“Twitter may either be the greatest prank ever played on the internet community or it may be the best thing since sliced bread.” -Phil Bauman, 140 Health Care Uses for Twitter
In the past day or so, I’ve been researching and experimenting on Twitter with a specific focus on its potential use in the classroom. What exactly is Twitter, you ask? It’s a social networking and micro-blogging site. Ok, so what does that mean? Basically, people continually post small snippets of information in 140 characters or less. I’ve found that many of these “mini-blogs” are mostly either like Facebook Status updates (a statement of what the person is currently doing) or a link to another piece of information (like a news or journal article, online resource, picture, etc.). Twitter “feeds” are posted by individual people, corporations, clubs, universities, NASA, presidential campaigns (Obama & Nadar), celebrities, and even governments.
Twitter has been put to some interesting uses including NASA updates on space shuttle missions and to break the news of the discovery of water on Mars, coordination of political campaign workers, live sporting event updates, public updates from the office of the British Prime Minister, a part of university emergency alert and other institutional systems, updates on evacuations, meeting points and other needed information during the 2007 California wildfires, and many used it during the Mumbai siege of November 2008 to gather information on the safety of friends and coordinate responses. With the ability to update and read Twitter feeds from mobile phones, the uses can be even more intriguing.
How can it be useful to me as a teacher? I’m still figuring this one out and I would love to have your input. Since I work in a “high access” school (every student has a laptop) I realize I’ve been thinking about applications mostly in this context. But what else can we do with it? Here is a list of possible applications that I have considered so far:
- Assignment Log for homework and make-up work
- Entrance and/or Exit Slips
- Class Polls
- Reading Discussion – This has different possibilities. Students can ask the teacher questions about reading hang-ups they have at home. They could engage is a Cris Tovani style of reading dialog with their teacher and peers, teachers could have students respond to open-ended questions and to classmate’s responses. Students could write summaries of reading in which Twitter would force them to be concise (140 character limit) and put it into their own words (students could divide up sections/jigsaw, have their own feed, etc..)
- Resource Sharing – Teaching APUSH makes me think of this. I always want students to share the resources they’ve found online to facilitate awareness of historical scholarship, broaden research skills, learn about individual interests, find study resources, and more.
- Current Events – Many teachers do different activities with current events. This could be used creatively in that area.
- Homework Help “Hotline” that everyone in the class can benefit from. Teachers can respond to students. Students can respond to their peers’ questions and help each other out.
- Clubs/Activities – Keep your members in touch with events and share ideas with students who are unable to make it to meetings.
- Coordinate collaborative group work outside of the classroom
- Post web resources for students to use
- Develop a class’s sense of community and connection
- Creative feedback (from teachers and students)
- Writing – There seems to be a plethora of writing applications for teaching grammar, rules of writing, helping students to be concise (important in history), “continue the story” activities, etc.
I don’t have all of these worked out of course, but it is just a brainstorm list of ideas. Just remember that purpose and content always come before choosing a technology to integrate into your classroom.
I’ve started my own Twitter feed so I can learn the ins and outs in order to see what can be done with it. If you are interested, you can find the feed here. I invite you to create your own feed and experiment with me on what can be done with this technology. If you already have a feed, please feel free to follow mine. I’ve already learned some rather interesting things.
Possible Questions for Comment:
- What do you want to know about Twitter?
- Do you use Twitter? Do you have any advice?
- What are your concerns about Twitter?
- How have you used or seen Twitter used in the classroom? What ideas for possible applications do you have?
- General comments?