Are you an educator who is thinking about taking the plunge into using Twitter in your classroom? Many of us think of Twitter as a place to share pictures of our latest meal or as the place where industry gurus post their greatest observations. It’s common to wonder: how can we use Twitter in a meaningful way—especially in a classroom?
Why Use Twitter in Education?
The truth is, with 288 million monthly average users from all over the world, Twitter provides a social media world that is chock full of information and insights.
- Teachers can use Twitter to connect with experts around town– or around the globe– to get perspectives that will enrich lessons.
- Students can contact other students in foreign countries to enhance their understanding of how other people live, what they value, and what their challenges are.
- Students can use Twitter for research, by searching for specific terms and following up on the findings.
- Teachers can deepen their professional knowledge by connecting with leaders in the field.
- Using Twitter provides another tool for communication between teachers and students and can increase interaction and engagement in the classroom.
Maybe you’re intrigued with the idea of using Twitter, but aren’t quite sure how to get started. Here are some key ways to use Twitter to teach and to learn.
Twitter is a free, online social media tool, found at Twitter.com. You can also download the app onto your computer, tablet or phone. Once you have your account set up, you can post, or tweet, your thoughts in messages of 140 characters or less. That tweet can include a link to another website, a video, or photo. You can also share something someone else has posted through a re-tweet.
One of the most confusing aspects of Twitter is the lingo. Twitter supplies a glossary of nearly all of the terms you’ll come across, but here’s a quick and dirty guide of the most commonly used ones.
- Twitter handle/user name: This is your Twitter name. You get to choose what you want (as long as it’s available) when you sign up for the account. Twitter allows multiple accounts so you can have a personal account under one name and a professional one for your work as an educator. For your educator account, consider a name that is related to the topic that you teach.
- @ or the “at” sign: This is used to call out a specific name, as in @edudemic. When you use the @ in front of a name, it’s called a mention, and the person you mention will receive a notification that their name was used in your tweet.
- # or hashtag (the sign formerly known as pound): Is used to identify tweets on a similar topic. #applepie, for example, would find all tweets related to the favorite dessert. It’s like a keyword indicator.
- Follow: When you find Twitter users who shares information you like, you can follow them, meaning you click the follow button next to the name on their profile. Once you start to follow someone, his or her tweets will automatically appear in your Twitter home page. Likewise, if someone wants to see your tweets, they will follow you. Twitter notifies you when you have new followers.
Twitter’s New Users FAQs provides more information, but these are some of the main aspects an educator needs to know to get an account up and running.
Making the Most of Twitter for Educators
Once your Twitter account is established, you’ll want to fill your stream with useful information.
1. Decide whose tweets you want to follow.
Maybe start following tweets from your school, district, and other teachers. Add some relevant local, national, and international news sources. Find people discussing topics that are related to your lessons, i.e. history buffs, scientists, or mathematicians, etc. Add great sources focused on education like @edudemic.
2. Follow the Followers
Click on the profile page of an organization or person you follow, see who they follow to get more ideas. Twitter also can provide suggestions, based on your history, on new people to follow.
3. Narrow It Down
Once you’ve created a robust selection of who to follow, you may encounter the opposite problem—how to find what you need from a barrage of incoming tweets. A variety of apps and techniques can make this simpler.
- Create a customized stream of up to the minute information: Twitter can serve as your daily newspaper, providing you with the tweets containing the most recent trends, experiments and best practices in education.
- Make a list: Twitter lists (an option available on Twitter) allow you to put your followers as well as people you haven’t committed to following into categories. Want to just read tweets about English as a second language? You can look at the tweets in that list. Want to see what’s new and trending with Common Core? Create that list.
- Use an app: Hootsuite is an app (free for personal use) that lets you create and save searches for tweets, schedule your own tweets, and create lists. Kissmetrics suggests additional apps to get you organized in Twitter. Although being a lurker is normally frowned upon in society, in Twitter, it’s a great way to get started feeling comfortable with the app. You don’t have to feel pressured to tweet right away. Sue Gordon, an educator and consultant, explained at a recent conference by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), that educators should start using Twitter by following a hashtag that interests them, one they’re passionate about. If you do that, as that list expands, you’ll develop your own customized resource for teaching and learning.
Twitter can bring a wealth of great information into your classroom. Accessing, curating and discussing that information can bring renewed energy to your students and to you.