Twitter in the Classroom

We’ve written about Twitter before, including some great getting-started resources. If you’d like to learn more about Twitter or read about some different academic uses for Twitter, our past posts on Twitter are a great place to start.

I had a bit of internet serendipity this morning when two blog posts discussing Twitter popped up right next each other in my RSS reader. After reading them, I started thinking about how easy it would be integrate the ideas in both posts to create really wonderful – and wonderfully archived – learning experiences.First, here’s a little primer on five ways to use Twitter in education. Of the Twitter uses discussed, project management, inquiry, and networking seem most helpful for students. The focus here is the same: succinct, on-topic messages supporting collaboration. This is harder than it sounds. But once students have practiced these Twitter skills in the context of coursework, they are then well-prepared to use Twitter professionally at internship sites and after graduation.

Additionally, the aforementioned Twitter uses are equally beneficial for instructors and scholars. Twitter is a great way to keep up with old contacts as well as find new ones. Interested in trying a new teaching practice? Starting a new research project? Why not use Twitter to follow and interact with others doing the same things? Professional conferences are great for networking, but you can cast the net a bit more widely – and constantly – using Twitter. On that note, here’s a nice article discussing the role of Twitter in the context of Personal Learning Networks.

Since we’re talking about educational uses for Twitter, historical and literary reenactment Twitter accounts have great teaching and learning potential. Consider @todayin1963: run by NPR’s Code Switch team – a group of reporters focusing on the intersection of race, ethnicity, and culture – the account spent this summer revisiting events from the summer of 1963. This sort of project is easily adapted to and scaled for other topics. For example, there are also “real-time” Twitter accounts to devoted to the Titanic, WWII as a whole, the Battle of Britain, as well as to numerous historical and literary figures.

This Twitter-based active engagement with the past is possible in many disciplines. In fact, a Twitter account or class hash tag devoted to a specific scientific sub-field seems like an excellent way to showcase how scientific thinking evolves. In this context, Twitter’s 140-charcater limit may be an asset. Brevity means that students will really need to focus on the significance of events while still capturing the excitement associated with the introduction of new people, materials, experiments, products, and theories. Coupled with the ability to add links and photos, well-written posts can serve as mini-introductions to the larger issue.

What to do once your students and professional contacts are posting great stuff on Twitter? The second half of this morning’s reading concerned archiving tweets. Perhaps you’re interested in saving tweets because they are part of a graded assignment, because you’d like to show students examples of what great Twitter-based course collaboration looks like, or because you’ve seen something useful for your own teaching or research. You can start by marking individual tweets as favorites on Twitter. However, if you have a lot of favorites or your favorites all concern different topics, this quickly gets unwieldy. From Lee Skallerup Bessette and the ProfHacker blog, this is a very detailed post discussing how to archive your favorite tweets. She specifically addresses issues related to organizing and searching the tweets you’ve marked as favorites.

Archiving tweets from your students or your professional contacts ensures that valuable insights don’t just slip into the ether (or the cacophony, depending on how you see Twitter!). You can efficiently revisit old favorites, search among your favorites for key words, sort tweets, and look for changes over time. This strikes me as eminently useful.

What’s your favorite academic use for Twitter? Have you encouraged or required your students to use Twitter as part of your course?

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