Twitter Tips for TeachersPosted: January 28, 2013 | |
Twitter, the popular social networking site, is becoming an increasingly important tool for the school system and educators. Why, you might ask? Isn’t Twitter something only young tech savvy people use to communicate with their friends or to follow celebrities? If you find yourself agreeing with this statement, let me show five ways Twitter can be used to help your school enter the world of Web 2.0.
First off, if you are completely new to the “Twitterverse,” 140 characters or less, hashtags, tweets and retweets, fear not! Twitter is one of the most simple social media tools available. This video from Common Craft will give you the gist of what Twitter is all about. Then take the Twitter Tour, create a Twitter account and you’ll be hashtagging and tweeting in no time.
Now, if you’re already a novice or seasoned Twitter user here are five creative ways Twitter can be used for teaching:
1. Promoting student engagement
Twitter can be used to facilitate online discussions in classes and schools. In a university course I am taking we engage in a Twitter discussion once a week based on our readings and a prompt. I find this is a great way to reflect on what I am learning and also see what my peers think. It is also a good exercise to condense your thoughts into 140 characters or less, a challenge in itself.
For this to work a teacher or leader must define a Twitter hashtag that all participants will add to their tweet (ex. #socials10). Search for the hashtag using the Twitter search bar and all Tweets with that hashtag will show up.
I like this method for increasing student engagement. It allows students to reflect independently on what they are learning, and to consider their classmates’ points of view. Once everyone has responded to the question (either at home or in class) an in class discussion can be facilitated by the teacher or in smaller groups.
2. Fostering civic and community awareness/participation
This may not be relevant to all subject areas, but is definitely a core part of any humanities class. Increasingly politicians and community leaders are using Twitter as a platform to engage with their supporters and surrounding community. Requiring students to follow leaders in their community can encourage students to learn about local issues and become active citizens of their community.
3. Facilitate student-centered learning
Twitter can be used as a tool to create a student-centered learning environment. Rather than lecturing students about a particular issue or phenomena ask them to follow a hashtag regarding the topic of interest (or ask them to find a hashtag to follow). Allow them to develop their own conclusions about the issue. Then review/clarify their findings and share as a class. As more students bring smartphones to school this will become easier to facilitate. IMPORTANT: Make sure students have a good understanding of what qualifies as a reliable resource before beginning the exercise. A good article about analyzing online resources is available here.
4. Enhancing Personal Learning Network (PLN)
For Teachers: Twitter offers one of the most efficient ways to enhance your PLN and keep up-to-date with current information on education. You can also share your own teaching experiences with your colleagues, wherever they live. Collective and collaborative teaching is where it’s at. Following fellow teachers and education related hashtag discussions is an easy way to get involved.
For Students: Encourage students to follow people or organizations that are related to their interests, hobbies, or favourite subjects. Remind them if they follow someone (say a potential employer) that person might also follow them back. Therefore they shouldn’t have anything on their account they don’t want a potential employer to see. I think it is really beneficial for young people to see what is out there beyond their social bubbles, and Twitter can enable this.
5. School administrative updates
Twitter is a quick and efficient way to connect with parents, students, and the surrounding community regarding school updates, events, closures, etc. Simply set-up a school Twitter account and share this with all students, parents, teachers and officials. Encourage the school community to follow the school Twitter for current and up-to-date information.
With regards to administration of the school Twitter, I would suggest that one person be responsible for posting tweets. To encourage updates from sports teams, clubs, and individuals establish a school hashtag. Anyone with updates for the school could Tweet using the school hashtag and the administrator of the main Twitter can decide which to broadcast on the official school Twitter.