How to Connect the Right Way: Using your PLN on Twitter

Image source: Denise Krebs copyright 2012 (
Image source: Denise Krebs copyright 2012 (

Last week, just before my webinar on using Twitter for Professional Development and Developing your Personal Learning Network (PLN), I came across a tweet from @danielmccabe, quoting Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), in Teach Like a Pirate , that said:

The negative teachers aren’t on Twitter…the people you see there are trying to move forward and help others move forward. (Burgess, 2012)

Truer words…

I am fresh off a third webinar for TESL Ontario and am basking in the glow of my PLN. This webinar was the second in a series of three that TESL Ontario has supported me in presenting. I had the pleasure of telling some stories about the important connections I’ve made on Twitter with teachers who offer me support and necessary dialogue. My Twitter PLN is the best sounding board for developing and tweaking ideas I have.

One of the challenges for educators active on Twitter is to bring more lambs into the fold. My favourite quote is from @AcademicsSay:

“You’ll have to show me how to do this Twitter thing sometime.” – Every colleague ever.

Over the past twenty years, I have met and befriended many teachers, but don’t even need all of my fingers to count the ones active on Twitter. It’s a shame, really. So many teachers are missing out.

I had lunch with a former colleague this week who was surprised and shocked by what I’ve been able to do because of my connections on Twitter:

  • Access lesson plans and rubrics
  • Learn about edtech
  • Receive support and feedback for classroom ideas
  • Observe, learn and connect with K-12 educators
  • Connect with educators internationally and establish class-to-class connections
  • Mentor (virtually) a group of ELTs in Brazil on Twitter
  • Start, maintain, and promote a blog of my reflections on teaching
  • Find international opportunities for professional development through webinars and educational chats

I am excited about the curious ESL teachers who want to begin connecting with a little bit of guidance. And so I’m trying, with the help of TESL Ontario webinars, to share my experiences and inspire others.

One of the reasons I began to explore Twitter was to find an alternative to the constant negativity I was encountering in my profession. There isn’t enough time, there aren’t enough materials, students don’t pay attention, there is too much marking, I can’t get through to these students, the students are constantly on their cell phones…the list is exhaustive.

The solutions to all of these problems are found on Twitter. Flip your classroom to give yourself more time to connect with students when you see them. Engage students through technology so that they are using their mobile devices together with you, not against you. Explore 21st century classroom ideas for alternatives to assessment and to learn more about project-based learning. There are no problems on Twitter, just challenges to complete.

Another reason I joined Twitter was to find more support in a profession that is all about connecting with students, but which also isolates the professional from her colleagues. Teaching is a lonely game, ESL especially. Not many of us have schedules that allow us to connect with colleagues over coffee or between classes. Some of us work in centres where there isn’t even a designated space for meeting. Twitter is my virtual staff room, my 24-hour PLN Support Desk.

The first webinar I hosted for TESL Ontario was the mortar and bricks to explain Twitter and take participants through the process of setting up an account. The second webinar showed teachers how to develop PD and PLNs on Twitter. Both are in the archive on in the TESL Ontario group, under Files, and accessible anytime.

I will host the final webinar in the series on November 22, about  how to use Twitter with students, specifically geared for the ESL classroom teacher.

I’ll answer every question you have if you answer just one of mine: why aren’t you on Twitter yet, my future PLN?

My thanks to my TESL Ontario Webinar tweeps: @jenartan, @mydezkho, @Francine_Bee, Magdalene Shin, Leena Kirmani@capontedehanna for their constant support and feedback.

Burgess, D. (2012). Teach like a pirate: Increase student engagement, boost creativity, and transform your life as an educator. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

Anna Bartosik is an ESL professor at Sheridan College and is the Twitter Account Manager for @TESLOntario.  She can be reached through Twitter at:   @ambartosik, or through her blog at:


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