by Alan Haskvitz
Keeping up with the latest in technology is difficult at best, let alone finding an acceptable use for it in the classroom. Add to that school policy on cell phones, Internet blocking software, and the epidemic of text messaging, and teachers are doing well to hold their own.
Now comes Twitter. This is essentially text messaging limited to 140 characters, and it can be sent as broadcast messaging and Instant Messaging to one person or several. Tweeting can be limited to friends or as a subscription. However, its importance in the classroom, if allowed, is its potential to motivate students to share ideas and to even improve their note-taking abilities.
First, you need to register your name. Try http://twitter.com for a video and more information. You can also practice on that site, and you can follow others who can provide ideas and guidance. I suggest you make your Twitter stream private; there is no need for it to be on the Internet. This also makes it much safer for classroom use in which you can communicate with your students and answer questions in nearly real time, if you have the time.
Remember -- Twitter is like Post It Notes, quick and to the point. It is not e-mail, which is more formal and has many more functions. Twitter is fast, and if you want to get more involved, other options include: hashtags, a Twitter search engine and Retweeting.
To start using Twitter, students must sign-up for your Twitter feed, and you obviously need to budget time to answer the tweets you receive. After that, I recommend you start small and expand as your time and interests permit. Remember to make sure you have administrative and parental approvals.
I have come up with the following ideas for using Twitter in public school classes.
- First, provide a quick review of what was and will be covered in class that day or the next.
- Secondly, list a few quick review questions and some good web sites to add depth to the lesson.
- Thirdly, privately seek questions from students who don’t have the moxy to ask in class.
- Next, take advantage of the ability to inform students what is happening in the news and make teachable moments more meaningful and more personal. (Learn to Use Teachable Moments)
- Finally, Twitter can be used to share ideas, help absent students keep up with work and provide homework assistance.
What may be the greatest use of Twitter is networking with students around the world. For example, while your class is studying Japan’s involvement in World War II, students in Japan could be sending messages about their perspective. As Marshall McLuhan envisioned, Twitter makes possible an immediate Global Village.
The possibilities are vast, but remember that some students may have to pay a fee for such text messages, and so check beforehand and always make tweeting elective. Of course, students can set their Twitter so all messages come as emails, which is the only way to really avoid these charges, but this does remove some of the immediacy of the Twitter concept.
Some ideas posted here are used by a professor in Texas, and they might provide some ideas for the public school classroom. AcademHack
Obviously, there are down sides and caveats to using Twitter in the classroom, and all such ideas must be supported by your administration. But there are upsides as well. Imagine students following President Obama by subscribing to his tweets or getting tweets from students under duress around the world.
As a teacher, you can also use Twitter search to find other educators and learn about conferences, ideas and even share lessons and concerns.
Other areas to explore include:
Browse Free Virus Protection and Computer Tune-up Resources
Can Tweeting Help Your Teaching?
This service enables teachers and students to send files, links and even assignments to each other. Teachers sign-up for an account and create a class code. Students sign-up, and the messages are sent to just those in the loop. It’s a great tool for ESL, gifted students and others who need a differentiated curriculum.
Explore Free Software for Teachers
How Twitter Can Make You a Better (and Happier) Person
Some insights into how Twitter can help you as a person. A little vague, but it stretches the reach of Twitter and helps understand the value of such a program outside education.
Nine Reasons to Twitter in Schools
A Professor’s Tips for Using Twitter in the Classroom
REC Computers Software
REC Computers Technology
Other technology resources
7 Things You Should Know about Twitter [PDF]
Teach with Computer Games
Techies Day is for Everyone
Huge listing of free technology links
Things to Do in the New Year: Clean Up your Computer
Twenty-Eight Interesting Ways to use Twitter in the Classroom
Twitter for Teachers
Everything you need to know to start using Twitter
English class ideas for using Twitter
Twitter in the Classroom
Search engine for Twitter comments