#PVCSD 20-Day Twitter Challenge

Building your digital PLN one day at a time

New to Twitter? This is an activity for you!

Social media is playing a larger and larger role in everyday life, so it's only natural that its influence would eventually be felt in teaching and learning. Many educators have found their way to Twitter for connecting with other like-minded teachers, sharing ideas about instruction and practice, and pairing classrooms around the world.


Is Twitter for you? There's only one way to find out: dip a toe in and give it a try! For the next month, we'll navigate the basics of the platform, give its major features a spin and discuss the possible drawbacks of the medium as a learning tool for teachers and students.


This is a self-paced activity: new challenges will be posted each school day but you're welcome to complete two or three together in a single day. Feel free to join at any time; there's no timetable for completing each task. Please bookmark this page, as it will act as "home base" for the duration of the challenge. Most of all, have fun!
Twitter in D123

Day 20: When you think you're done...

You've just begun! With a nod to Lucy Caulkins and elementary teachers everywhere, the saying we use with our youngest learners often applies to the lead learner in the room, too. We have come to the final day and the last task of our challenge: what will you do with the new information you've acquired this month? Perhaps you will try using Twitter in your classroom or with your students; maybe you'll continue to grow a network of teachers to consult for professional development. Share your plans using the hashtag #PVCSD and help develop our learning community's brand.


A month is really not enough time to truly get a handle on a new tech tool, especially one as multi-faceted as Twitter. And let's be honest, the last quarter of the year may not be the optimal time to focus on something new. Before you decide that this social media tool is not for you, set it aside until June 24th and then come back to watch the video posted here. With ten weeks of potential learning stretching before you, you may just change your mind. Thanks for sticking with our challenge - I hope you've enjoyed participating!

Day 19: Creating community

"If you don't tell your story, someone else will." This popular, unattributed PR quote caught my eye as the title of a Forbes blog post some time ago. The article detailed how a featured company failed to share its unique vision with potential investors and suffered financially because of it. While I am usually loathe to apply a corporate mindset to what we do as educators, the ideas in the post resonated with me.


Too often, schools seem to be at the mercy of local news outlets and weekend youth-sports sideline chatter to shape public perception; despite what proverbs teach, history shows that bad news travels much faster than good. The explosion of social media tools offers a school, its staff and students the chance to level the playing field and leverage those tools to build community and share its narrative with the world. A crowd-sourced kaleidoscope of perspectives from faculty, students and parents involved directly in a school can develop a more complete picture than a single news article provides.


For a strong example of a learning community that takes charge of its own story, investigate the #LeydenPride hashtag, used by members of East and West Leyden High Schools in Illinois.

Day 18: Twitter as a teaching tool (?)

With only a few days left, it's time to address the elephant in the room: are you really going to use Twitter with your students? The discussion in the podcast we listened to yesterday made social media sound like a wonderful opportunity to connect students to the world beyond the classroom. In practice, how will your students respond?


Take a few minutes and review this list of ideas and resources from KQED's Education blog and consider if any of these activities have a place in your classroom. Select one to share with the group, along with your opinion of social media as a teaching tool. Remember to add our hashtag #TeamPVHS.


note: The education feed from KQED can be found on Twitter at @KQEDedspace

Day 17: Still more beyond Twitter

We have spent the last few weeks investigating the features of a single social media tool - one that our students may not even prefer, this data from Pew Research suggests. Apart from exploring a tool for our own professional development, what obligation do we have to our students to know the platforms they are using?


In a November episode of EdTechChat on Bam! Radio, Alex Podchaski (@ajpodchaski), Susan Bearden (@s_bearden), and Sharon LePage Plante (@iplante) share their thoughts about Twitter, Instagram, and popular video tools like Periscope. A link to the podcast is posted on the PVHS Library's Twitter timeline; please take a moment to track it down and respond to it on the library's timeline.


The archive that is referenced during the discussion can be found here.

Day 16: Social Media beyond Twitter

As a teacher and a Twitter user, you may not be planning to interact with students through it; for some of us, Twitter is a tool for building connections with other educators and will remain a professional development resource. To maximize its potential, consider attending a dedicated training session, either in-person or online, to learn more about how to make Twitter work for you.


If you're looking to capture your students' attention, perhaps a more graphically-driven tool, like Instagram, is a better investment of your time. Does this sound like a learning opportunity that's up your alley? You're in luck: there is an edWeb webinar being offered tomorrow, April 26th. New teacher coach Shannon Holden (@newteacherhelp) will devote one hour to highlighting strategies for using Instagram in the classroom. edWeb's programs are interactive and participant-driven, with webinar leaders answering attendee questions - and discussion during the session, much like what we practiced on Friday, is encouraged. An added bonus: our district recognizes edWeb as a quality in-service provider. For more details and registration, follow this link.

Day 15: Live event, the recap

We had a quick Today's Meet tutorial and jumped right into a real-time discussion during Dr. Wills' keynote - congratulations! Did carrying on a conversation (or observing it) during the presentation enhance or detract from the morning's program? For a relatively small group, we kept the conversation moving quickly and even drew the attention of some near-by colleagues; I had more than one teacher lean over and ask, "what is that?"


After our small, homegrown chat, you're ready to move on to something larger, faster and actually on Twitter. Consider stopping by the New Teachers to Twitter Chat (#nt2t) tomorrow morning - it takes place every Saturday at 9am and they're a particularly welcoming crowd. While some of the information shared is directed at people new to the teaching profession, most resources are applicable to all teachers who are looking to invigorate professional practice using a new medium. Here's a handy image I came across thanks to #nt2t.

Day 14: Learn by doing

Since we all have the chance to be together tomorrow during our Superintendent's Conference Day, it's a great opportunity for us to practice our online chat skills in a face-to-face setting. Stop by the library tomorrow morning at 7:45a to learn about Today's Meet, the tool we will be using to backchannel during Dr. Wills' keynote presentation. (Don't worry, I've cleared our activity with her!)


A backchannel gives audience members at a conference or presentation the chance to communicate with one another while the speaker is presenting; Twitter is often used as a backchannel, especially at larger conferences and events. As we are just learning the features and applications of Twitter, we will be using a smaller, more exclusive environment for our discussion. It will be private "room" open to the participants of the challenge which will remain open for the course of the day. After our snap orientation in the morning and a quick pulse check before association meetings, we can spend the day learning by doing, something we always want our students to experience but don't always make the time for as learners ourselves.

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Day 13: Wait - what's a chat?

As teachers, we hope we never have "that" moment, where we're cruising along, thinking a lesson is going so well until a student raises her hand and asks, "What are you talking about?" Taking a quick look at our Google group, it seems like I've created one of those moments; in the excitement to get us all chatting, I never clearly defined what a chat is. With thanks to Liz and Sarah for the redirection, let's circle back for a little housekeeping.


A Twitter chat is like a professional meet-up in any public place: there is an established meeting day and time (e.g. Tuesdays at 7p, second Monday of each month at 8p) and something to unify the participants, which is often subject or grade level taught but can be any shared interest (as the Education Chat Calendar illustrates). If you're a member of a local book club or a parents' group, you meet in each other's living rooms or in a quiet corner of Panera Bread; how does it work on Twitter? Enter the hashtag.


A designated hashtag creates the meeting space for a group, a reserved room of sorts for participants to talk and share their ideas. A common hashtag allows people who do not follow one another to view each other's tweets during a chat and creates a searchable term for locating content after the chat has ended. The image above captures a moment from #2PencilChat, a chat that takes place Tuesday nights at 7p. What is also becoming more popular is an archive of the chat that a participant will publish afterward, capturing highlights from the discussion. Stacey Lindes (https://twitter.com/iruntech) is a master of Storify - see some of her work here.


What questions about Twitter chats have been left unanswered? Share them in our Google group.

Day 12: Share the wealth

While researching subject-specific chats and interesting people to follow, you've probably come across some informative blog posts, websites, or infographics that have expanded your understanding of Twitter and the role it can play in an educator's professional development. Today, select one resource that you've found helpful answering your questions about Twitter and share it with the group using the hashtag #PVLearning. As you notice fellow challenge-takers post, take a moment to respond directly to the poster or quote their post with your comment and #PVLearning added. Using these tactics, we will create our own slow chat, a discussion that is focused on a single topic over an extended time period (usually a week) and unified by a hashtag. A slow chat, like any chat, thrives on participation - please check your Twitter timeline at least two times today and each day this week to ensure you're seeing everyone's contributions.

Day 11: Get your chat on

This week's activities will be centered on Twitter chats: when they happen, the vocabulary that's utilized and how participating can enrich your professional practice. By the end of this week, you'll be ready to participate in the New Teachers to Twitter Chat (#nt2t) on Saturday at 9am.


Your task today involves scrolling back to Day 4; investigate the ENORMOUS list of weekly educational chats and commit to attend one before Friday. While chats are often an hour in length, some are shorter - the #BFC530 spark chat is a mere 15 minutes. Which chat will you attend? Share the day, time and identifying hashtag in our Google group. For more information about chats, check out this informative article shared by our high school principal, Sandy Intrieri, on Twitter this past weekend.


To clarify: you do not have to participate in your selected chat! Instead, take the opportunity to note the speed of the chat (some are very fast), any specialized terminology that is unfamiliar to you and the structure of the conversation. We will use this information to inform our in-person chat that will take place during our conference day on Friday.

Day 10: Midpoint of our challenge

We have completed half of our challenge - how is it going for you? Are there topics you are hoping we will address? Items that we've touched on that need more attention? Take a moment to check back over the past nine posts and share your thoughts in the Google Group about what you hope the next ten days hold.

Bonus: Tomorrow morning at 9am, there is a wonderful chat for educators new to Twitter. Search the hashtag #NT2t and meet people from all over the world looking to use Twitter to enrich their professional practice. You can find the questions for tomorrow's chat in the library's Twitter feed; they were posted there at 6:30p.

Day 9: Privacy and social media

On Twitter, not everything must be public for the whole world to see, nor does your account need to be locked behind a wall, viewable to only those you select. A feature that I don't use enough is DM, or direct message. Direct message allows you to send a message to anyone who follows you, as well as create group conversations where each participant can see all messages, even if they do not follow one another. You can access this feature through the envelope icon in your toolbar; try it now because you have something waiting for you!

Day 8: Tweeting expanded

Cutting right to the chase: how's that tweeting going? If you've committed to post twice a day, you may have found that your schedule is not cooperating. For what appears to be a quick activity, carving out time to complete it is often the most difficult hurdle to clear. If you have a habit of checking your email, Facebook or digital feeds at particular times of the day, consider sharing items you discover with your followers; most news sources have a social media menu embedded on each page.


If you've seamlessly incorporated time to tweet into your schedule, good for you! (Could you share the magic formula with me?) Use today to experiment with different types of tweets. Beyond the standard 140 character message, you can mention a person or a company within your tweet by adding "@" and username. The party you mentioned will receive a copy of your tweet on their "Notifications" page. Beginning your tweet with "@" and the username is considered a reply (even if you're beginning the conversation!). This message will be seen by you, the person you've directed it to, and anyone who follows BOTH of you. Adding a "." before the party's handle will increase the visibility of the tweet, something to consider when you're creating your tweet.


Of course, you can always retweet a message that someone else has posted. Articles, pictures, and particularly thoughtful tweets are often retweeted as people engage with the content. When you retweet, you can send it out "as is" or you can quote, which allows you to post your own thoughts along with the original message. This is a great feature to use when you want to promote an article you read or compliment the author of a blog post. This is where Twitter begins to morph from a passive experience into a tool for engagement.

Day 7: Using hashtags

If you've used the Help Center, you may have seen the nifty glossary that addresses Twitter vernacular. Third on the list of terms is "#," the symbol universally known as a hashtag. Twitter’s glossary tells us that “a hashtag is a word or phrase immediately proceeded by the # symbol." That's a wonderful working definition but as one of our participants asked in our Google group, what does it DO?


Hashtags are used to organize, categorize and get attention. By adding a relevant hashtag, you can add your voice to a chat or make your tweets discoverable. After doing a bit of research, I claimed #TeamPVHS for the high school faculty; if you plug it into Twitter's search pill, you will see every time it's been used. It's the majority of the search results in Google, too. Not sure what a particular hashtag means? A tool like #tagdef can be helpful with your investigation, as it lets users define frequently-used tags.


There are few rules associated with hashtags but it's best to stick to them:

  • Don't attach more than two hashtags to an individual tweet - more and you could be identified as a spammer (or an escapee from a Tonight Show skit)
  • Use hashtags thoughtfully and deliberately - they are meant to help locate relevant information on a particular topic
  • Investigate a hashtag before you use it, to be sure it hasn't been claimed for another purpose (note: established hashtags can be hijacked)

Day 6: Tweet it out!

Last week's challenges concentrated on observing and learning how Twitter works; this week, we will focus on sharing and creating content. Take some time today to fortify your bio by creating two tweets, or short messages, of your own. In 140 characters, share what book you're reading, a subject you're passionate about or what you're studying with your students. You can even share that you're new to Twitter and participating in this challenge. By publishing tweets, you tell potential followers (people who will choose to receive your updates) more information about yourself and how you plan to use the platform.


What should go into a tweet? If you're mentioning a book, include the author's Twitter handle (a quick Google search will give you the info); you may receive a response or a favorite, a simple way to acknowledge a compliment. When discussing your curriculum area, consider adding a hashtag like #ELA or #APPhysics and your tweet will be seen by users investigating that topic. (We will focus more on hashtags later in the week.)


Look at your daily calendar and set aside time to post 2 or 3 tweets a day - put it on your "to do" list and make a commitment to the process. Regular tweeting has the two-fold benefit of developing your digital profile and helping to establish a habit. To fully experience the benefits of being a connected educator, build a few small blocks of time into your daily routine to interact with the platform.

Day 5: Be a follower

Today's to-do: find five individuals whom you have not met in person to follow on Twitter. Remember, when you follow someone, you receive all of their posts in your home timeline. How to choose? On a Friday, the task is easier; search the hashtags #follow and #FF (for "Follow Friday") to see who other educators recommend to follow. Mark E. Weston, PhD (@ShiftParadigm) is particularly dedicated to connecting educators on Twitter and devotes considerable time to posting curated, content-specific lists each week.


Among educators, Twitter is a pretty friendly place, so don't be surprised if you receive a "thank you" note from folks you choose to follow - or even get a follow back from them. Some well-connected educators, like Mark and Sean Gaillard (@smgaillard), take special interest in welcoming teachers new to the platform; consider investigating their posts for other developing tweeters.


Do not feel compelled to follow more than a handful of teachers at a time. As you use the tool, your "following" list will grow naturally; as you begin to generate content, your list of followers will grow, too.

Day 4: Bringing your lurking into focus

Now that we've accepted that "lurking" and "creeping" are not synonymous on Twitter, let's put some strategies in place to make the most of your research. First, consider searching popular education hashtags, denoting chats or subjects that matter to people in our profession. Writing for Noodle last October, Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) shared her top-ten list of "must follow" hashtags; it includes her award-winning #Edchat, which is both a topic and a chat that happens every Tuesday. A more comprehensive list can be found on Jerry Blumengarten's Cybraryman website and includes 200+ grade-level, content-area and interest-specific hashtags.


Next, take note of individual accounts that use a hashtag you are exploring - you may see the same names pop up time and again. There are some pretty heavy educational hitters on Twitter: Shelly Terrell, George Couros (@gcouros), and Will Richardson (@willrich45) immediately come to mind. If someone is posting thoughts you find intriguing, consider following their account. Once you follow, you will receive that person's tweets in your timeline.


Finally, locate your professional association on Twitter and look to see who is following its tweets. This is a two-for-one: you can find like-minded individuals and follow your association to keep updated with it.

Day 3: Lurking: it's not so bad!

"Lurking" is a word with some seriously negative vibes associated with it. When I plugged it into Pixabay, my results were a screenful of hunting cats, gleaming-eyed snakes and shadowy figures like the one displayed above. But to get a good understanding of how Twitter works (and how it can work for you), one of the easiest ways is to sit back and watch the digital traffic go by.


In his blog post "Elegant Lurking," Dave White (@daveowhite) suggests there are distinct benefits to this quiet practice and that many more people may be engaging with social media platforms through observation than active user data suggests. By monitoring and evaluating discussions while learning the "dialect" of Twitter, a user can build confidence, develop a knowledge base and choose whom to follow with thought and discretion. Further evidence that lurking is okay? You can search and use Twitter without an account. Check out the spy glass on the left side of the service's log in page; that's what that little tool is for!


So, if the speed, lingo and hashtags (I promise, we will get to those!) have been delaying your dip into the Twitter pool, consider sitting on the side and watching for a while. It will make you a stronger swimmer when you decide to take the plunge.


(Dave White's complete post can be found here: http://daveowhite.com/elegant-lurking/ )

Day 2: Focus on your bio

You've got your handle, a flattering photo (or a logo if you're camera shy) and now it's time to tell the world who you are. The bio field has a limit, so you must introduce yourself in 160 characters. You want to establish yourself as a unique, talented individual and yet, on Twitter, profiles begin to sound rather uniform. For tips on creating a bio, check out this post by Neil Patel (@neilpatel), entrepreneur and general Twitter expert. Neil has seven key ingredients for building a great Twitter bio which can be summarized as follows: short, sweet, to the point. (And try to resist the urge to use the Twitter Bio Generator - but do visit it for a laugh.)


Profiles can get a little stale if not dusted and polished regularly. Earlier this year, Gwyneth Jones (@GwynethJones), The Daring Librarian, devoted a blog post to how she overhauled her digital brand top to bottom. Fourth on her list of six tips is "Profile Power;" take a look at what Ms. Jones has to say and share your reflections in our Google Group.


Not ready to publish? Work on your bio with paper and pen until you're ready to share it publicly. And remember, you can change what's online at any time.

Day 1: Set up (or spruce up) your account

To get started, head to Twitter.com and set up an account - it's quick and free. You will need to create a username, also called a handle. Note: don't be afraid to use your real name, especially if you're considering the idea of using Twitter in your classroom. That being said, an average of 304 million people use the service monthly, so don't be surprised if your preferred name is taken. Be inventive and create a handle that reflects your interests. When creating a username, Meghan Everette (@bamameghan), third grade teacher and blogger for Scholastic.com offers this advice: "Short, spelled correctly, and identifiable is key."


Already have an account? Take a look at it with fresh eyes. Is your profile picture current? If you have a blog, webpage, or other professional social media account, you may want to use the same picture among products; it helps to establish your brand, or online presence. Not comfortable using a picture of yourself? There are several avatar generators, including Bitmoji, PicassoHead, and My Manga, that allow you to express your creativity while maintaining a bit of privacy. Just last week, Cartoon Network created a sensation by releasing PowerPuff Yourself and now Twitter is teeming with personalized PPGs.


Finally, stop by our #PVCSD Challenge group and introduce yourself to the other participants. We'll eventually meet #F2F (a frequent goal for folks who develop professional relationships through Twitter) but in the meantime, we can use our Google Group to get to know one another a little better.


Congratulations on taking up the challenge!