- Pick a handle and a profile image and start a Twitter account.
- Find some people to start following on Twitter.
- Write your first tweets!
- Tweet to @ExploreMTBoS. Say hi and let us know you’re up and going!
- Comment on this post and include your Twitter handle and a thought about Twitter.
- Try out some of the Twitter mini-missions from the bottom of this post.
You made it to task two! I hope you enjoyed browsing some blogs already. You didn’t read and comment on a blog post yet? Not to worry. Feel free to go back and do that now, and leave a comment on the post. Or even better, wait until after you’ve gotten started on Twitter. Then you can tweet about the blog posts you discover! Reading blogs is not a one time adventure. That mission was the beginning of what will hopefully be a long and informative journey of reading and sharing.
Now, let’s focus on Twitter. Blogs are monologues. You get to share a complete idea with an introduction and a conclusion. And a blog post is static. People can comment but the post itself is just one person sharing a thing. Twitter is about conversations. You get to share snippets of ideas, build understanding, ask questions and it all happens much closer to real time. For the first week, some of you read blog posts that were written several years ago. I wouldn’t recommend trying to catch up on tweets from more than a day ago. That’s not because they aren’t interesting, but because you can only read so much. Twitter is more like stopping by the faculty room than reading a book. Sure, I’m curious what they talked about during first lunch, but I’m here during second lunch, so I’m going to listen to and join in on the conversation happening right now.
Twitter is chatting with the world. You may only know of Twitter as a place for pop stars or people tweeting their breakfast photos, but we promise that the MTBoS sub-community on Twitter is very different. It’s microblogging. It’s the world’s best teacher’s lounge. It’s a free-flowing and wide-ranging conversational tapestry, a place to ask a pressing question, let off some steam, share and reshare resources, find inspiration and encouragement, and crack hilarious jokes. It’s a great place to tune in, vet an idea, and let your colors shine through.
Get Signed Up:
You’ll need a name to go by on Twitter. This is your username or handle. It’s that thing that starts with an @ that you always see people advertising. It starts like that because if I want to speak to Justin, I want my message directed at Justin: @j_lanier. If he wants to reply back to me, he’ll start his message @crstn85. So, if I want to talk to you, you need a name. It could be your full name, a funny phrase, something mathy, or anything else. I stuck with the username I’ve had since AIM when I was 10; not the brightest idea since I no longer go by Cristina so no one knows what my jumble of letters means. Justin also has some regrets—that underscore is two screens away on the phone keyboard. However, we’re both surviving just fine. Rest assured, your username of choice will not make or break your experience on Twitter. One thing we were both successful at was choosing a short username. A tweet has a 140 character length limit, and that can get tough if you’re trying to talk to three people and one of them is @MathyMcMatherso!
Once you have a name, you’ll need a profile image, or avatar. We would love to see your smiling face—especially if we met you in person at NCTM, because it will help us connect you to the person we talked to. But it doesn’t have to be a photo of you—any square image will do.
Don’t put this off until later! If you don’t add an image you’ll stay the dreaded egg and people are less likely to follow you because you don’t look any different from a spam bot—a robo-account that sends unwanted messages rampantly. You can change your profile image as often as you want, so there’s no pressure to pick the perfect photo today.
Armed with these two pieces for your new digital identity, head on over to twitter.com and create your account! You’ll want to fill in your profile information for the same reason you want an image, and the same fact holds true – you can edit your profile info whenever you like. If you’re not sure about being public or private read more about a few teacher’s choices on that. Public is certainly preferable as you get started, but you should know (and follow) your school’s social media guidelines. Anecdote: my PreCalc students googled me after I shared that I would be presenting at NCTM. When I returned one of them said, “I wanted to follow you on Twitter but I thought I should wait until graduation.” Teaching kids proper boundaries and not writing anything you wouldn’t want a student or parent to run across are good things to live by regardless. Having a public Twitter account doesn’t change that.
One step in signing up for Twitter is following people. Note that Twitter tries to get you to follow pop stars and corporate brands, but you can skip this step if you want to. Or just unfollow them again right afterwards. In terms of accounts you might actually want to follow here are some suggestions to help get you started:
- Follow @ExploreMTBoS.
- Search the MTBoS directory for people who teach the same stuff you do or who have interests that match yours.
- There are 188 people who wrote their twitter handle on the We Are MTBoS poster at NCTM Boston.
- Many math professional organizations—like NCTM and affiliates—have Twitter accounts.
- Check out this list of tweeps (Explorers Spring 2015) – they are recent converts!
- And of course, you might look to see who the people you follow choose to follow.
Once you get started reading your Twitter feed you’ll be able to refine by only following people who tweet things you’re interested in. Some people mix in photos of their (adorable) children, others get really excited about sportsball events. If you can build a balance of elementary, middle school, high school, and college teachers, as well as math education researchers, you will get the full benefit of the diverse perspectives of our community. A great way to build a well-rounded feed is to see who talks to each other. If you notice that you’re only getting to see part of a conversation, follow all the people mentioned in the tweet and your feed will suddenly be filled with a complete conversation.
Once you’ve gotten past all the sign-up requirements, it’s time to celebrate with your inaugural tweet! Say something, anything. We won’t take the glory of your first tweet from you, but please make one of your tweets to us – @ExploreMTBoS. Introduce yourself as an explorer and share something about yourself. Leave your Twitter handle and any questions or thoughts you have in the comments of this post as well.
Since Twitter has a character limit there is some shorthand that happens. The forced brevity is awesome for helping you edit down to a single precise thought, but it also means that we use abbreviations for many things. Additionally, since there isn’t space for a pleasant opener, tweets can seem terse. You’ll learn to interpret tone over time, for now assume everything is meant kindly. Please, please ask if you have questions, about abbreviations or anything else! Anyone in this community is happy to help you navigate.
For Twitter to really work, you are going to want to commit to trying it out for a week or more, and that means hanging out. If you just sign up, tweet the mission, and then sign out, you aren’t going to be having mini-discussions and reading other peoples’s mini-discussions! So for this week, at the very least, check your Twitter feed regularly! Write to people and reply to people. Toss out your random musings. Really give it a chance. See what it’s like —and we hope you’ll see what’s caused so many math teachers to fall in love with Twitter. Next week we’ll tell you about how some people organize the information overload so you won’t be permanently overwhelmed!
And now, time for a FAQ. We will continue to develop this FAQ from questions in the comments and the questions that come to @ExploreMTBoS. Just like in class, if you’re wondering, chances are many other people are wondering the same thing. Ask now so we can fill you all in!
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions):
Who can see my tweet?
If you’re public, potentially anyone. But that doesn’t mean that they will. People mostly read their feed. Your tweet shows up in someone’s feed if they are following you. People also read their mentions. Your tweet shows up in someone’s mentions if you include their @name. Check out part 2 of this guide if you’re ready for the nitty gritty details.
What’s with the #?
When there are a lot of people talking, it can be hard to keep track of them all. Hashtags like #NCTMBoston and #MTBoS let people search for a specific topic and see everyone who is talking about it. This is a great way to find new people to follow, or to follow along with an event without having to follow all the people there. Fun fact: the # has many names, including octothorpe! (History of the octothorpe via video and podcast).
What are chats?
Some people like having conversations in real time rather than spread out across the day. They meet to discuss specific topics at a certain time. They use hashtags as well, so everyone participating searches for the hashtag to see everyone involved in the conversation. These conversations can happen really fast; if you’re feeling brave, jump on in! This week there will be special #MTBoS chats to help you get your feet wet.
Fun things to try as you get started or as you move from lurking to engaged. Do a few or do them all!
- Announce and introduce yourself in a tweet and include the hashtag #MTBoS.
- Pick three people you follow, but with whom you haven’t interacted—recently or ever. Say hello and introduce yourself to them, beginning your tweet with @theirname.
- Pick three people who follow you, but with whom you haven’t interacted—recently or ever. Say hello and introduce yourself to them, beginning your tweet with @theirname.
- Open up the #MTBoS feed and peruse it. Retweet something that you find compelling.
- Announce a blog post you’ve written, new or old. Include #MTBoS.
- Share a blog post that you’ve read recently that blew you away. Include #MTBoS.
- Share a question that’s been on your mind about your classroom practice. Include #MTBoS.
- Take a photo of your chalk-or-smartboard, or of a piece of student work. Tweet it and include #MTBoS.
- Share an online math resource you really love. Include #MTBoS.
- Tweet something mundane about your life. Include #MTBoS!
- Respond to a famous person or guru’s tweet.
- Tweet a favorite quotation or fact about mathematics. #MTBoS it up.
- Share something awesome about your day of teaching. #MTBoS.
- Share something hard about your days of teaching. #MTBoS
- Open up the #MTBoS feed and find some new tweeps to follow.
- And while you’re there, send a reply to a few interesting tweets you see.
- Tweet a tweet that’s exactly 140 characters long. #sosweet
- Think of someone whose tweets you appreciate. On Friday, give them a #FF (Follow Friday) shoutout.
And by the time you’ve done all those things you’ll be wondering how everyone keeps track of all these amazing ideas! Read on to get some help organizing everything.