The English Language Teacher's Guide To Twitter, tech tip #11

The other day I quickly posted up notes on how to best use Twitter in a couple of the ELT Yahoo!Groups I belong to and one community member wrote and said... er, why isn't this on your blog so we can find it again?

So, here it is
(don't forget you can always print out my blog postings by scrolling down to the bottom and clicking on the eco-safe badge, you can also email it to other teachers who aren't yet on Twitter).

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a conversation that happens at the speed your fingertips can type. For educators, it's a community, a place to meet and form global relationships with other like-minded professionals in a ...virtual staffroom.

The basics

  • visit Twitter and create a profile. You can use a "handle" or alternative name if you wish.
  • load up a great pic, preferably of you smiling.
  • use a nice background, either those provided by Twitter backgrounds, your company's logo or a great photograph -perhaps where you're from or a place you enjoy visiting.
  • write a good 160 character description of yourself, include your interests and be sure that your relevant expertise in teaching is there - bios are incredibly important to those who have many followers, we want to know who you are and if we should make the connect.

Conversing with other tweachers
  • to talk to someone on twitter use the @ sign in front of their name/handle at the start of the tweet (@kalinagoenglish blah, blah). Only they and the people you both share in common will see your message.
  • if you are sharing something that you would like both the reader and the rest of your followers to see, enter a . or any text/symbol before the @name (hi @kalinagoenglish this is a gr8 link 2 materials from the BBC etc).
  • if you would like to talk to someone privately put a D in front of the name no @ (i.e. D kalinagoenglish) or simply click on the word "message" on their home page. If you're using a client, click on the thing that looks like an envelope when you hover over the tweeter's picture. You can only do this if the person you follow is following you back.
  • to share something from one tweeter to all of your followers, put an RT before the @name, this will spread the message on to the person's followers as well.
  • think before you tweet ;-) sometimes you'll say things you didn't mean to or make spelling mistakes but don't worry about it. The time line's pretty quick and contrary to everything you read on the web, tweets disappear very quickly.

Managing the chaos
  • the very best app (in my opinion) to manage life in Twitter is Tweetdeck. You can use this on your computer or on your phone. It's a free download and very easy to use. It also enables you to divide up your stream into different groups.
  • you don't have to follow every link the second you see it appear on the screen. From the Twitter home page, click on the star and then read it when you have time. If you're using Tweetdeck, hover over the tweet, click on the settings wheel, scroll down to the tweet and click on favorite.

Finding other like-minded teachers

  • you can also scan through these lists on Twubs: #teachertuesday and #edchat to find those with similar interests.
  • to recommend other people to the people that you follow/ are following you back in your PLN (Personal Learning Network), use the hashtag #teachertuesday on Tuesdays or #followfriday on Fridays.
  • to show the whole Twitterverse that you are discussing something related to TEFL, use one of these hashtags: #tefl #esl #efl #elt #esp #businessenglish - this is also a great way to find other people to follow as you can save up to 10 searches on the twitter side bar. Obviously if you're a teacher of another subject use a relevant hashtag.
  • as a general rule unless you're really, really only interested in talking to 10 people: follow your followers: try to limit yourself to those who are in the same niche area you are in. You can also follow people who have the same interests as you do - pop music, books or art. But be careful with social-networking "gurus" who tweet all day long filling your stream with miscellaneous information or the life-coaches who tweet nonsense and watch out the spammer p*rn-girls.

Understanding and unleashing the power of Twitter
  • the fastest way to understand why millions of people, and now teacher-trainers, are recommending Twitter when, as a newbie, all you're seeing is chaos (that was me 6 months ago) is actually due to the quality of one's PLN.
  • Twitter actually doesn't take on any shape until you follow and are followed by over 100 people. Once you reach that stage you will begin to connect and have fascinating and amusing conversations and you'll be able to access the Wisdom of the Crowd extremely quickly when you need to find information.
  • Twitter, as an educator, is all about the sharing. Sharing knowledge, getting to know other global teachers and networking with them, informing them about the work you do, finding out about the experiences they have, telling everyone about articles, blog postings or new ways of thinking about teaching.
  • you can repeat tweets which contain important links. As twitter is global and obviously on a 24 hour clock, some of your followers may miss it the first time round so you can RT stuff hours or days apart. For those who're using their phones and are on Twitter all day or perhaps are insomniacs, you can vary up the intro to the link.

Having excellent manners and fabulous net-i-quette.
  • publicly or privately thank people when they RT your tweets - you don't have to do this all the time - however it doesn't hurt to be conscientious about doing it fairly regularly.
  • likewise, when someone recommends you to their stream in #teachertuesday #tt #followfriday or #ff. Fairly rude if you never say thanks! btw, NEVER, ever use these hashtags to promote your own work or resources. Ever. We will hate you and possibly, probably, unfollow you.
  • if you put a call-out to your stream asking for help with something, send out another tweet out a few hours or days later saying you appreciated their participation (or perhaps they won't help you again!)
  • pay kindness back with kindness. Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.

Also, it is really important to note that an unbelievable amount about a person's character can be determined within those 140 characters you send out. So make a conscious effort to be the same nice person that you are in real life ;-).

The list of absolute "NO" goes:

  • do not only talk about yourself /your company /your articles /your book/ your blog etc - no matter how passionate you are about these things. The general rule of thumb for this, if you're in business or you're on twitter for professional reasons, is: 1 about you and 4 about others/life/teaching and the questions of the universe.
  • share the work of other people through RT'ing and communicate with other people about what they're doing: never put someone's name on something that they didn't tweet themselves.
  • do not use a logo unless it is a very, very likeable one. No one wants to talk to an image. It's not rocket science: would you like to spend time talking with a poster or a roadside billboard? That would be seriously freaky, right? We can see your company's name at the bottom of your tweet or use it as your background - we'll notice you and respect you if you have a personal picture because it assures us that you're here to participate, not simply wanting to spam us.

General teachers don't have to worry about the above.

  • do not use an automated feeder only. We, like, um can tell that you're not you and it totally turns people off. An exception to this might be Aniya, @TheEngTeacher (who came up with the concept of #teachertuesday - she uses Viigo to feed a constant stream of links on teaching, autism and smart-phone related issues). If you're on Twitter, then be on Twitter.
  • do not protect your updates. It makes you look secretive.
  • never ever follow any link that says "get 100 followers" -these are spam bots that will take over your account. Get your 100+ followers slowly and patiently by earning your stream's respect. If you follow weirdos and pornstars we will be rather dubious of you.
  • be very cautious of DMs from people you don't really know advertising weight-loss gain or videos you starred in - these tend to be from people whose accounts have been hijacked (usually because they themselves clicked on a dodgy link) and are worms.
  • do not talk about coffee, in fact, try to limit trivia in general unless it's Sunday morning (!) or you've been on for a while and have now formed real friendships with the global teachers you're meeting, share good links to the articles you've read and enjoyed.
  • never, ever talk about dogs if you're following Scott Thornbury! LOL, obviously, do not tell him I warned you.

Who to follow if you are an English language teacher:
*if you're non ELT you can also search this site for other excellent lists of educators in your field

Update 24-11-10
The Tweeplm website (and list of educators to follow) is currently down while they update their site.  For the time being, a good way to find those in ELT would be to look at the list of folks I've marked as ELT

My handle on twitter is @kalinagoenglish -

Oh, but before I sign off, just in case the above wasn't information overload already, here are links I've saved to help pave the way and get you up to speed:

I lk fwd to c'ing u in the Twitterverse!


Useful links related to this posting:

NOTE: this article, like most of the stuff I write is copyleft/licensed CC-ND-NC. This means that although it's totally free, it's also my intellectual property. Unlike copyrighted material, however, you can download it, pass it on, email it, print as a pdf, distribute it amongst your staff..etc, etc without notifying me. However if you'd like to use it in a commercial magazine, you should write and let me know the details. If you're a fellow blogger, no seriously, peeps - you can't copy the whole posting! Contact me and I'll let you know what to do.

32 Responses to “The English Language Teacher's Guide To Twitter, tech tip #11”

  • Burcu Akyol says:
    August 22, 2009


    Thanks for this very comprehensive, informative and inspiring article and for mentioning me:-) I want more educators to join Twitter and experience that great synergy! Some people tend to underestimate its value and we're doing our best to break prejudice barriers against Twitter.


  • Barbara Sakamoto says:
    August 22, 2009

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For putting all these tips together. And, thanks to your fellow group members who harrassed you into doing so. Now, when I try to coax teachers into the Twitter waters, I can show them this post. You've made my job easier.

    Did I mention that I really appreciate your putting this information together in one place? I do!

  • Mary Miller Pembleton says:
    August 22, 2009

    WOW, what a huge help to a self taught blogger, tweeter, FBer and web owner. You answered so many questions. I want to participate more, I have ideas to share. I want to learn, we must keep learning and yes I want to promote my product that stimulates conversation but I feel more secure about doing it in a focused relevant way thanks to you. Gotta go I have lots more posts of yours to read. Thanks!

  • English Teach' says:
    August 22, 2009

    Hey, I'm honored to have made your list :) Congrats on the post, I totally agree with your opinions on twitter. Most of all, I agree with the fact that it seems chaotic and pointless to people who don't follow the "right" people, namely those with the same interests.. Luckily, I don't have this problem :)

    Mona (aka julianna07 on twitter :P)

  • Shelly Terrell says:
    August 22, 2009


    Great post and Twitter tips! Very thorough collection for people to bookmark!

    I especially like how you dealt with Twitter Netiquette which may not be known to newcomers on Twitter.

  • Dilip Barad says:
    August 22, 2009

    Indeed wonderful blog. Very informative. Tweeter is the buzz word... spreading like wild fire. everybody is keen to know about it. You have given very very useful information regarding it. thanks. By the way, can you please let me know how to use eco-safe in my blog?

  • testecarla says:
    August 23, 2009

    Dear Karenne,

    What a wonderful post to share with twitter newbies. I'll surely add to our school blog. Thanks for the mention in such a wide world of wonderful twitterers.

    Beijos (kisses in Portuguese)

    August 23, 2009

    Thank you back guys - especially for expanding my horizons, and my brain! I learn everyday from my PLN and it consistently surprises me how much you guys share.

    Dilip, to get the eco-badge visit

    Eco Merit Badge

    I should warn you that it slows down your page a little, but for me it's a price am willing to pay as like doing whatever I can to help cut down on paper - I no longer give out hand-outs in training sessions, and get trainees to come to the blog instead!

    Good luck!


  • Janet Bianchini says:
    August 23, 2009

    Hi Karenne

    Many thanks for a wonderful post which hits the right button in terms of what a lot of people are asking about. This post is really useful for me and I'm going to bookmark it right now.

    Many thanks for including me on your list! I feel I am still testing the waters with I will certainly put your fab tips into practice from now on.

    Janet :)

  • Neal Chambers says:
    August 23, 2009


    Thanks for a great post on Twitter that puts it all together. As for managing the chaos, Tweetdeck is what I still use, but I've heard seesmic desktop is actually better (and the company has more funding). Although everyone (including me) still uses Tweetdeck.

    Anyway, I've actually limited Twitter-ing to my iPhone to keep from getting addicted. I think it's important to manage your time with Twitter or else you might end up spending way too much time on it.

    Thanks again for the excellent post and the mention!

  • monika hardy says:
    August 24, 2009

    gosh. some stuff i didn't realize. thanks girl. will be passing it along as well.

  • Bethany Cagnol says:
    August 24, 2009

    Hi Kareene,

    As a Twitter newbie, I'm grateful. I'm following (and being followed) by some great teachers, such as yourself.

    One question: what do I do about the random followers? I don't know these people, their tweets don't relate to my work / interests / circle of friends. Some have an impressive following, while others seem to be "trolling for followers."

    Should I block them? Or is that Twitter suicide?

    Moreover, I'm certain, once my students get wind of me being on Twitter, I'll have some tough choices to make (block or no block - or just create a new Twitter ID for students only?)

    Thanks for the input, and keep those tips coming!

    Beth Cagnol

    August 24, 2009

    Hi Bethany,

    Unfortunately you can't do anything about the random "followers" 'xcept ignore them.

    After a while you don't even notice-- the problem is more that on some days you'll get 20-50 and may miss actual teachers!

    I tend to check the Friend or Follow program (in the delicious links) about once a month or so and see if I've done this by accident.

    You also won't be able to do anything about the awful spammer girls either.

    You can block people but this is quite time consuming (and ineffective - they come back)!

    RE separate accounts: Yes/No. Up to you, really, I have a couple of students in my stream and sometimes I interact with them but to be honest, I think it's wisest to have two different accounts.

    Mashable have a written a good post on the best twitter apps to do this with.

    Hi ya Kool Beans Monika! Glad to have helped ;-)

  • Sue says:
    August 24, 2009

    Another great post, (as always) Karenne, and many thanks for the kind mention!

    Think you hit the nail on the head when you say that building up a quality PLN of like-minded people is the key to making sense of Twitter. I'll be emailing this to all the non-twitterers in my PLN that have yet to dip their toe in the water, so that when they do sign up they can get off to a flying start!

    Keep the great tips coming! Am heading off now to get my ECO Merit Badge... :-)

    best wishes,


  • Anonymous says:
    August 25, 2009

    You are wrong about tweats disappearing off the time line. They are there forever.

    However, you can delete tweats, and as long as someone hasn't RT you, they will go away.

  • Claudio Azevedo says:
    August 25, 2009

    Hey karenne,
    Thanks for this thorough information and tips. I'm still a newby and do not use twitter as I should, especially after reading your post. I'm still in doubt about retweetting and other stuff, but I will contact you for extra help, if that's OK with you. Thanks.

  • MissShonah says:
    August 25, 2009

    Hi Karenne,

    This is a great post-informative and, as always, entertaining. Also great to read your list&check out other tweachers that I have not seen yet (and a huge thanks for the mention).

    Also, just to let you know I am using seesmic (a great recommendation from @TheEngTeacher!) and their latest version has some super features that makes it really easy to organise all that chaos you mentioned!

    This post will be a great one to come back to for future reference too - you really have a great way of writing...

    Shonah :-)

  • Tara Benwell says:
    August 25, 2009

    Great stuff Karenne! Will be bookmarking this one for linking purposes. Wish I had read something like this when I was just starting out. Reminds me of how nobody ever taught me to put on make-up...


    August 26, 2009

    Hi ya Tara,

    Yeah I remember what that was like! LOL.

    To be honest, Gavin Dudeney first told me in a workshop about Twitter, about a year ago or so...

    I went on then and just thought what a big fat mess of egomaniacs talking about themselves non-stop.

    Then Ronaldo Lima wrote a blog posting about his revisit and I was intrigued...

    Spent forever reading all the twittips and mashable posts on Twitter, trying to make heads and tails of it all... and well, here we are now, am writing the tips! LOL.

    Actually, I love Twitter and can't believe how close I feel to some people who are really just strangers, you kind of just hear their voices in your heads! Am always blown away by how much material and information we're able to share in microseconds.

    Shonah, Sue - ;-) glad you enjoyed the post, ta for the tip on seeismic and enjoy the eco-badge!

    Claudio, 'course, no worries... write me through BELTfree, am happy to help!

    Anonymous... have you ever tried tracking down one of your (or someone else's tweets) which wasn't favorited from about a month ago - disappear-i-ated... of course, where to, dunno.


  • Shelley says:
    August 27, 2009

    Great and helpful post, Karenne!

    Have added it to my little k12 twitter howto compilation (

    Folks interested in finding other tweeting teachers might also want to check out

    Thank you for helping bring more purposeful out-loud learners on board!

    (aka butwait)

    PS: Another vote for Seesmic's desktop from me!

  • Alex Case says:
    August 27, 2009

    You proved my point Karenne! I got top mention without ever having Twittered at all- the best of both worlds!

  • Ian McNaught says:
    August 27, 2009

    Great article, it's always hard explaining to people the value of twitter, because it does take a while for the value to build up.

    There is one statement that is incorrect (and potentially dangerously so). You say that to talk to someone on twitter use the @ sign in front of their name/handle at the start of the tweet ... Only they and the people you both share in common will see your message. That's not exactly true, people will only see it in their twitter feed if they follow both of you, but unless you have protected tweets, everyone will see it when they visit your page - so these messages need to be thought of as public.

    August 27, 2009

    Alex... that's just because you're one of my favorite people. What could I but do and snap Tara's tweet of your quote ;-)

    Thanks for sharing those tips with us all Shelly and good point Ian.

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    August 29, 2009

    What a great post about Twitter for educators! Well done, Karenne! Am truly chuffed you have included me in your list :-)

    I am reposting this in Facebook, hoping to motivate a very large crowd of teachers to start being more actively engaged!

  • Andrew M. says:
    September 01, 2009

    Marvellous stuff again , Karenne.
    Have now added many of your 'followed'. It's sinking in slowly!

  • Victor Hugo Rojas B. says:
    September 01, 2009

    Great post!
    I've been trying twittering and I find it very useful. However, I haven't twittered with my students yet. Indeed, becoming a "tweacher" is a challenging task to manage, so it's time to start.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    Victor Hugo

  • ESL 791 Speech Making says:
    September 23, 2009

    Thanks for the helpful pointers for using Twitter. There is so much to learn to use it fully! Thanks also for including me on your list. I'm honored! Connecting with you and the other tweachers these past few months on Twitter has been great for me! You've re-energized my spirit and rekindled the excitement of finding new and creative ways to engage my students. I hope I can pass it on!

  • abracadabra says:
    September 28, 2009


    Nice rundown and bookmarked for sure. Very clear and I'm guilty of a few things and faux pas when using twitter - I'm a twit!


  • Mike Church says:
    May 23, 2010

    Thank you SO much, Karenne. This is just the intro I've been needing. And not just me, I'm sure. Also delighted to have stumbled across your wonderful site for the first time this afternoon.

    I will try and tweak you sometime this wheat. :)

  • smilin7 says:
    June 27, 2010

    Karenne, I have printed an edited version of this blog post and pinned it to my "wall of inspiration, motivation and HELP" (I have a very eclectic bulletin board on the wall near my computer). Rereading this today has provided me with several useful reminders. D in front of a tweeter's name was new to me (overlooked upon first reading). Very, very useful and thorough. Thank you! [I have been following you since the awesome Susan Boyle lesson you shared months ago] Holly, online adult ESOL/EFL instructor, Charlottesville, VA, USA

  • Daniel Welsch says:
    November 30, 2010

    I didn't know anything about #teachertuesday! Thanks!

  • Brad Patterson says:
    January 29, 2011

    Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo's retweet, I'm here months and months after the fact, but here none the less to learn a thing or two.

    I didn't really have a twitter 101 and just plunged in, and like any culture if you're quiet at first and pay attention, you'll get the faux and the faux pas pretty quick.

    A number of points were good little leaps in learning for me, SO THANKS for sharing!


Visitors and Regular Readers


FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed

Communities of Practice

Blog Archive

Directories, catalogs and Back Links

Adult Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory Add to Technorati Favorites

The EFL ESL Blog List - ESL/EFL/TEFL Teaching Jobs and Teacher Resumes

International Blogging Directory

Recent Posts

Simply Conversations

Pedagogically sound materials designed to get your students actively talking:

Free Samples
Conversation Control

General English
Business English

Learn more on why these work