Technically Invisible

More Twitter Characters: 140 or 280? What Matters Most?

Suzy and Rayna are mourning the loss of 140 characters on Twitter. For years they have been touting the benefits of concise language and candor in a few short words. Better practices in “Twitter Economics” takes time and skill to learn. Whether one is an educator or a student navigating the Twittersphere, saying something on Twitter has the potential to pack a big punch. So, why is everyone so excited about 280 characters when you can really say what you want in 140 characters or less?


Students under 13 can still have a voice online if their teacher is willing to Tweet for them in safe ways. Suzy and Rayna have been teaching elementary students how to Tweet using Suzy’s Fire Off a Tweet sheet because it truly helps students get to the point of what they want to share to a global audience.

While many students start off their first Tweets with lots of extra hashtags like #cool and #awesome, they soon learn to choose more meaningful language to get to the crux of their message, evident in the examples below:

With the premiere of Twitter’s new format allowing 280 characters recently, Rayna and Suzy had a chat (on Twitter, of course!) about whether or not to change the Fire Off A Tweet sheet. Rayna simply asked if Suzy would be creating a new template, so she (begrudgingly) could show her 5th grade students how Twitter has decided to evolve.

Together, they decided not only has Twitter given them an opportunity to continue to talking to students about bringing the world to their fingertips, but now could also show students how technology evolves every day (like it or not!!)

When are 280 characters a good thing? We have our own ideas, but having these conversations with our students should prove to be more valuable. In fact, spend any amount of time on Twitter reading posts about #280Characters and you’ll soon see it is quite possible to be ridiculous. #Yikes! However, there are opportunities for students to creatively evolve within the new format. We are certain our students will recognize the most important things in life can be said with only 140 letters and spaces.


Please. Thank you. Choose kindness. I’m breathing. Student voice & choice.

You’re important to me. I believe in you. We’re stronger together!


Twitter can be utilized for asking questions, sharing a story, connecting with others, or teaching empathy. It allows users to say the important things. What makes our writing worth reading? What makes our Tweets worth Re-Tweeting? It isn’t the extra fluff or hashtags. It isn’t extra exclamation marks, ASCII art or emojis. It is the a-ha moment readers get when they connect to a Tweeter and learn something new, fueling our passion as learners. As teachers we model for students the way connecting online can make us feel less alone on our islands. 140 characters built relationships. We do not need 280 to do so.

(We have Facebook for that!)  

Using Twitter inspires and encourages young learners to see a world of possibility when sharing their thoughts and questions with experts; effectively amplifying student voice. Students can connect with anyone, including authors, illustrators, musicians, scientists, and even astronauts! A like, retweet, or response is true gift to students… inspiring creativity and dreams far beyond their desks. Twitter continues to break down the four walls of the classroom.

So, how will the jump to 280 change things? Well, it won’t for Suzy and Rayna, who are going to cling to 140 characters or less! Not convinced it will stick, they have decided to kick it old school with their 140 character hashtag campaign:

Now… should we lengthen our display name?


Rayna Freedman is beginning her 18th year at the Jordan/Jackson Elementary School in Mansfield, MA. She has taught grades 3-5 and is an ITS. She is working on her doctorate through Northeastern as she hopes to change the field of education some day. Rayna is President-Elect of the MassCUE Board of Directors and has been presenting at the annual conference since 2010. During this year’s fall conference Rayna will transition to President Elect of MassCUE. She is a BrainPOP certified educator and advocate for teaching digital citizenship in the classroom. Rayna has presented at MassCUE, Ed Tech Teacher Innovation Summit, Tech and Learning Live, MALeads, Medfield Digital Learning Day, and ISTE. Rayna also trains educators in Google Suite. She served on the DESE Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards Panel. Rayna guest blogged for Alice Keeler and Matt Miller and did a podcast for Vicki Davis on student blogging.


After 10 years as an elementary teacher, Suzy Brooks is now a Director of Instructional Technology for Mashpee Public Schools in Massachusetts. She provides professional development, keynotes and hands-on workshops for educators at local, regional and national venues. Her work in blended learning, student engagement, and social media has been featured by EdWeek, NBC News’ Education Nation, Instructor Magazine, Chevrolet, Intel, ASCD, and the NEA. Currently, she is the President-Elect for MASCD, the Massachusetts affiliate of ASCD. Suzy is a Discovery Education Network STAR, a SMART Exemplary Educator, a FableVision Ambassador, an EdTechTeacher instructor and a MassCUE Pathfinder. Suzy holds a B.S. from Bridgewater State University and a M.Ed. in Instructional Technology from Lesley University and is completing her post-Master’s program at Bridgewater in Instructional Leadership.