Twitter is not just for celebrities - similarly to many social media platforms, people using Twitter have found an enormous range of diverse uses, including educational ones.
Twitter has some unique characteristics such as
- the 140 character restriction
- the ability to exchange information in the form of shortened links, pictures and more recently, short video clips,
- opportunities for networked learning
Using Twitter as a teacher professional
If you want people to follow you on Twitter keep your profile short and sweet. Also remember that many people will follow you for your connections, not just your own tweets. For example, my profile simply says:
Researching Twitter for learning. Former teacher, now e-learning consultant for Civica Education. Interested in games for learning and part of Games Britannia.
This enables me to take part in networks interested in:
- the educational uses of Twitter
- people in my work environment
- people interested in using games in education
because I appear in searches for all three areas. I pick up followers and follow people in these areas and constantly extend my network of useful contacts. These contacts pass on useful information about resources, innovations, conferences and their own networks of contacts which is invaluable to me in my working and academic life. Similarly, as a classroom teacher, you could share your day-to-day teaching experiences with other teachers, reflect on them and gain advice, support and links to resources in a brief but immediate way.
With Twitter on my phone, my Kindle Fire and my laptop, I can follow the activities of my networks wherever I am, whatever I am doing. Instead of having to retain lots of information or be an expert in many fields, I just need to know someone who knows what I want to know!
Twitter and students
Ask students to download the Twitter app to their phones, if they have not already done so. They can support one another when they are engaged in research, mutual projects or revision by developing different hash tags on different trends eg #Engrevision.As long as this hash tag is contained in all their tweets, others will be able to search on this label and find all the tweets on this subject. Students can also create ‘lists’ of their friends in Twitter so they can find each other quickly and engage in multi-way conversations about assignments and key topics. For example, a group of trainee teachers used the hashtag #bgpgt (Bishop Grosseteste PostGraduate Trainees) to exchange information, opinions and help during their school placements.
Remember, the power of Twitter is networking.
- Encourage students to take advantage of the expertise of a range of people and organisations who use Twitter e.g Professor Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) Benjamin Zephaniah (@Bzephaniah) and so on.
- Many people, such as celebrities, academics, experts and media personalities, are infinitely more accessible via Twitter and willing to respond to members of the general public in a way they would never do by conventional post or email..
- Model the behaviour you want to encourage in your students – tweet useful links, post photos and re-tweet people and organisations you are following when they post things which are of interest to your students or course.
- Encourage your students to share their own ‘expertise’, whether it is the location of the best Youtube videos or resources on a sport or hobby.
- When you take students on a theatre trip, field trip or other out-of-school visit set up a hashtag and get them to tweet about the experience as it happens e.g #StoneAcadShakespeare
- Write a group story - a famous one was started by Tim Burton (the film director) - see here
- Examples of famous authors writing on Twitter - click here
- Try it out for yourself - Twitter writing competitions - here
The key strength of Twitter is mutual support and access to a range of perspectives through different networks of contacts, with the opportunity for many ‘experts’ to contribute to the learning debate.
Learning occurs in a ‘just-in-time’ manner, at the point of need. However, Twitter works best not as a teacher-led environment in the manner of the school VLE, but as a democratic space where openness and accessibility allows everyone to be a learner or a teacher, depending on the topic or circumstance. So embrace the freedom of collaborative learning and start tweeting with your pupils or colleagues today!
Noreen Dunnett (@comcultgirl), e-learning consultant, Civica. Please feel free to contact me for further information on Twitter @comcultgirl or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org