Tweeting to Grow: Enriching Our Personal Learning Network through Twitter

Author: Laura Lee Stroud, Elementary English Language Arts Specialist

Tags: Educational Technology, Personal Learning Networks, Professional Development

“Teaching can be an isolating experience, but it does not have to be.” Kevin Hodgson

As educators, we must find avenues to nurture our professional lives despite the chaos prevalent surrounding education. The success of our students depends on it. Recently, teacher and author Kelly Gallagher affirmed for me the necessity of teachers’ sustained personal learning outside school walls. He shared, “If our professional life isn’t bigger than our teaching life, we will die on the vine.” Mr. Gallagher went on to add that growing a professional life provides the environments of support, collaboration, and empowerment teachers need to thrive.

Our access to technology provides valuable resources for teacher learners at the click of the mouse, even the swipe of a thumb. In fact, Mr. Gallagher attributes a recent spike in his professional learning to participation in the “Twitterverse” saying that Twitter has magnified his learning more than any other form of traditional professional development in recent memory. Yes, Twitter is more than a real time account of Justin Bieber’s bad hair day. In full disclosure, my Twitter account is over seven years old and my use is very basic. In preparation for writing this article, I sought to increase my understanding and find out how I can assist interested educators in doing the same.

I began by “tweeting” the question: “Need short testimonials on how twitter has enhanced educators’ professional learning” to the Twittersphere at large and to researchers and writers on English Language Arts education in particular. Within minutes responses filtered in via email, direct message and tweets. Every response I received echoed a connected impact on its users. Kevin Hodgson, 6th grade teacher, blogger, and Technology Co-Director at Western Massachusetts Writing Project, weighed in via direct message: “Twitter has connected me to not just people, but ideas, from the far corners of the world. Questions, answers and inquiry abound, and I have felt my thinking on teaching and learning being pushed again and again.” The speed and content of the responses to a simple query showcase the power of Twitter. As I googled “how educators use Twitter,” I was inspired by the results. Teachers have contributed quality how-to guides very helpful for both the novice and the evolving seeker. I have included below an annotated bibliography of the resources I found most insightful.

Twitter for Educators Beginner’s Guide ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from

This website makes a clear case for why teachers and educators should use Twitter. Three reasons for using Twitter are highlighted: 1. Twitter is easy to learn and free with a user friendly interface. 2. Twitter is dense with innovative educators and a prime place to meet and collaborate within. 3. It is a vehicle to grow professionally through the sharing of experiences. Included on this page is the best, simple guide to understanding Twitter for educators I discovered through my research. (The guide is linked other places around the web.)

Twitter For Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from

This guide begins by acknowledging common barriers to participation in Twitter for educators. In this near one-pager, you will gather information about the 5 W’s of Twitter’s specific use in education. Void of complete information and extra logistics available in other resources, this guide includes a downloadable pdf for printing should you need a hard copy.

Blumengarten, J. (n.d.). How To Take Part in or Moderate a Chat on Twitter. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from

Known as the Cybraryman and Twitterbrarian, Jerry Blumengarten offers this admonishment: “When introducing Twitter to non-believers say, “Do you know about “The Educational Support & Discussion Media System?” Following is one of the most comprehensive gathering of all things Twitter. The page is well organized with two columns but look to the right to find sites to help those new to Twitter.

If you are completely new to Twitter, a fast guide for beginning:

  1. Decide to have a professional account that is separate from your personal one. This helps organize and sort the information you will receive.
  2. Choose a twitter handle that is short and descriptive. Lots of educators choose to incorporate the name their students use so that they are easily recognizable to parents and students.
  3. Begin by following the organization and names that motivate and educate you. NCTE, Kelly Gallagher, Kylene Beers, Jeff Anderson, and others are all active Twitter users. By following a few people, you will read the people they tweet to and can selectively choose who to add to your followed list.
  4. Check in every couple of days to see what’s new. You will be surprised how these 140-character tweets will inform your teaching. Instant PD!
  5. Study others’ content and language. Set a goal for sending out your own original tweets.
  6. Begin to share your handle as you begin to compose your own tweets. Twitter is not just about receiving information, it’s about giving it. Share your knowledge with the world.
  7. Check out Twitter chats that align with your professional interest. The chat sessions are an easy way to connect through listening to others weigh in about specific areas in selected content areas or grade levels.

Personal learning networks are powerful because they are driven by you; the learner. Kerri Thompson @kerriattamate describes her interactions on Twitter as “brewing my own PD.” On Twitter customized learning is as simple as plugging into a chat that explores the nuances of providing feedback on student writing or using literacy stations in a secondary classroom. Twitter allows educators to connect. Penny Kittle @pennykittle explained how Twitter also connects and extends resources:  I read many articles and blogs I’d never find on my own because of teachers on Twitter. I connect across the globe with colleagues. With precious little time left in our days, technology is a precious vehicle for educators to grow our professional lives.

The Region 13 Literacy Team is on Twitter. Follow me, Laura Lee, at @LL_Smiles and Janet Hester at @R13JanetH.


Blumengarten, J. (n.d.). How To Take Part in or Moderate a Chat on Twitter. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from

Hodgson, K. (n.d.). Inviting Your Input and Comments. Retrieved February 6, 2015, from

January Blog Challenge #7. (2015, January 7). Retrieved January 12, 2015, from

Twitter for Educators Beginner’s Guide ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from

Twitter For Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from

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