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Tip of the Week: 5 things every social studies teacher needs to know about Twitter

glenn twitter

I joined Twitter about nine years ago in late 2007. As a social studies guy trying to learn more about how tech could be used in instruction and learning tool, I was a bit underwhelmed during my first few months with the tool.

Most posts fit the stereotypical – I learned a lot about what people did the night before, what they ate the night before, and how disappointed they were about the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But it got better. And I am becoming more and more convinced that Twitter is now one of the those non-negotiable things that we all should have in our tool belts.

It’s not the silver bullet that will solve all of your problems (And I will admit it may create some.) But it does do some pretty handy things – we can connect with experts, connect our students with experts, connect with each other, find and share content, ask questions, help others, and apparently save the world at the international, national, state, and local levels.

So today five things I think all of us need to know about Twitter. (New to Twitter? Get set up here. And remember that you can have multiple Twitter accounts – so think about creating both personal and professional versions.)

It’s okay to lurk
Seriously. You don’t need an account to suck in the Twitter goodness. Head over to Twitter, type in a few handy hashtags (More about these things below) or keywords in the search box and you can quickly find all sorts of helpful stuff. But realize that this is a baby step. It is not permission for you to not become an active member. But it is permission to start slow if you still a bit leery.

Much of the power of Twitter comes from creating, not just consuming. Joining makes you part of the team, part of the combined brain trust that is the twitterverse. We need your ideas, suggestions, thinking, and questions to take the goodness higher. It’s a two part process. First, you’re a consumer – you follow people, read their tweets, and get a little smarter. The real learning happens when you begin to share. Any productive face to face conversation involves an actual exchange of words and sentences, the occasional paragraph. A productive Twitter conversation isn’t any different.

If you’re still getting your feet wet and need to some people to connect with, head back to this list of organizations and people to follow. Then start browsing their lists of followers to get even more social studies type folks. And this list of social studies teachers might also be helpful as well as this list of educators. Clicking on any of the names on the lists opens up their Twitter page. To follow that person or group, simply click the Follow button. (It’s just as easy to unfollow someone. Just click Unfollow.)

rick steves follow

hamilton follow

Use hashtags and chats
Hashtags are designed to help you find the people and ideas that you’re looking for. And gives you a way to target a very specific group of people with your own stuff. Put the # symbol in front of any word or combination of words and it becomes it’s own little search engine. For example, #sschat is one of the best ways to connect with other social studies teachers.


Chats are scheduled events in which a moderator poses questions to the group and the participants answer based on their own ideas and experiences.  These chats typically occur at the same time every week and always use a custom hashtag so that people can follow along. #sschat happens every Monday night at 7:00 pm EST.

#sschat – Social Studies chat (One of my favorites. Check out their web page too.)
#socialstudies – General social studies
#history – General history stuff
#whapchat – AP World history
#apush – AP US history
#ushistory – United States history
#civics – Government and civics teaching
#apgov – Advanced Placement government
#hsgovchat – More government
#historychat – Chatting . . . about history
#historyteacher – History instruction
#geographyteacher – Geography instruction

And two of my favorites:


Clicking on a hashtag in any Tweet will show you all other Tweets using that keyword. It’s okay to put hashtags anywhere in the Tweet – beginning, middle or end but don’t use too many. Three is probably enough.

Adjust your Settings
Head your profile and browse through your Security and Privacy settings. And complete your bio and profile.

Understand that it really is a teaching and learning tool

Follow the rules

  • Using a pound sign /# refers to a topic. Using the @ sign refers to people. Don’t confuse them
  • Don’t go nuts with tons of links
  • Don’t use your account to sell things
  • Respond to others who engage with your stuff
  • Ask questions but be ready to share answers and information
  • You don’t need to Tweet all day, every day.
  • Introduce your followers to others
  • Retweet stuff you like and find useful.
  • Be nice. This should be a learning environment so mind your Ps and Qs
  • Sharing private info is not a good thing
  • Use photos and visuals. (Adobe Post is a great free app for this)
  • Proofread
  • Try out TweetDeck or Hootsuite to help manage all the info

Have fun!


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Spencer #

    How much have you seen students participate through twitter once you had an account set up?

    April 12, 2016

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