Why I’m Still Tweeting

Twitter is the place I go most frequently to connect with educators I admire and respect (many whom I’ve never met in person), engage in professional conversations (both formal Twitter chats and informal discussions), and it is one of my primary education news sources (I’ve swapped scanning headlines for hashtags). Why do you tweet?

I joined Twitter reluctantly in 2011. As a beginning blogger and a new member of CTQ’s virtual community of practice, I was professionally cajoled into creating a Twitter account (@JJCuthy) and encouraged to “micro-blog” twice a day in addition to blogging standard length posts monthly.

At the time I didn’t understand the value or purpose of Twitter. I wondered what I could read and learn from such a concise platform, and I doubted I could ever compose something of interest or value in 140 characters or less. (English teachers are known for being a bit more verbose.)

But fast forward five years later and I’m still tweeting. It is the place I go most frequently to connect with educators I admire and respect (many whom I’ve never met in person), engage in professional conversations (both formal Twitter chats and informal discussions), and it is one of my primary education news sources (I’ve swapped scanning headlines for hashtags).

Last week at a statewide convening of educators (#LDCwithCEI) participants were challenged to tweet out key learnings and questions as entry tickets to a drawing for door prizes.

So over the course of the two-day convening I tweeted (and retweeted) dozens of quotes, captured photos during sessions, and used the #WhyLDC hashtag as a frame for notes, reflections, and take-aways from the event.

In the midst of all this tweeting my friend and writing project colleague Molly Robbins (@RobbinsWriters) leaned over and whispered, “What are your top three twitter tips?” (I believe this was her polite and professional way of saying, Wow! You really like to tweet, and must be serious about winning that drawing! P.S. You’re cluttering my twitter feed!)

Before I could generate “twitter tips”  I had to take some time and reflect on why I tweet (and think other educators should, too). So, thank you Molly, for posing the question and inspiring this post. Here are my three Twitter tips:

  • Tweeting as a Note-Taking Tool: I use Twitter at conferences and professional convenings the way I used to use a notebook. Distilling key ideas from a presentation or session into tweets helps me synthesize the big ideas and archive key information. With practice, you begin to “think in tweets” and listen for those one-line nuggets that are too good not to share with a wider, virtual audience.

  • Need a Scaffold? Retweet and Repeat. If you are new to composing original tweets, start by retweeting others. Look for ideas that resonate with you, deserve to be repeated or “dittoed,” or are provocative enough you can build on them or pose a new question. Retweeting is a great way to build your twitter network through following those you retweet often (chances are they will follow you back).

  • Twitter Chats: The Practice Field for Quantity & Quality. If you’re serious about growing your twitter presence through meaningful practice, join a twitter chat. This format, which generally spans from fifteen minutes to an hour and focuses on a handful of questions tied to a specific topic or theme, will give you ample opportunity to increase the quantity (and eventually quality) of your tweets. Twitter chats feel like responding to short writing prompts publicly and at lightening speed. They provide a stream of ideas and a context for building on others’ comments or generating ideas of your own in response to the questions. (Shameless plug – join CTQ-North Carolina’s chat tonight focused on innovative leadership and teacher compensation, #CTQCollab). Many groups meet weekly or monthly, so over time you will become a regular and can connect with others to expand your network and virtual community of practice.

I used to find tweeting twice a day taxing. Now I try to limit my time on Twitter knowing that the conversations and possibilities are endless, and that time can quickly disappear in the Twitter tunnel. I did end up winning the drawing on day two (the sheer volume of tweets definitely improved my odds). But I find the intrinsic rewards of tweeting as a professional practice enough to feed my hashtagging habit for several years to come.

  • AnneJolly

    I’m Inspired!

    Thanks, Jessica, for sharing your Twitter enthusiasm with us.  I Tweet, but haven’t yet developed the skills and understanding to use it as prolifically as you do.  Just wondering – is there an online information doc that shares some things you can do on Twitter and answers questions such as, “Do my Tweets have to go to everyone who follows me, or can I set up groups within Twitter?” 

    You make me want to be a better Tweeter! 

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      #TweetOn my Friend!

      Hi Anne!

      Awesome – I want to spread Twitter-spiration :). I haven’t played around with lists (but you can create them) which may function like groups and allow for you to tweet certain people the way you are describing (let me know if you have success with this :). This Twitter cheat sheet was kind of interesting and this resource around how to use Twitter in your teaching practice is a treasure trove of ideas. I use Hootsuite (similar to Tweetdeck) mostly as a reading resource to have multiple feeds/hashtag threads up at once which is a useful reading tool (and helpful during Twitter chats). 

      And if you missed it — last year our own Brianna Crowley created these cool videos and resources around leveraging Twitter last year which are pretty sweet and can be used as PD tools with colleagues :).

      See you in the Twitter-verse, Anne!

      • misstori

        Lists are Essential

        I can’t live without my Lists.  There are too many people tweeting at once for me to keep up with certain topics I’m interested in, so I find that Lists clear away the clutter depending on what I have time for. 
        Here are some examples and I usually include a description when I create my List
        (and most of my Lists are public):

        Once my Lists are created, then I can use Tweetdeck on nights when there are Twitter Chats but I also want to keep tabs on my Lists at the same time:

        I really struggled to be engaged with Twitter because I felt so overwhelmed until I got a handle (get it?) on things with Lists and Tweetdeck.  


  • CarlDraeger

    From reluctant to passionate

    Being of a certain age, I was unsure if I had time for this “Twitter Thing”. I didn’t know how to start nor did I know what the big deal was. I dabbled until I “found” a twitterchat that blew my mind. I finally “got” that Twitter, unlike Facebook, is an ocean that can’t be swallowed in one sip. 


    My interest is getting other teachers to take the plunge. I try to include Twitter as a background channel during meetings and I’ve tried to do a mini #PracticeChat to show how it works. However, it’s kind of like childbirth; you can’t explain it to someone who hasn’t experienced it and it is so personalized that everyone’s experience is different. I’d love to hear how people have gotten their peers to cross over to the “Tweet Side”. Thanks. BTW, JC and Anne , you’re both awesome!

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      LOL-ing at the Childbirth Analogy

      I think the #practicechat strategy is a great one — and I agree that like most things worth learning firsthand experience is the best teacher (though I hope learning to tweet isn’t nearly as painful as childbirth!? 😉 I’ve had some success with mini-chats as a practice playground/format for workshops but then I think the Twitter habits drop off for many once the event or chat is over…so I’m wondering how one goes from being a sporadaic (or “events-only”) tweeter to a daily/habitual tweeter as my own participation tends to ebb and flow depending on the work tweek (and the time I have to devote to reading/retweeting, etc. the good edu-stuff out there). What do you think shapes educators’ tweeting habits?

      I completely concur with you about it having a completely different scope and feel from Facebook — and I do think it’s an incredibly powerful tool for educators…

      Thanks as always for reading and taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment — and awesomeness is simply contagious in the Collab so right back at ya! 🙂

  • TriciaEbner

    With ya on Twitter!

    I love Twitter; I have told colleagues and my administrators that it is the best 5-minute PD a person can get. I’m sure there is much more I could do with it if I took some time to explore the features and options. 

    One other cool thing about Twitter that I haven’t *yet* tried: contacting authors. I’ve read in several different places that authors often respond quickly to Tweets. I want to use Twitter with my students to contact some of their favorite authors with questions they may have, but I need that to be natural and not forced. So I’ll keep watching and waiting for the opportunity. 

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Great Idea!

      Agree that Twitter is an awesome professional resource for teachers both for their own professional development as well as for classroom support. Tweeting authors is a GREAT idea! My husband once sat next to one of his favorite authors — Neil Gaiman on a flight (gasp!) and shared with him what another (lesser-known, local) author was saying about Gaiman’s work as this author had made references to Gaiman’s characters in his most recent book on Twitter. (Aside: prior to that I had not been able to convince my husband to join the Twitter-verse ;).  

      Last school year I tweeted a local reporter when my students were immersed in an investigative journalism unit and he visited as a guest speaker and followed the progress of our unit through twitter — cool stuff!

      Let me know what happens as you work on connecting your students to authors!

  • shefalimalhotra

    Thanks Alot.

    Thank you for sharing the post. I wish every teacher has the passion as Jaime 🙂 And I also hope the salary for teacher will be raised more 😀

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