Twitter – The Very Basics

Our district has been engaging administrators in a Digital Discovery Series this year. We have had two very powerful sessions. Our last session was just last week, with George Couros speaking to us about Social Media.  You can find my blog post about that evening here.

After our session with George, there have been a number of administrators wondering where to start with Twitter.  As a result, I thought I would make a very basic blog post for those just getting started.

Interestingly enough, one of the quotes made by George that stood out for many was

“If you are not on Twitter and don’t know what # or @ mean then you are slowly becoming illiterate.”

So, let’s start with the basics:

When you send a message in Twitter (called a tweet), if you send it and do not add anything else to you message, only those people who follow you will see your message.  If you have two followers, only two people will see your message.

What does the “#” hashtag mean?

You use this anywhere in a tweet.  The # and the keyword(s) that follow the # sign does a couple of things:

1.  The hashtag sends your message to a particular group. This sends your message to a larger group of people (not only those who follow you). For instance, if you want to send a message so that people in our own school district would see, you would put our school district hashtag at the end of your message (tweet). The hashtag we use for our school district is #sd36learn.  If you send your message to this hashtag, anyone who views this stream will see your message (not only those people who follow you).

2. The hashtag can also be used to allow others to search for the keyword in your tweet.  For instance, if you were tweeting about a particular topic, but did not know if there was a particular group already formed on that topic, you may add a hashtag to your message. This will enable anyone to search for that topic. If they do, they will likely come across your tweet.

Important to note: If you click on a hashtagged word in any message, you will be taken to a list of other tweets with the same hashtag somwhere in the tweet.

According to Twitter-etiquette, you should try not to use more than three hashtags for each tweet.

Some hashtags you may consider using and/or following:

#sd36learn – Surrey School District

#bclearns – British Columbia Learns – those people who are interested in tweeting about education-related topics (not political) in BC tweet here.

#edchat – General education-related chatter.

#cpchat – Connected Principals Chat – This is a great chat for administrators to use. It is always filled with interesting and relevant education topics and discussions – with some great school principals to learn from and follow.

#edleaders and #edadmin — resources and ideas connected to educational leadership.

#edpolicy and #edreform — resources and ideas connected to educational reform.

If you want to search for a posts (tweets) on given topics, you can go to: (even if you don’t have a twitter account)

If you are looking for all the hashtags that are useful to people in Education, you may want to check out Cybrary Man’s list of Educational Hashtags.

Here is a good video on the basics of Twitter Search and using hashtags.

Next up, what does the “@” tag mean?

You use the “@” when you want to send a message to someone, or reference someone in a message. For example, if someone wanted to reply to something that I said, they would preface their post with “@henriksent” (“henriksent” is my Twitter username). The “@” symbol could also be used later in the post to reference someone (ie: “I am going to the movies with @henriksent”).

Here are some video tutorials you may want to watch, as you get started with Twitter.

If you are wondering who to follow on Twitter, you may want to look at this list. This is a very large list, organized by particular area of education. For instance, if you would like to follow some administrators, go to the column that is titled Admin.  As you scroll down, you will see many administrators who are currently using Twitter. This is a google doc, so you can add your Twitter username while you are at it.  🙂

Here is a recent list of some of Canada’s Most Influencial Edu-Tweeters. You may want to check out this list and follow some of these people.

What does “RT” Mean?

You will often see “RT” in a tweet.  The “RT” is short for “ReTweet”. You would use “RT” if you wanted to pass on what someone else has already said.  A RT may look something like this tweet I RTed tonight:

RT @evernoteschools: Don’t miss our webinar tomorrow — 11 ways to use Evernote in your classroom #edtech #sd36learn

You may wonder why people would RT something someone else has Tweeted.  There are a couple of reasons:

1.  You liked what that person tweeted and would like to respond to it in some way.

2. More importantly, you want the people who follow you to see that tweet, thus, spreading the information to a wider audience.

If you change a tweet that you RT, you may want to change the RT at the beginning of the message to MT (Modified Tweet).

Direct Messages (DM’s)

You may not want everyone to see what you have to say all of the time. You may want to send a direct message to someone so only that person reads what you have to say.  If you want to do this all you need to do is start your message with a d and a space, followed by the person’s username.

For instance, if you wanted to send me a DM, you would start your tweet with “d henriksent” followed by your message.

So, that’s the very basic guide to starting with Twitter.

You may want to look at using some other applications that will help you organize Twitter, as I find it quite over-whelming in when I just use the Twitter platform itself.

On my laptop, I prefer to use Tweetdeck – where I can set up columns with my favourite hashtags I like to follow. There is an app for this for your iPhone.  You can use the app for this on your iPad as well, but it will only show you one column at a time.  On my iPad, I prefer to use the Hootsuite app.  There are many apps out there, so I recommend you explore them and find one that works best for you.

Here are a couple of pages on our District Wiki for you to peruse:

Social Media

Who to Follow on Twitter (please add your name to one of the google docs that may apply to you).

Good luck!  If you need any help, let me know and I will be happy to do what I can to lend some assistance.


Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

5 thoughts on “Twitter – The Very Basics

  1. Hi. Thanks for your brief overview of Twitter. I’ve had a twitter account for a while but haven’t really used it. I hope to start using it more soon!

    1. Oh, you should start using your Twitter account again! I opened one on 2008, but quickly lost interest. I looked at it again last July and I was amazed by the learning and professional growth! Go for it! You won’t be disappointed!

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Can you add “avoiding get tricked by Twitter spam” to your list of basics? I get many, many DMs each day from people who have had their Twitter accounts compromised because they fell for a spam link.

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