Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Think Before You Tweet

My name is Beth Still and my blog is Nebraska Change Agent. I was honored when Wes invited me to guest blog during his absence. I hope this post sparks a conversation that we need to have.

I recently came across this video that was created by Steve Johnson which serves as a good reminder that all of us have a digital footprint and we are in control of the content that we generate that follows us around in cyberspace.

The image above is from my office and there is a story behind it. My husband, who really wants to make sure I stay gainfully employed, gave me this sign as a reminder that everything I say online can be seen by anyone at anytime. About two years ago I blasted my tech department on Twitter and the comments came back to haunt me. I learned my lesson about what I can and cannot say in such a public venue and I have been extraordinarily careful with what I post online. I do not completely censor myself, but I am very aware of what I am saying and how my words might be perceived by my colleagues, supervisors, students, and others who might be watching what I say online.

Steven Anderson wrote a post on the impact social media has had on relationships. This is just one of the many conversations that has been happening lately regarding the types of friendships we form with the people we spend time with online. As we spend time engaging in conversations with the same people again and again, we start to feel very comfortable and it becomes evident that there is a level of trust just as there is in face-to-face relationships. In fact, I am not even sure anymore if there is a need to make a distinction between “online” and “f2f” friends. The biggest difference, which is the entire point of this post, is the way in which we communicate with the two groups. With the friends we see everyday we have conversations that do not take place for the world to see. We talk at the mall or over lunch, but for the most part the conversations are private.

This is not necessarily the case with our online friends. Many of us have had private one-on-one conversations with various people in our PLN using Skype, Google Chat or some other service, but many of these conversations take place on Twitter out in the open for the world to see. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment when we are bantering back and forth and say something that you will regret. I am not saying that it is wrong to engage in personal conversations that are not related to education. I strongly believe the most engaging people on Twitter are the ones who strike a healthy balance between education related and personal tweets. Over the last couple of months I have noticed that people are getting way too comfortable with what they broadcast on Twitter. Why do I care? I could quietly unfollow these people, but that would not bring any attention to this issue. I also enjoy these people and I don’t want to unfollow them. I am just concerned that I might be demonstrating Twitter to someone and some inappropriate Tweets will show up.

Maybe this isn’t an issue. Maybe I am being overly sensitive. I am not trying to play the role of Twitter Police, but we are colleagues and friends and we owe it to each other to point out when we think something has been said that is inappropriate. All of us need to remember to think before we tweet.

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On this day..



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39 responses to “Think Before You Tweet”

  1. Ruth Cohenson Avatar
    Ruth Cohenson

    Love the sign in your office! This is a lesson which must be reinforced with students over and over again…often they live in the moment, and struggle with grasping long-term implications.

  2. John Peters Avatar


    I think that we are fortunate that most in Edublogosphere ARE appropriate. I agree with you that I am VERY conscious of what I post on Twitter and on my blog. I don’t want to offend or say anything towards any one person or group that could be misinterpreted.

    I can see where in the rapid fire world of Twitter where one could post something before they really thought it over or proofread what they had written. This is an area that I’m constantly telling my students to be careful of. I think it’s a lesson we all need to keep in mind.

  3. Mary Beth Hertz Avatar
    Mary Beth Hertz

    While reading your post I immediately thought of the keynote at ISTE and the harsh banter that was going on in the backchannel. I think it is IMPERATIVE that we think before we tweet. I had a member of my PLN message me about a vague tweet I sent out about an interview I had. She reminded me that I had most likely signed a confidentiality agreement and that I could easily lose my chance at getting the job if anyone saw my tweet.

    I am definitely guilty of tweeting out a tasty frothy beverage or a complaint. I do, however, have a fairly big mouth in ‘real life.’ For this reason, most of the things I say on Twitter are things that I would say face to face with someone, even an administrator.

    I, too, like your sign for that reason 🙂

    That said, I think there is something to be said about the value of more personal conversations we have online as well as the value of having a support group when we are feeling beat down. I have learned the art of DM (private messaging) someone when I don’t want my words to be out in public.

    I hope that others read your post and think about their Twitter habits.

  4. wmchamberlain Avatar

    Beth, I am unabashedly transparent online. I have no problems discussing any topic there that I would discuss in another venue. Sometimes I make mistakes and say the wrong thing, that is part of my nature too. I have seen several teachers have problems for their online presence and I am sure there will be more. I can’t even say that it won’t happen to me because often those teachers were doing something I do too.

    On the other hand, I have often counseled tweeps to watch what they are posting because they are close to “crossing the line” (however I define it.)

  5. Keisa Williams Avatar

    I agree with the “think before you Tweet” mentality. Tweeting is just like speaking. I tweet things that I would actually say or things that I would be willing to repeat. Things can always be taken out of context, but I can’t worry about that. As far as education vs personal tweets…there is only 1 me. Sometimes I’m all business. Sometimes I’m all pleasure. Sometimes I’m somewhere in between. I would rather someone follow me because they enjoy (or can put up with ) all of me.

  6. Beth Still Avatar

    We can reinforce until we are blue in the face, but we also must be exemplary role models as well. Many of us are guilty of an inappropriate tweet now and then. We need to realize that even one tweet can damage our career and reputation. It could even reflect poorly on others if their names were included in the tweet.

  7. ktenkely Avatar

    This is a hard one, especially as we start meeting those we know in Twitter F2F and have relationships with them outside the online world. We say things to our friends that we wouldn’t say to the world that aren’t necessarily bad, but that can be taken out of context without the inflection, sarcastic tone, etc. I agree, we have to watch what we post and censor ourselves.
    I know that if I said something that was seen as inappropriate, I would want someone to DM me (outside of the public realm) and let me know how it came across.

  8. Paul Bogush Avatar

    I wish you had not said that you think you are too sensitive…because as I was reading I was thinking how I have always felt educators are way too sensitive. Maybe it comes from being locked in a room all day 😉 Maybe it comes from being the kids in the room who always did great at being a “good student” and never was critiqued…and then they grew up to be teachers. I find that unless you say something all positive and rosey, and agree with the mainstream view within your group, people will attack. Or you can critique something, as long as everyone else in the echo chamber agrees. I think there is only a problem when we use social media to “talk behind someone’s back.” The old if you wouldn’t say it to their face saying is a pretty good one 😉
    I think the inability to take criticism…or for that matter give constructive criticism…on social networking sites will forever keep them in an echo chamber state. Great for amplifying, but not very good at dissecting or reflecting on opposing viewpoints.

  9. Tim Nielsen Avatar
    Tim Nielsen

    Absolutely agree! Beth, I think this post is a very important conversation that needs to come to the surface. Yes, there are times to be a little more lax, but at the expense of what? I have used it very briefly in my classroom and if 1 “slip” we will call it occurs, many first graders can read words that are built phonetically. My students in the forefront are directly affected as am I, the educator who is in control to censor (sp?) what is provided to them.

    Also, as I think of the push I am going to make to my staff this year to build their own PLN, I don’t need examples that everyone associates twitter to be! I want to show them the positive impact that it can have! It needs to be moving and not affected by the lack of someone’s “backspace button.”

    Thank you for your thoughts on an excellent guest post!


  10. Gwyneth Jones Avatar

    Ha ha! I have a sign that says “Listen. Think. Talk. Repeat.” I am often guilty of this. I blame it on my hair. Such an easy cop out. But you’re right…we should be careful of what we type – being on the ISTE Board now i’m thinking i’ve gotta be even MORE censorious of my wayward tongue. Or not. But one thing i would NEVER do is Diss my school, kids, admin, or district cause really…loves them and they frankly ROCK & besides i like my bread buttered!

    What i cannot stand in Tweets are arrogance. “Do this or do that” Demanding statements (esp. since i’m oppositional defiant!) Exclusionary statements rather than inclusive suggestions. Tweets mistaking snide for snark. Tweeps getting too big for their britches and climbing on high horses. Tweeps who can’t laugh at themselves or see other positions and ideas without being derisive or dismissive. Tweeps who take themselves too seriously. But hey, that’s just me.

    I guess those are who i UN follow. I try and have 80% Education Tweets, 10% Modern Media & Current Culture (Glee, Ga Ga, Bachelorette, Art, Music etc.) and 10% Personal ok….maybe with 2% mini rants.

    But yes, Beth…just like kids we adults need to keep in mind our Digital Footprint. Great Post!!!

  11. […] I will continue to do that with educators whom I meet online. I do think we should heed the warning here, on Wes Fryer’s Blog, […]

  12. monika hardy Avatar

    nice post Beth.

    i like simplicity when possible… and ethics seems to be the place it’s best suited.

    too many do’s and don’t’s tend to blur life.
    just be a good person.
    that’s simple.

  13. Colin Graham Avatar

    Something I tweeted around this time, yesterday!

    Be sure your tweets will find you out… Tenor Wynne Evans (Go Compare guy!) undone by tweets #ukedchat #edtech #edchat

    Says it all really. I think anything which is sent online has the potential to be stored/recycled/taken out of context/add your own here… It can be easy to forget that something you should have sent as a direct message went out as a Tweet instead.

    It may be worth considering running multiple accounts, an official face and an unofficial face, I don’t know. Facebook offers the same dangers too…

    It’s always good to have posts like this as reminders.

  14. Beth Still Avatar

    I remember talking to you about this shortly after my experience. It is great that you are so transparent online. When you say you have no problem discussing anything online that you would discuss in any other venue what exactly do you mean. My guess is that you mean any conversation that you would have with educators offline you would have online as well. But what if you were with a group of teachers in a social setting? Does your answer change then? My point is that many times the conversations we have with our colleagues in venues that are more private are not the least bit appropriate to broadcast on Twitter.

  15. Kristy Avatar

    Thanks for the reminder, Beth. The video you referenced was excellent!

  16. Avatar

    Beth, I think there’s a great meta-conversation to be had here.

    What is Twitter to educators? What is the PLN? Is it a powerful learning tool? An echo chamber? A back-channel critical of traditional schooling and instruction or a tool for tweaking them?

    I mean, Twitter can be all of those things, but I think the contrasts you make are more about us and our professional and personal identities than they are about our tweets.

    Are we any more or less comfortable with some of the things we’ve tweeted or seen tweeted than we are with what’s been said before school, after school, between classes, on planning, or in the lunch room? (Or over drinks?)

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think inherent in most school cultures is the tacit understanding that no one is going to call you out for what you say in the “safety” of school, as if school is not a public place or a place where educators have to take accountability for what they say because, after all, we’re only saying it to and/or about other educators and kids.

    Would we say at school what we tweet (or blog)? Would we tweet (or blog) what we say at school? If not, where is the disconnect and why does it exist?

    I tell myself I work hard to diversify my feeds and preserve some discord amongst my tweepish interlocutors, but I’m willing to say maybe I don’t do that enough. Regardless, I don’t know that I want professional norms in my feed. I want to be shocked and challenged (like if Larry Ferlazzo suddenly tweeted out, “The cake is a lie!”). However, that being said, I also don’t want my teacher account crossing streams with my nerd account.

    I think the technology gives us the means to tailor our feeds as we want; why not make a safe-for-work list for presenting Twitter? Does that technology absolve us of cultivating our own motivating discontents? Only so much as school culture does, which is to say: only so much as we absolve ourselves.

    Thanks for the push –

    All the best,

  17. Ken Avatar

    While we cannot un-ring a bell we can be diligent about the things we say in a public forum. It is not much different than a conversation around the water cooler. However, the major difference is you can look up and find what was posted on twitter or any other social media avenue. The main thing, and I am in agreement with you, is that we must be discretionary about what we post. This is also why I recommend folks have more than one account, similar to having more than one email address. That was you can post whatever is relevant to a specific account and not have to censor or even worry about what you have posted.

  18. Mark Moran Avatar

    I speak openly to someone privately; more cautiously to a small group even I know everyone there; and in a much more guarded way when speaking to someone or a group of people at a party when I know there may be a lot of people listening in. On Twitter, even if I’ve had an extended series of back and forth Tweets with a single person, I know there may be a lot of people listening in.

  19. Donna Bills Avatar

    Your post is a good reminder for us all. I appreciate your sincere and well-written perspective on the issue. It is important to keep our goals and objectives in mind when we present ourselves in a public forum. Most of us are passionate about our viewpoints regarding the use of technology or education reform. One reason we speak up online is to give voice to our experiences and beliefs in hopes of bettering our profession and the lives of or students. It would be sad to loose effectiveness in reaching these goals by saying things that would reflect badly on ourselves as caring, responsible professionals.
    So thanks again for speaking out. I know you have helped me.

  20. Aviva (@grade1) Avatar

    Beth, I absolutely love this blog post of yours! I completely agree with what you’re saying here too. I try to be very careful about what I say online. Most of my followers (and the people that I follow) are educators, but some parents follow my tweets too, and I’m always cognisant of this. Even those that don’t follow my tweets know my Twitter website address and can easily access my tweets too. For that matter, my Grade 1 students know my Twitter website address, and I know that some of them access my tweets as well. I’m not saying that I won’t sometimes engage in conversations that are not of an “educational nature,” but I think very carefully before I do, and I really try to re-read my tweets before I press, “tweet.” As you said too, what we write is out there for the world to read. I think that this post is a great reminder of just how careful we all need to be!

  21. Chris Champion Avatar
    Chris Champion

    On a hot Summer day, I tweeted a rage about a motorist that had run me off the road on my bicycle – wouldn’t you know it but a local TV station was interviewing a social media specialst who follows me… and my tweetrage was captured on his screen. I, too, was reminded that everything we say can be judged, and that I might be judged by a single tweet.

  22. Carrie King Avatar
    Carrie King

    Enjoyed your post and agreed with you. I have a personal Twitter account (that I rarely use) linked with Facebook (which I use everyday) and have a different Twitter account for professional/educational/some personal information. It’s difficult to discuss “crossing the line” when everyone’s line is a little different, so I try to limit most of my personal chatting to the personal accounts. I’ve made “friends” though, through my classroom account, which sometimes encourages and/or allows for some lighter chats.

  23. @psycho65 Avatar

    A blogpost worthy of a comment, and so comment I must. I have sat here for a good while now contemplating the message Beth has so succinctly put across. Since February I have been hammering home the ‘Think before you post’ message delivered in the UK’s ‘safer internet day’. Students have made videos and photostories to illustrate this message and we have shared them in assemblies and on our intranet. An enlightened and thoughtful student population have heeded the messages, talked about the dangers and genuinely ‘Thought B4 they Posted’. The problems I have encountered have been from within the adult population of the school. The same messages have been available to them, I produced ‘guidelines’ for use of Facebook and talked frankly about the legacy of our ‘digital footprint’ Yet despite this a number of indiscretions have blotted people’s facebook, no Tweeters at school (not for want of trying on my part) but plenty of adults and children doing the Facebook thing. I do think before I tweet and before I post anything, on my blog, on facebook in fact anywhere that puts me in the spotlight. But in my experience, there a lot of people who do not. As educators we are duty bound to inform our students of the risks and dangers they can face from their own digital footprint, often we are preaching to the converted, these ‘digital natives’ grasp the messages, understand the implications and are supported in their pursuance of a E aware existence. The transparency of dialogue online is more likely to be a problem not born out of ignorance of what is being said by those involved, but by ignorance of the permanence of these messages. The people likely to read this blog, and this comment are also likely to be the people who do ‘Think before they tweet’. My comment, long winded as it has become, is that perhaps whilst we are thinking about what we are posting or tweeting, we also bear in mind our colleagues and friends. They, maybe through ignorance, or just naivety could benefit from some guidance, help, support or advice when they thrust themselves headlong into the world of social networking.

  24. Katie Watson Avatar

    I love the sign!!!! I need to print this out and carry it with me throughout my day! Thank you for posting this reminder!

  25. wmchamberlain Avatar

    Beth, I understand your point. I try (key word here) to say the same things regardless of the medium. I have few personal conversations online because I have few close personal friends there. I don’t know how things would change if I had. I think Monika said it more cleanly than I did. (She does that often 😉

  26. NJ Brand Avatar
    NJ Brand

    I worry about inappropriate or even mundane tweets (like “I just had…” ) when demonstrating that using Interactive Online Tools (Twitter, Skype, ect) to faculty who I’m trying to convince that using these mediums could enhance not only their own PLN but their teaching and therefore their students learning experiences.

    I remember that I have to explain when a tweet comes up that may seem “odd” that after a while you form online friendships, and the comments seem like one big party line. I remind them that you have to learn to filter, ignore (ftm), and glean all the excellent ideas and information that you can from those you *choose* to follow or why follow them to begin with.

    I’ve certainly learned to filter over the last few months and only dropped a few ppl I was following but I wouldn’t trade what I have learned from those I continue to follow for the few odd/inappropriate/different opinions for anything in the world. Twitter, or more precisely those I *choose* to follow and have been allowed to continue to follow, has furthered my personal education in ways that I have never received from college as a student.

    BTW Love Love Love your sign! LOL I definitely need that for my office as I seem to be more “open” with my comments in person than online! 😉

  27. Dave Meister Avatar

    I agree whole heartedly Beth! I try to strike a balance between “professional” tweets and a little humor (although I am not sure that comes through). We must model for our children, students, colleagues, employees, and lastly the community at large the way to use social media correctly. What is said or posted online is permanent and I use that as my guidline. If I would not put it on a bumpersticker and drive to devil’s tower along with my personalized plates, I am sure not going to say it online. We need to have these conversations in public and in front of students.

  28. nebraskavirtualteacher Avatar

    The ISTE keynote banter is one of the reasons I wrote this post. While part of me understood the frustration happening in the Bloggers’ Cafe (and beyond) another part of me was disappointed to hear so many of the people I respect in my PLN bash the speaker. What made it worse was that everyone was feeding off of everyone else and that is when so many of these inappropriate tweets pop up. I cannot recall an instance where I have seen someone tweet something inappropriate that was out of the blue. The tweets I am talking about are usually part of a heated debate or when a group of people get caught up in a conversation and forget that the world is watching.

    I have been guilty of the occasional “tasty frothy beverage” comments as well. I am well aware that some people might not approve that I tweet out that I am enjoying an icy margarita, but in my area it is perfectly acceptable to have drink now and then. If I lived in an area of the country where it was not acceptable then I might not share that information.

    I hope people follow your example and take advantage of the DM feature. Just remember that if you do this to make absolutely sure you are actually sending a DM! I followed a conversation one evening between two people in my PLN who obviously thought they were having a private conversation, but one of them was sending “@’s” instead of DM’s. As soon as it was obvious the conversation was going to get explicit I called one of the people involved and let them know what was going on. (Then spent the next few minutes helping them delete their accidental tweets.) While this is an extreme example it happens more often than we think.

  29. nebraskavirtualteacher Avatar

    I plan on sharing this post with my students to show them that adults do have conversations about their digital footprint and it is something that we are genuinely concerned about protecting. It is great to infuse your Twitter stream with humor. There are some people I follow because of their sense of humor. There are other people who are completely turned off by people who tweet about anything that is not 100% related to education. Lee Kolbert (@TeachaKidd) is the person who I think of first when talking about mixing personal tweets into the mix. She always points out that it is an important part of getting to know the people in our PLN and I could not agree more. I don’t mind following people who don’t share their personal side, but I much prefer to follow people that I can get to know through their tweets.

  30. Michelle Baldwin Avatar

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate for just a minute. I advise educators to consider all the points you mentioned in your post, as well as those from your comments. But what I’m starting to hear in some forums is a little pushback. When does an educator’s personal life begin and end when it comes to published material?

    I’m all about conducting myself in a professional manner, especially online (because it always comes back to you)… but what if I disagree with a philosophy or policy in my school district? Must I be silent about it? What if I respectfully disagree? What if I passionately disagree? Like William said above, if I’m willing to say the same things in person to district administration, for example, does that provide me a “get out of jail free” card? OR… what if a tweet contains an inside joke with one of my friends, and it is misconstrued? I know of a situation where this was the case, and it went all the way to a hearing. A completely innocent comment was taken entirely out of context… and a teacher almost lost her job.

    I know I’m taking some of this to the extreme, and I do absolutely believe that educators should be held to a higher standard than most… but where is that line? I don’t want to feel like I have to walk around on eggshells and not be who I really am because I constantly fear repercussions. Sometimes, I think that’s where I see things going for those of us in classroom or building roles. We have to be even more careful… and I’m not certain that’s right.

    Anyway, there’s another view for you. 🙂 Great post, Beth! (and I’d like to give that sign to a few people I know!!!)

  31. Mary Beth Hertz Avatar
    Mary Beth Hertz


    I will also play devil’s advocate 🙂 I sat in on an Educational Law session with Jon Becker at Educon. He made the surprising statement that we, as government employees, have limited freedom of speech. He told us that since we work for the government (I guess this only applies to public school teachers) we are held to a different standard than everyone else. For that reason I immediately put a disclaimer on my blog.

    Twitter, however, does not have disclaimers (unless you put one in your bio), so we, as public employees DO need to be careful about what we say and who we say it to.

  32. nebraskavirtualteacher Avatar

    I think each teacher needs to determine if they want to use social media to voice their opposition to district policies that they don’t agree with. I will use Twitter and my blog to express my views on education issues in general, but if I have an issue with my district I keep my complaints off the radar. I am afraid there would be severe repercussions if I did so. I don’t like having to limit my speech, but that is just how it is for my situation.

    I am not sure anymore where the line is when it comes to our personal and professional lives. The line is definitely blurry. It would be interesting to hear a legal perspective on this. What can say? How far can we go?

  33. nebraskavirtualteacher Avatar

    I appreciate your comments. It really does not surprise me that teachers are the ones not being mindful of what they post. We preach to our students that they should not post certain things online then we see teachers engaging conversations that are completely inappropriate to have out in the open for the world to see. We give them guidelines for how to interact with their peers online then we turn around to witness people that we respect and trust tearing a presenter to shreds because he is not a great speaker. I think so much of it comes back to getting caught up in the moment and simply not thinking about how what we are saying could be interpreted. The other thing that nobody stops to think about is how it will look for the other people associated with the post or tweet. It won’t be long before most people figure out how to follow a conversation on Twitter even if they don’t follow either person. There is not even a need to be on Twitter to follow conversations.

  34. nebraskavirtualteacher Avatar

    Great advice Mark. There are always people listening. And who might those people be? Fellow teachers, administrators, parents, students, school board members, potential employers, family members, and potentially anyone else in the universe. We have to be so careful not only about what we say, but how we say it. Twitter is the perfect place to take things out of context. Since we are limited to 140 characters sometimes the intent of our tweets is very hard to decipher. Many times inside jokes can be taken out of context and it can reflect very poorly on the people involved in the conversation.

  35. Colin Graham Avatar

    It’s great the discussion this post has generated!

    I took time to reflect on what I really wanted to say… (Oh no, I feel a ‘learning experience’ coming):

    In a court of law, the written word can be presented as evidence, the spoken word is hearsay…

    Maybe this is putting too much trust in the written word, but worth thinking about….

  36. […] 5. “I wish my mouth had a backspace key” 6. 10 Tips For When Someone Follows You on Twitter not what I do, but food […]

  37. Mark Barnes Avatar

    Wow, what an excellent, thought-provoking post, as clearly evidenced by all of the profound comments. I agree with many of the comments here. It is nice that Twitter allows multiple accounts. Although I don’t mind being personal and friendly sometimes with my PLN, I think maintaining a personal twitter for friends and family will keep the education streams on a professional level.

    As nebraskavirtualteacher states, lots can be taken out of context in a 140-character Tweet. It’s critical that we proofread our Tweets, especially the personal ones.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post and dialogue.

  38. Kim Caise Avatar

    Beth, what a wonderful thought provoking blog post (and honor to guest blog for Wes!). I work hard to ensure that my digital footprint is one that I can be proud of. In our weekly Classroom 2.0 LIVE sessions on Saturdays, people often comment about the tweets/plurks that I have sent out to the edusphere. With anyone that I talk with professionally, I often emphasize the importance of managing your online persona. You are right on the money for gauging what you share online. Teachers ask me if I have students as friends on Facebook. I have a handful or two of former students but I am not worried at all about what they ‘see’ on my Facebook profile as 99% of what I post on/to Facebook is professional. I try to live by the saying, ‘If you wouldn’t say ‘it’ in church or your family members, then don’t say it all!” Peggy George is a wonderful role model for me as she is ALWAYS positive and ALWAYS has something kind and wonderful to say about a situation, person, or action. Vicki Davis (aka CoolCat Teacher) wrote a blog post recently about similar sentiments to the ones you shared above ( Keeping things in balance and emotions in check when sharing things online has to be a priority for ourselves.