starts somewhere. (tip: to get followers talk to people you already connect with to see if they are on Twitter, also you can send messages to people with lots of followers [see the names above] and sometimes they can retweet your name to their followers to support you).

Tweeting is personal so tweet what you think is important. As this guide is for educational leadership, for the most part you should stay on that subject. Tweet out articles that you find, retweet interesting tweets or links, or other educational topics. You can certainly throw in some personal items, but remember your tweet is very public. (remember this? http://abcnews.go.com/International/woman-fired-tweet-aids-africa-sparks-internet-outrage/story?id=21298519)

140. That is the number of characters per tweet. The idea of Twitter is to keep it short and sweet.

7. Join Twitter Chats

This is by far my favorite experience on Twitter thus far. Twitter chats are just what it sounds like, chat room style sessions focusing on a specific question or topic. People connect by using the same hashtag, and tweet at a predetermined time. Typically there is a moderator who tweets out questions or topics, and people contribute to the conversation. This is a great way to learn and build your PLN (professional learning network). Follow people that contribute to these chats.

I typically jump in and out of 4-6 twitter chats every week. You can google search for a variety of chats. As I am in Minnesota I always participate in #mnlead which is a Minnesota based chat on Sundays at 7pm. Don’t worry about location though, I get involved in Texas, Nebraska, and Iowa chats often as well. All are welcome.

If you see a #hashtag with what looks like question and answer (i.e. Q1 or A1) click on the hashtag to find that chat. Jump in. The learning is fantastic.

Great Education Twitter Chats to check out at first are:

  • #edchat – Tuesdays at 7 pm, eastern time
  • #edtechchat – Mondays at 8pm, eastern time
  • #satchat – Saturdays 7:30 am, eastern time
  • #satchatwc – Saturdays 10:30 am eastern time
  • #masspchat – Mondays 8 pm to 9 pm eastern time
  • [editor's note]

Google search for more, or check out http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/09/23/13-twitter-chats-for-educators.aspx for a more comprehensive list.

8. Build and Use Your PLN

Your PLN (professional learning network) is invaluable. Like a PLC at school your PLN is your go to for learning, reflecting, and collaborating. Find and follow great educators; from professional speakers, to an innovative 4th grade teacher from Utah. They are all over. Find them in Twitter Chats or from recommendations.

I tweet out questions all the time to my PLN, seeking their experience or advice. Making connections and networking with your PLN will have untold benefits.

9. Enjoy and Learn

I check my Twitter feed all the time. You cannot read every tweet, but you will catch a lot of cool stuff. I have grown tremendously over the past month that I have been active on Twitter. I am confident that you will not regret it.

Contact me via email or Twitter with any questions or suggestions.

-Jaysen (@jaysenanderson)