Twitter for K12 Educators: A Primer for Sprigeo Twitter Basics

Twitter for K12 Educators: A Primer for Sprigeo Twitter Basics
Twitter for K12 Educators: A Primer for Sprigeo
Twitter Basics
Founded in 2006, Twitter is a social broadcast network that enables people and organizations
to publicly share brief messages, or “Tweets,” instantly around the world. Available in over 35
languages, Twitter has more than 288 million monthly active users—77 percent of whom live
outside of the United States. Limiting Tweets to 140 characters distills information to its
essence and encourages conversation among users. There’s no single purpose for a Tweet;
indeed, some users rely on the platform to connect with the world without tweeting
themselves. There are as many users as reasons to tweet: activists to mobilize political action,
brands to promote products, and news agencies to report breaking stories. Other users
leverage Twitter to follow their favorite celebrities or to join conversations on topics or hobbies
of interest. Still others use it to chronicle events as they unfold in real time, snapping photos
and recording video from the app.
The “At-Sign” (@)
The origin of the @ symbol, or the “at-sign,” is shrouded in mystery. Once used by Spanish and
Portuguese merchants as a unit of weight around 25 pounds, the symbol is now a hallmark of
the digital era. In essence, the at-sign links a personal identifier to a hostname like
“” From this comes the standard format of an email address:
[email protected] The at-sign has evolved from a digital place marker into quick links to
users on Twitter and other social media platforms. The “@reply,” or the at-sign placed before a
username, enables real-time conversations on Twitter. Instead of writing someone at
“[email protected],” for instance, you can simply respond by adding “@name” to a Tweet.
Many businesses invite users to contact them via Twitter rather than email so they can respond
to inquiries immediately.
Hashtags (#)
Brevity promotes creativity—so much so, in fact, that users pioneered many of the features
that define Twitter today. The hashtag is the most tangible example. Using the hash character
(#), hashtags add metadata to a Tweet and thereby group it with related content. Hashtags sort
content into conversations about anything ranging from tentpole events, such as #Oscars for
the annual Academy Awards ceremony, to forums that stretch back years, like the debate
surrounding Net Neutrality (#NetNeutrality). As hashtags become widespread, so have norms
governing their usage. In general, hashtags should be brief, relevant, and number no more than
two or three per Tweet. There are some limitations, of course: you can’t make a hashtag from
numbers or words spaced apart. But the same is generally true on other social media platforms
that have adopted hashtags in recent years.
Signing Up for a Twitter Account
1. Go to and find the sign up box, or go directly to
2. Enter your full name, email address, and a password.
3. Click Sign up for Twitter.
4. On the next page, you can select a username (usernames are unique identifiers on
Twitter)—type your own or choose one that’s been suggested. The interface will notify
you if the username you want is available.
5. Double-check your name, email address, password, and username.
6. Click Create my account. You may be asked to complete a Captcha to confirm that
you're human.
7. Twitter will send a confirmation email to the email address you entered. Click the link
in that email to confirm your email address and account.
iPhone (Apple iOS)
1. If you haven’t already installed the Twitter for iPhone app, go to and follow the instructions on that page.
2. Once the app is installed on your iPhone, you can log in with an existing account or
sign up for a new account directly from the app.
3. Tap the blue Sign up button on the welcome screen and fill out the fields asking for
your name, phone number or email address, desired username, and password.
4. If your desired username is already taken, it will turn red and a message will drop down
below the username field telling you to choose a new username.
5. Once you've chosen a username that has not been taken, a blue checkmark will appear
next to the username.
6. When you have completed the form, tap Sign up.
7. If you provided a phone number while signing up, Twitter will immediately send you an
SMS text message with a code to verify your number. Enter the verification code in the
box provided.
8. A message will pop up telling you your account has been successfully created.
Android (Google)
1. Open the app and tap the Sign up button.
2. On the next page, fill in your account information (name, username, email address,
and password).
3. After entering your name, you can choose from one of the suggested usernames, or
type in an available username of your choosing.
Note: If you provided an email address when signing up, Twitter send you a confirmation
email. You must confirm your email address in order for it to be fully associated with your
Twitter account so you can receive important notifications regarding your account.
Posting a Tweet
1. Sign in to your Twitter account.
2. Type your Tweet into the box at the top of your Home timeline, or click the Tweet
button in the top navigation bar.
3. Make sure your update is fewer than 140 characters. We'll count the characters for
you! Remaining characters show up as a number below the box.
4. Tip: Read about how to include photos in your Tweet here, and how to include a video
in your Tweet here.
5. Click the Tweet button to post the Tweet to your profile.
6. You will immediately see your Tweet in the timeline on your homepage.
iPhone (Apple iOS)
1. Tap the compose Tweet icon
in the top menu on the right.
2. Compose your 140-character message and tap Tweet.
3. The Tweet will be successfully posted to your profile.
Pro tip: Have a Tweet in progress you’re not ready to post? Tap the X in the Tweet composer
box and select Save draft. Access it (and other drafts) later by tapping the draft icon
the bottom menu of the Tweet composer.
Android (Google)
Tap on What’s happening? from the menu bar at the bottom.
Enter your 140-character message.
When you're ready to post your message, tap Tweet.
A notification will appear in the status bar on your device and will go away once the
Tweet successfully sends.
Twitter as a Learning Tool
News and Trending Hashtags
Twitter is an indispensable tool for citizen journalists, who increasingly break news before news
vans have even warmed their engines. Where dispatches from a desktop computer once were,
instantaneous storytelling from smartphones will be. Twitter and social media at large have
democratized journalism, throwing the news cycle into high gear. In 2000, the timeframe to
break news was typically a few hours; now, it’s a few minutes. That anyone can broadcast a
story from anywhere is more significant that it seems at first glance. Once funneled through
newspapers, radio, and television, news today can come anyone with a mobile device and a
story to tell. Naturally, there are anxieties about the validity of citizen journalism on social
media—unfamiliarity with journalistic ethics, mistakes an editor would normally catch, an intent
to falsify. But as with Wikipedia—now proven to be more accurate than traditional
encyclopedias—, the wisdom of the crowd converges on a balanced viewpoint.
Twitter began to drive the news cycle as early as January 15, 2009, when a bird strike caused
a U.S. Airways flight to plunge into the Hudson River. A witness tweeted a photo of the crash
as he hopped on a ferry to rescue passengers, propelling him to fame and Twitter into the
public limelight. In the following year, the platform would become central to documenting
news. Starting in 2010, smartphone-wielding activists from Tunis to Taksim Square used
Twitter to broadcast their ideas, mobilize protesters, and challenge regimes that, at the time,
underestimated the power of technology to effect social change. The platform has since
become the engine of the news cycle, with legacy media engaging users alongside
independent news producers. On March 11, 2011, Japanese users tweeted warnings about the
tsunami that barreled towards the coast after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck 43 miles
offshore. News outlets later took to Twitter to notify followers of the fallout at the Fukushima
nuclear power plant. In August 2014, police barricades in Ferguson, Missouri, blocked national
and local journalists from recording clashes between protesters and law enforcement after a
local police officer shot an unarmed teenager. But it didn’t prevent protesters from tweeting
raw footage with the hashtag #Ferguson—footage that would later appear on the evening
news. Similarly, the massacre at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in
January 2015 not only yielded an outpouring of support for victims, but through the hashtag
#JeSuisCharlie reaffirmed the value of free expression in democratic societies.
Connecting with Subject Matter Experts
Anyone with an Internet connection can view a user’s Tweets. The upside of such openness is
that with the right dose of hashtags and/or @replies, expert advice is widely available. There’s
wisdom in the aggregate, and Twitter is, in many ways, an endless conversation between
aggregates. With a single Tweet, users can solicit opinions on a product or service. Frequently
called “crowdsourcing,” this technique is most potent in conversations arranged by groups
with a common interest. One day, a non-profit might host a bimonthly conversation for parents
to help their children use social media responsibly. The next, a career advice guru might hold
afternoon office hours for job applicants. Both the non-profit and career expert act as
moderator and encourage participants to share insights. Such conversations aren’t just
informative but free sources of expertise.
Conversations are but one way to obtain expert advice on Twitter. For those seeking product
information or rapid customer service, another way is to send @replies. Many businesses have
set up a Twitter account—sometimes, more than one. Of those businesses, many hire full-time
social media experts whose responsibility is to man their social media accounts. Some
businesses even link @replies to their Twitter account to their customer support interface,
rapidly yielding a response from an actual person. Just as Twitter is public, so are complaints
@replied to a company’s official account. To safeguard its reputation, then, companies must
respond in real time—a benefit both to them and consumer alike. Companies with robust
support operations (e.g., online retailers, mobile and broadband providers) often have support
accounts to which customers can send an @reply and expect a response within minutes, even
seconds. Though brief, @replying is far quicker than navigating an automated phone network
or composing an email that generates a canned auto-response.
Twitter in Schools and Learning Communities
Twitter has as many uses as it does users. Ever since the platform launched in 2007, educators
have pioneered digital teaching techniques that were unthinkable just a few years before.
Closest to Twitter’s original purpose are logistical uses, such as sending reminders for project
deadlines, exams, and field trips. Newer features like group direct messages (DMs) enable
students to coordinate projects with one another, while a suite of third-party applications add
features like polling and live broadcasting. Some educators also create class-specific accounts
at the beginning of the term and share the login credentials with students, parents, and
administrators, who use the account as a digital bulletin board.
As useful as it is to coordinate logistics via Twitter, it’s not the only form of communication it
facilitates. Educators also weave the platform into the fabric of their lesson plans—particularly
for interacting outside of class. Class periods are arbitrary blocks of time that can interrupt
conversations as they peak. Using Twitter, teachers can revive the conversation other in the
day with a provocative question to motivate students as they complete a related assignment.
Twitter can supplement assignments, but also be part of them. Just as students might livetweet during a sporting event, they can also live-tweet questions and reactions to an assigned
film or a live performance. They can also tweet focus questions in preparation for a class
discussion. Interacting often involves sharing. For Twitter-based assignments, students can
curate lists of relevant accounts and hashtags in a given subject area from which they glean
content to share with other students. While curation is key to navigating the glut of online
content, it's also pivotal to grasping the basics of research.
Interacting and consuming information on Twitter are but two of its pedagogical uses. It's also,
increasingly, a creative space. Today’s students have little memory of the world before the
Internet. To upload photos or to cobble together clips into a mashup is, for anyone born after
1990, a given. While not all students are tech-savvy wunderkinds, educators can encourage
them to learn by creating with technology. Learning involves doing. A social studies lesson on
the media, then, might produce mock news stories with Twitter’s photo and video features. By
creating news, students will become their sharpest consumers. Teachers could assign
students to create a parody account of a figure who they’ll pretend to be for the duration of the
course. Parody accounts are particularly beneficial in humanities courses—to imitate the style
of this author or the thought of that historical figure, for instance; but they can also be used in
other disciplines to imitate famous scientists, economists, and philosophers. Though imitation
can be silly, it’s also a way of entering the mental world of another person, and with it, honing
social emotional learning skills.
When an issue is reported or flagged by a user, it's sent to one of several teams responsible for
policy enforcement. These teams review reports for Twitter Rules (
and Terms of Service ( violations and, if applicable, take action on the
reported account. In most circumstances, they also follow up with the reporter to inform them
of any actions that have been taken. In some cases, such as spam, Twitter uses automated
signals to aid in our reviews and removals of accounts.
Reporting Abuse: Preliminary Steps
Twitter prohibits targeted harassment and abuse. Engaging in such behavior leads first to
warnings then to temporary or permanent account suspension. Twitter also forbids posting
specific and direct violent threats on its platform. As with other behavior infractions, we issue
warnings that either result in case resolution or account suspension. We also encourage users
to report illegal behavior to law enforcement in order that the threat may be evaluated properly
and, if applicable, the behavior prosecuted.
Anyone can report abusive behavior directly from a Tweet or profile—even if he or she doesn’t
have a Twitter account. To ensure that the behavior you’ve witnessed on Twitter constitutes
abuse and to file a report if it does, please take the following steps:
1. Review Twitter’s abuse policy:
2. If the behavior you’ve witnessed doesn’t appear in the abuse policy, also review our
policies concerning media ( and posting private information
3. A complete list of policies is available on our Help Center:
To report abusive content to Twitter, navigate to the “Report a Tweet” option found on each
Tweet or fill out one of the online forms on the Twitter Help Center
( to message our highly trained safety team.
Completing a report requires that you specify the username of the accused, links to Tweets, a
thorough description of the problem, your email address, your location (local laws may apply),
your Twitter username (optional), and a digital signature.
To report an abusive Tweet:
1. Navigate to the Tweet you’d like to report.
Click or tap the More icon (••• icon on web and iOS;
icon on Android).
Select Report.
Select It’s abusive or harmful.
Next we’ll ask you to provide additional information about the issue you’re reporting.
Once you’ve submitted your report, we’ll provide recommendations for additional
actions you can take to improve your Twitter experience.
To report an abusive profile:
Go to the user’s profile and click the gear icon
Select Report.
Select They’re being abusive or harmful.
Next we’ll ask you to provide additional information about the issue you’re reporting.
Once you’ve submitted your report, we’ll provide recommendations for additional
actions you can take to improve your Twitter experience.
Twitter Tools to Control User Experience
Over the course of 48 hours, there are one billion new Tweets. While it’s impossible to monitor
this much content proactively, our Terms of Service and the Twitter Rules govern how people
should behave on our platform. Upon receiving a report of a potential violation of these rules,
we use automated and manual tools to communicate with users, conduct an investigation, and
take action accordingly. Other than the Twitter Rules, there’s a number of Twitter tools—or
user controls—to promote safety and educate users about how to control their online
Sometimes, simply ignoring the user can end an altercation. Abusive users often lose interest
once they realize that you will not respond. You can hide a user’s Tweets from your timeline
without blocking them by using the mute function. A red mute icon visible only to you will
appear on their profile and remain until you unmute them.
Users can unfollow others if they no longer wish to see that person's Tweets in their home
timeline. Unless his or her Tweets are protected, you can still view a user’s Tweets by visiting
his or her profile. You can unfollow Twitter users from your following list and from a user’s
profile page or by SMS/text message. Note that anyone who reports another account as spam
unfollows it automatically.
Use the block function to stop a user from following you, tagging you in photos, or accessing
your Tweets. Any @replies or mentions from a blocked user will not appear in your mentions
tab (although these Tweets may still appear in search).
Protect your Tweets
If you want to control who sees your updates, you may choose to protect your Tweets, which
will only be visible to followers whom you approve. Similar to other social media sites, users
with protected accounts can approve requests from other users to follow their accounts on a
case-by-case basis. Additionally, only approved users are able to view or search for Tweets on
a protected account. Opting for a protected account prevents unwanted followers from viewing
their content.
Flag Media
If you believe that an image or video should be brought to the attention of the Twitter team for
review, please report it by clicking on the “••• More” button located beneath the image. You
can also label your own media for the appropriate viewers and select whose media appear on
your timeline. Twitter asks users to mark their Tweets as “sensitive” if they contain content
such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures. The default setting for sensitive media
requires Twitter users to click through a warning message before viewing the content. Anyone
who would prefer to remove this protective barrier may do so by changing his or her account
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