Twitter 101: Twitter basics on how to get started

To Tweet or not to Tweet…

I have to confess that as an early adopter, I jumped to create a Twitter account. However, I was a bit confused for awhile about the benefits of Twitter. I created a Twitter account and waited and waited and waited for something to happen. Nothing did. I did not get Twitter at all and almost abandoned my account (ctak10).


However, I decided to not give up and really investigate how to use Twitter. I did some more reading, tried some new things, and low and behold I discovered that Twitter is an amazingly helpful application.  As an educational technologist, I have found Twitter to be my most helpful tool to learn new and important upcoming technology innovations and to also stay connected and learn from other educators.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a microblogging  tool. When you use Twitter to post, you are limited to 140 characters. A post is a “tweet”.  You can tweet and receive other tweets from your computer and also from a mobile device.

Twitter Followers

Following others on Twitter is the critical point of Twitter. Getting the most out of Twitter requires you to think carefully about the topics you are interested in. If you hope to gain new ideas and insights about a topic, it is important that you find those people on Twitter. For example, I want to hear more about social media technology, educational technology and elearning. Therefore, I intentionally seek out and follow people who are posting ideas, links, and posts about the topics I am interested in. When I first started, I didn’t know to do this.  I created my account and waited. I learned through my research that I needed to find others to follow. But how?

How do I find people to follow on Twitter?

This is what makes Twitter valuable. If you are looking to follow a certain type of person on Twitter, it can be a bit tricky at first. For example, let’s say you want to follow, “Higher Education Business Faculty”. This will take a bit of work when using the Twitter search feature. The good news is that there are a number of websites and applications that can support effective Twitter searches. I have included links to these sites.

Once you have found someone you think you would like to follow, I would recommend that you do the following:

1. Click on the Twitter account.

2. Review a number of the “Tweets” from the profile.

How often is the person posting? You may not want to follow someone who posts 20 times a day as this can make it hard to see the posts from others that you are following. What is the person posting about? I am interested in the insights into the topics that people I am following can provide. I am not interested in following people who are posting that they just ate a bowl of clam chowder for lunch or that they just visited the ATM!  Check out her website. Many people on Twitter have a website. Look right under the profile picture for a link and check it out. Does the website provide more insights for you? Is the website related to the topics you are interested in learning more about?

Creating your Twitter Account

Here is a helpful video on creating your Twitter account by Mike Hobbs. Don’t forget to turn on your sound.

After reviewing the video, create your Twitter account at Make sure you save your name and password in a safe place.

Practice posting your first tweet!

Post a short phrase in the “Compose new Tweet” box. Hit the “Tweet” box. You have tweeted! You will notice that you will have 0 followers and 0 people following you. You will also see that you have 1 update.

Finding followers

Next, seek out people to follow. Here are a couple of ways to start. I recommend that you follow TWENTY people to start. 20 is a nice manageable number that gives you a feel for twitter and how it works.

Here are a few different ways to find people to follow.

1. Log in to your Twitter account. At t he top of your page you will see “Find People”. Click this link and type in some terms. Next on the Twitter page, below your profile picture, you will see a white search box. This is a good place to search for topics. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the Twitter home page. You will see a search link. Click on the link and type in a topic, region, or person you would like to follow.

2. “Twitter follow” websites:

A. PB Twitter4teachers

Many educators on twitter have joined this site. Scroll through the categories to find someone to follow. Once you find a person that you might want to follow, click on the profile and click follow. You are now following their Twitter updates.

B. Twitterrati

This is a great blog post that offers a review of five tools for following people. You can check out each of the links provided to see if you can find people who share your interests.

C. Twitterpacks

Twitter packs provided links to educators on Twitter. It has an especially robust category for ELL teachers.  There are a number of  links to other categories.

D. WeFollow

Enter a “tag” (topic) you want to follow. Find people and click follow.

How do I keep track of  tweets?

One thing I learned very quickly is that I needed an application to help me stay on top of the tweets.  You should not feel the need to thoroughly examine every tweet posted by the people you are following. Instead, you should occasionally skim the postings and follow through when something looks interesting. Here are a few ways to follow tweets.

1. You can log in to your twitter account to track postings.

2. You can download “TwitterFox”. If you use Mozilla Fire Fox as your browse tool, Twitterfox makes following twitter very easy to use. Remember, that this only works if you are using firefox. If you are using Explorer as your browse tool it won’t work.

2. You can download TweetDeck. Tweet Deck is downloaded to your computer. It is free and easy to use.

There are hundreds of applications for Twitter but I have started with a few that I have found to be fairly simple and easy to use.

Follow these steps and soon you too will be tweeting on Twitter!


Daniel Pink: Preparing kids for THEIR future

danielpink200x2981“We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past.”.  This quote stands out among the others in Daniel Pink’s presentation at the Minnesota 2008 TIES conference in December.   Daniel Pink is not an educator, he is an economist and author. His presentation included many ideas from his 2006 book, “A Whole New Mind”. His presentation was insightful and relevant to today’s teachers and schools. In many ways, the fact that Mr. Pink is not an educator allows him to step outside of the educational arena and to see things in a global perspective.  It is sometimes difficult as an educator to see things beyond the classroom and the community. However, I believe that Mr. Pink offers educators an opportunity to challenge the status quo and to look towards what students need to be successful in a very different future.

Daniel Pink noted  that in the past, the left brain activities that dominate school curriculum supported the types of careers that almost always guaranteed success. But, Mr. Pink noted, the world has changed. We are outsourcing left brain work. Anything that can be

You might be surprised to know that Pink includes the majority of an attorney’s work as “left brain”.  He told the audience to google “quick divorce” and note the number of sites that pop up and offer a divorce for a very low cost. He also reminded us about the proliferation of programs that do left brain work. Consider “turbotax“.  This software program is doing a great deal of the work that tax preparers used to do. Parents and teachers may still be trying to encourage young people to be accountants and computer programmers-all left brain professions.  Pink argues that our students need to also be encouraged to think deeply and for meaning. If we are only preparing and encouraging our children for left brain professions we are doing them a disservice. Our children will be competing against “the world” for this type of work.  We need to do more.

So, what can schools do?

Pink encourages schools and teachers to embrace right brain activities. This should not be at the demise of left brain activities. Both are important. However, teachers and schools should encourage critical and creative thinking. The future of our country and their success will depend on their ability to be innovative, entrepreneurial, and even visionary.

Pink noted that educators should do the following when planning learning activities.

Focus on:

  • Design
  • Story
  • Empathy
  • Play and laughter
  • Meaning
  • Big Picture

Educational technology offers incredible opportunities in helping students work on these types of thinking skills. Think about how having students create a digital video of a historical event could touch on right brain as well as left brain thinking. Please feel free to comment on other ideas that demonstrate how technology encourages right brain as well as left brain thinking.

Read his book for more ideas on educating the “whole mind”.

A Whole New Mind

Twitter…Ideas for using and learning with Twitter

Have you heard of Twitter? If you haven’t, you might want to give it a try. I just love it and have already learned so much from people all over the world through their tweets (twitter posts).

Twitter essentially is a micro blog that asks one question:

What are you doing, right now? Individuals are limited in their postings to 140 characters and can tweet from their PC or from their cell phone.  People can also receive messages on their phone or a web page.

I have been using Twitter for about six months. As an educational technologist, I have been very interested in looking at Twitter as a learning tool. I have some preliminary ideas that I will share below. I have found Twitter to be incredibly informative, however, some people have found Twittter to be fun but not necessarily helpful. Here are some suggestions that I have been using that has helped me take advantage of Twitter.

1. I have searched out and try to follow a topic. For example, I currently follow mostly people who have identified themselves as “educational technologists” or technology experts. When these folks twitter, their posts are almost always useful! They frequently post links to new technology applications or to new posts on their blogs or websites.

2. I use TwitterFox to monitor Twitter updates every time I log on. I found that without this type of application, I was not always taking advantage of the benefits of Twitter. If you don’t check in, you can’t see what others are posting! TwitterFox sits in the lower right corner of FireFox and as the people I follow update their posts, every five minutes or so a small screen shows these updates. This allows me to ignore or follow an interesting post or link.

Classroom application idea:

It would be very interesting for college students or older high school students to follow a topic. For example, one could follow the election on or people’s responses to some other current event like hurricanes.  Election twitter filters all public postings on Twitter and posts them on the website. The hurricane twitter feed shows current updates about hurricanes in Florida. Virtually any topic can be followed. A teacher would need to decide when this is age appropriate as these postings are interesting and often informative but not censored. A teacher could also “twitter” classroom updates or have students do so.

Some other helpful information/links about using Twitter:

Newbies Guide to Twitter (From CNET- A great guide.)

Twitter: Use it productively (A bit business focused.)

50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business (While business focused, it provides some useful ideas for anyone.)

Using Twitter as an Educational Tool (Great site with educational ideas and links to other ideas!).

I would love to hear what you are doing with Twitter in the classroom. Comment to this blog or email them.

Quality use matters…

We need to go beyond looking at all technology integration efforts as equal. They just aren’t.


Teacher creates a Power Point to support a lecture vs. student creates a Power Point to document what he learned.

Question: Which example do you think has a greater potential of improving student learning?

Answer: The student created project. This assumes, of course, that the student is required to fully document learning with clear and high expectations above over just the visual aspects of the project.

A number of frameworks exist for looking at how technology integration can support learning. Overarching themes can be found in all of the frameworks. These themes essentially involve teachers becoming more student-centered in their efforts as they progress up each level. Additionally, teachers include higher level thinking activities and the technology use becomes more sophisticated and may even go beyond the classroom walls as the teacher progresses.

One very popular framework is the LoTI Framework developed by Dr. Christopher Moersh. This framework provides a way to examine technology use in the classroom. The framework moves from Level 0 (non use) to Level 6 (Refinement). This framework aligns nicely with Bloom’s Taxonomy and project-based learning. Essentially, the higher the level, the more student-centered the learning becomes. At level 6 the technology use moves beyond the classroom, reaching out to the outside world in some way. For example, a high school Spanish class may create a web-site for a third grade class also learning Spanish. You can also read about this framework in Dr. Moersch’s book, Beyond Hardware: Using Existing Technology to Promote Higher-Level Thinking .

Another framework comes from the ACOT research project which looked at how a group of teachers adopted technology over a ten year period. These stages are: Entry, adoption, adaptation, appropriation, and invention.

Here again, teachers become more sophisticated as they use a technology application. During the invention stage, a teacher may begin to use a technology application to support other learning objectives that had nothing to do with an original intention.

You can read more about this study in, Teaching With Technology: Creating Student-Centered Classrooms.

Another framework that examines how an organization adopts technology, is the diffusions of innovations theory. Dr. Rogers (2003) studied how a technology or new practice is adopted over time in an organization. The results of his work show that the adopters emerge in a bell-shaped curve. Rogers describes five groups in regards to adopting a new technology or new practice. These groups are:

1) innovators 2.5 % of the population

(2) early adopters 13.5 % of the population

(3) early majority 34%

(4) late majority 34%, and

(5) laggards 16%

Rogers also describes a series of stages that may occur during adoption:

1. awareness,
2. interest,
3. evaluation,
4. trial, and
5. adoption

There are a number of other frameworks that exist. These frameworks help to describe what can happen to a teacher as they begin to learn about how to best use a specific technology application. As the teacher becomes more proficient with the technology, she can begin to more clearly see how to best use the technology to promote student learning. However, teachers need to be encouraged to think deeply about what their students are doing when using technology. They need to ask themselves about the thinking that students are doing as they use technology and encourage higher level thinking activities. An understanding of these frameworks may help school leaders understand that teachers may be in different places and that teachers may need additional time and support to move beyond beginning stages. Teachers would also benefit from knowing that they may move through stages. Knowledge is power.

The blackboard and the Wright brothers.. “Learning to fly”?

Adopting new technologies in teaching situations can be a bit contentious. Take the black board, for example…

Did you know that when the blackboard was first introduced at WestPoint in 1801 it caused quite a stir? Mr. George Baron, a math instructor at West Point Military Academy used it to teach math lessons. Teachers all over the United States debated the usefulness of the blackboard. Many thought that using the blackboard in teaching should not be done! While individual slates were commonplace, blackboards on the walls were not. Books were written on how to effectively use the blackboard as a teaching tool and teachers attended training sessions on how to use it effectively. Expert “blackboard users” ran workshops for how to use this new technology.

Does this sound familiar? This story of the blackboard is a good example of how people often adopt a new technology. Adopting new technologies is often a bit messy, lengthy, and there can be anxiety and a lot of discussion and debate over the usefulness of the technology. Instructors need to learn how to use the technology and may also adapt the technology as they become more highly skilled and knowledgeable.

Here is a quote from Dr. Tom Carroll (2000), a national leader in educational technology that gives an interesting analogy on technology and teaching.

When the Wright brothers were going to make the first flight, there was no flight school to prepare them. There was nobody to teach them to fly. They just launched their plane and figured out how to fly it after they were on it. We are in the early stages of flight with technology in education. Pilots in the early stages of flight crashed a lot of planes, but they also discovered the principles of flight.

They came together in learning communities where they could share their experiences and knowledge about what works and what does not work. They developed and evolved principles that make modern flight possible today, including the space program. That kind of learning opportunity is available to using our schools today.

I think this quote is a good reminder for educators that we are still breaking ground in educational technology. Most of us have had very little in the way of modeling in how to effectively use technology in our teaching. We are still “learning to fly”……

New teachers: Digital teachers?

Are new teachers ready to take on teaching in ways to support 21st century literacy skills? Current research says no. There are a variety of reasons for this, but tech skills and knowledge appear to NOT be the reason. New teachers typically have good technology skills. They use the Internet to help them prepare lessons and to find professional resources. They may use computers to communicate with parents and to complete daily tasks at their schools. Still, many new teachers are using technology in pretty much the same ways as their more experienced colleagues.

Many people believe that new teachers with tech skills will be able to change the way that technology is used in schools. However, right now  this assumption does not seem to be true. So why might this be the case?

  • Teachers in general tend to teach how they were taught. Teachers come to the profession with years of experience as a student. This framework and set of beliefs about teaching is difficult to change.
  • New teachers may have a desire to use technology in a new ways with students but may face numerous challenges to obtain this goal. Research indicates that new teachers frequently feel frustrated with the lack of technology access for their students.
  • New teachers also lack models for how to use technology effectively with their students. As indicated above, teachers tend to teach how they were taught. However, while a tech-savvy teacher might be motivated to use technology with their students, they may face many road blocks that make it very difficult. Mentor teachers may not support technology use or they may lack their own models.
  • The culture of the school may not support a new teacher’s desire to do something new with their students.

We have a long way to go in terms of supporting our new teachers to use technology. A school-wide technology plan with the support of school leaders and mentors is essential.

Baby steps: Start small, but start!

After doing many technology workshops for teachers (K-12 and higher ed.) in many different settings, I am convinced that many faculty members feel so overwhelmed with technology offerings that there is a tendency to just “say no!” to the idea of using it at all. I think the solution to this issue is “taking a baby step”. Start small. Keep growing.

Why the reluctance to change? Most teachers lack models for using technology. They just aren’t sure what to do. Many teachers argue that they have been very successful teachers without using technology in the past. So, why start now? Teachers may also see very little value in using technology or they may have very little in the way of technical support. A lack of technology support is especially true for many K-12 teachers. Teachers may have a lot of fear of using technology. They may have tried a technology and it didn’t work well or they fear looking like they don’t know what they are doing in front of their students. They may have very limited access to technology. In light of our nation’s focus on testing, teachers can’t get into labs. However, I believe that educators have an obligation to find ways to help prepare students for their future and this includes integrating technology into curriculum. In fact, 21st century learning skills includes those ideas that reach beyond technology, however, integrating technology can clearly support many of these objectives. Here is a link to the Framework for 21st Century Learning.

I will soon write more about the the compelling research about why we need to push harder to do a better job in in this area. Beyond engaging and motivating our students, when used properly, technology can increase student achievement.

So- start. Start small. Take a baby step. I would argue that this should be true for those who already feel comfortable integrating technology. Challenge yourself to learn a new technology each year. Find support. Talk to the digital natives and let them help you! Carefully observe how students are using it. Ask some questions:

  • Are there ways to support higher level thinking with this technology?
  • Can I integrate this into what I am already teaching to enhance and engage students more fully?
  • How can I provide a framework for its use but still support student creativity and empowerment?
  • Where can I get technology support and help when I need it?
  • Do I have a plan if the technology isn’t working?
  • Is there someone I can partner with to try a new technology application?

A baby step approach to technology integration:

For Faculty: Start small. Try a new application each year and work through the fear. See if my list of questions is helpful.

For School Leaders: Understand that teachers need support. Encourage and reward small steps. Remember that each of your faculty are in a different place. For one teacher, checking and sending emails to parents and students may be a big leap. For another teacher, having students create digital videos to show their learning may be an appropriate goal. Support ALL of your teachers as they learn and grow.

For Tech Support Personal: Make yourself available to your educators. Be patient and make sure that you provide hands-on support. Sometimes educators may come to you after they are already frustrated. They may have spent a lot of time already trying to solve a problem. Write out an FAQ sheet /webpage for easy to solve common problems that your educators face.

For educational technology trainers: Provide HANDS-ON support and be available for follow-up. Don’t come in and give a bells and whistle show and then walk out the door! All learners need practical hands-on experience. Additionally, not every person in a training session is at a point where they will be ready for the training. If you overwhelm your audience and cause frustration, you may actually push faculty in the opposite direction.