Twitter for PD?! Why and How to Get Started

by Jess Bell and Carlota Holder

Jess and Carlota, known as @jessbell79 and @carlota_holder, share the who, what, why, where and how of using Twitter for professional learning.  They hope to see you online soon!

Often EL teachers and specialists are limited in PD opportunities. They yearn to continue their development among their professional peers, but the  lack of options in their district limits their choices. Classroom teachers who work with EL students may want additional guidance, have questions, or become interested in learning more about working with ELs. Using Twitter allows teachers to build and participate in their own Professional Learning Network (PLN) to help them grow in all aspects of their practice.

In November 2017, we led a Twitter workshop at the INTESOL conference. We would like to share that information here, including  PD possibilities and options  utilizing Twitter. If you’re a visual learner, check out the link at the bottom for the video. Twitter allows EL professionals to explore and build their own PLN (Professional Learning Network) with other professionals across the country or world, regardless of content and grade level constraints. Learn about Twitter chats, book clubs, and resource sharing. Benefits to using Twitter for PD include sharing strategies, book recommendations, and utilizing EL specific technology and applications. Why Twitter for pd? It’s free, it can be done any time, anywhere - even in your pajamas!  

Why use Twitter

Twitter allows educators to connect and collaborate globally. It can be used for any amount of time from a minute up to an hour, depending on your obsession. It gives you the opportunity to share what you are doing as an educator in your classroom as well as explore new ideas from other educators on Twitter. A huge benefit that is different from the PD possibly offered at your school is that you CHOOSE what interests you. You find other educators with those same interests and you can engage in weekly or monthly chats on topics that you want to learn more about. Twitter allows you to virtually connect with others in your field from educators, specialists, instructional coaches, administrators and more.

How to use Twitter

Twitter is available from your phone to your computer. On an android or IOs download the Twitter app. If you’re using a computer visit Next click on sign-up. It will ask you to enter your full name, an e-mail address or phone number, and to create a password. It will use your phone number to identify your identity and an activation code will be text messaged. Lastly, you will create a username. We’ve seen that most educators use Twitter for professional purposes, but if you plan on using it for personal as well you may want to create two separate accounts. Some educators also use their Twitter accounts with their students so they include Mr or Mrs in their usernames. The creative juices are all up to you!

Helpful Twitter Vocabulary

We’re language teachers so of course before getting started we want you to understand the vocabulary used on Twitter. A “tweet” is a 280 character message. (If you’re just now joining the Twitter universe you’re in luck as the limit use to be 140 characters!) A “retweet” is when you repost or share a tweet that you like or find interesting, you want your followers to see it too. When you “quote tweet” you repost, but you add your own thoughts and  opinions to the original post. When you “follow” someone you subscribe to their tweets and retweets. They will appear in your feed or stream. A “hashtag” is a phrase that comes after the pound symbol #. It’s a topic or tag that allows you to search for your interests. There are no spaces or punctuation, which at first can be difficult for educators. Finally, we have “PLN”, my favorite of all, which stands for “Professional Learning Network”. A “PLN” is a group of like minded peers who collaborate and connect on Twitter.  A “booksnap” is a visual representation of what is going on in your mind while you’re reading a book (check out this helpsite of ‘how to’ videos from Tara Martin to learn more.)

Following (People/Accounts)

Who you follow will determine what shows up in your feed, so you’ll want to include a variety of accounts. Many programs, publishers, school corporations, and authors have a twitter account to interact with users.  Here’s a list of some EL professionals to follow, but there are lots of lists available - just google! When you find your group of professionals that you interact with regularly, you’ll have your PLN!














A #hashtag is a searchable term (think keyword) that allows you to see who is tweeting about a topic you’re interested in. It also acts as a keyword for a group - it makes your tweet able to be found by people even in they’re not in your feed and you’re not in theirs!










What to Tweet About

Once you’ve signed up and skimmed through Twitter, you may be curious about what you can contribute or how to start using this tool to interact with your PLN.  You will notice people share everything! Don’t forget to include your #hashtag to allow others to find your post. My favorite posts are bookshaps, documents, videos of lessons, and ideas! But you can really tweet about anything! Please remember to consult your district’s policy about publishing/posting student photos before you post post pics of students.

  • Questions you’d like answers to?
  • Something to share
    • Text (about anything!)
    • Videos
    • GIFs
    • Photos
    • Bitmojis
    • Infographics
  • Shout outs! (Staff, Students, PD, Books…)

Twitter Chats

There are two different kinds of chats that happen regularly on Twitter; weekly chats and slow chats. A weekly chat happens on a certain day, at a certain time. The benefit of a weekly chat is that you receive real time interaction with your PLN and if you couldn’t attend in the moment you would be able to review them later. Some disadvantages are that the day or time of the weekly chat may not work for you and your schedule. Since Twitter is a global platform, chats happen in different time zones. The other type of chat is called a slow chat. Slow chats have a weekly schedule, but you can respond to questions anytime on your own time throughout the designated week. The benefit to that is that it’s your own schedule, you dictate the time you spend to participate, there can be real time interaction, and you still have the opportunity to review tweets after the fact. There are disadvantages to slow chats as well. It’s easier to forget or fall behind and you’re not always guaranteed real time interaction. With either chat you it’s easy to collaborate  with global educators. You can

How to Twitter Chat

For all chats there is a moderator, or facilitator that provides the questions you’ll be answering. Questions may be in a tweet, on a PDF, or even a photo. The question format may be different depending if it is a slow chat or a weekly chat. They could be listed  as 1Q2 for example; the first number indicates which week of the chat the question is for. The “Q” stands for question. The second number indicates the number of the question. 1Q2 would be week 1, question 2. This is the  format used for #ellchat_bkclub. Other chats might not have a number at the beginning, but instead just Q2 (usually the weekly chats) but follow the same kind of format. When responding to a question you simple change the “Q” to an “A” to indicate answer. For example if a participant is answering 1Q2 they would include 1A2 at the beginning of their tweet. The last thing to remember when participating in a chat is to include the hashtag (#) for the chat so that other participants can find your tweets and respond.

Interested in viewing our video presentation? Click here:

Carlota Holder is an EL Coordinator and master teacher for Enlace Academy on the west side of Indianapolis. This is her second year in this role and her 10th year of experience with English language learners. Her grade level experience ranges from Kindergarten to 8th grade with English language and Spanish instruction. Her roles have ranged from EL assistant, EL teacher, SIOP co-teacher, EL coach, and Spanish teacher.

Jess Bell is an EL and English teacher at Warren Central High School on the east side of Indianapolis. This is her second year in this role and her 16th year teaching, from grades 6-12, with experience from honors classes, ENL teacher, SIOP co-teacher, Special Education co-teacher, and English content teacher.

Carlota and Jess were co-teachers for four years in an 8th grade ELA classroom. Jess was the ELA teacher and Carlota was the EL teacher. While co-teaching they were the first to implement successful SIOP classes in their district along with their co-teaching model. Since going separate ways two years ago, Jess and Carlota continue to co-teach by co-presenting in Indiana and hope to reach those of you across the nation with their video PD series and national conferences.


See our set of professional learning offering options.




  • Posted by Debbie on

    Thanks Jess and Carlota. This has been helpful to me. I’ve tweeted and retweeted but didn’t know about the other opportunities.

  • Posted by blQXhsHMAy on


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