What is Twitter?
In essence, Twitter is an online social networking website that allows users to post a micro-blog of no more than 140 characters called ‘tweets’. Other users can ‘follow’ other people and read and reply to each others’ ‘tweets’. You can choose who you ‘follow’ and you will only receive ‘tweets’ from these people. Users ‘tweet’ about what they are doing, ask questions and post links to things they and others find interesting. The subject of the ‘tweets’ can be grouped together using ‘hashtags’ (#), users can search and follow specific subjects. A ‘hashtag’ is easily set up and allows many ‘users’ to comment on a topic all at once.
‘Tweeting’ is an instant, free and fun way to write and read about anything and everything. It has the capacity to be a huge and engaging way for students to learn.
Here are two other definitions of Twitter;
Twitter is a website, owned and operated by Twitter Inc., which offers a social networking and microblogging service, enabling its users to send and read messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the user’s profile page. Tweets are publicly visible by default, however senders can restrict message delivery to their followers. Users may subscribe to other users’ tweets—this is known as following and subscribers are known as followers. (Wikipedia)
Twitter is an online social networking tool in which users post 140 character updates of what is going on in their lives along with links to things they think are interesting, funny, or useful to their followers (“following” being essentially what “friending” is on other sites). People use twitter in many ways, some as a news feed by following prominent people or networks, some as a pseudo-chat room by limiting their followers and whom they follow to close friends and family, and some as a microblog for updating people about the work they are doing and their personal lives.
Why could Twitter be used in Schools?
Most would agree that Twitter was one of the social networking phenomena of 2008, and has enjoyed exponential growth in popularity. Around 6 million people have used Twitter since Jan 2009. With the highest percentage of users (47%) being people aged 18-34. (ETEC 649 Development of Online Courseware)
The micro-blogging tool has obvious potential to be used in formal learning, both in traditional online classroom settings and – through mobile technologies – for mobile learners.
The benefits of using Twitter to accelerate learning include;
- Allows students to use and develop their literacy skills in a creative way.
- Provides opportunities for students to develop their communication skills.
- Develops metacognition skills.
- Inspires students to relate with the world around them.
- Engages students using technology by utilising mobile/hand held technology that is already of prevalent use by today’s young people.
- Fosters a learning community within and outside the classroom.
- Allows immediate and real time responses.
What do we need to get started?
As Twitter is a website, it can be accessed on the internet. It is free of charge and takes literally minutes to register and set up an account. Twitter is also easily accessible on mobile ‘smart’ phones or any mobile device that has access to the internet. Twitter can be unblocked from the schools’ network very easily, or if preferred a set of laptops or specific ICT suite can be unblocked.
What about e-Safety?
As with any website there are e-Safety issues and risks of students accessing inappropriate internet material. I would suggest planning an e-Safety talk from a member of the School’s ICT department before students begin to use Twitter. Any student found accessing inappropriate internet material in school should be sanctioned according to the school’s ICT/behaviour policy.
The fact that Twitter is open and accessible to anybody with an internet connection means that strict guidelines need to be developed and agreed by staff and students before use.
- Students must not mention their name or any of their friends by name in tweets under any circumstances. A username could be a nickname or a given username by the teacher i.e. @mrcoles24
- Students must not check for replies (to prevent them from seeing any inappropriate material that may be posted by inappropriate Twitter users).
- Students must not navigate away from the Twitter Stream page and look at other people’s profiles (in case of inappropriate language used).
It is possible and very easy to make your tweets private and only viewable to specific followers – in essence a closed and safe environment where only designated people can write, read and reply to tweets. Perfect for classroom use.
There is also software such as TrueTwit that validates followers to ensure that no spam is sent to Twitter users.
More information on Internet Safety and responsible use can be found here; http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/usingglowandict/internetsafety/index.asp
Is there any evidence that Twitter will accelerate learning?
Due to the infancy of Twitter being used directly in UK schools to improve learning there is, as yet, reliable evidence to suggest that Twitter improves learning and achievement. But, there are numerous articles, journals and videos (some of which I have included below) that prove that Twitter engages students, excites students, inspires students and develops students. Now if all of them won’t accelerate learning of your students, I’m not sure what will!
One of the best case studies is of a Primary School in Cleveland;
As part of focussing on the development of traditional writing and new literacies, Martin Waller has used Twitter with his Year 2 class as means of engaging children in evaluating and reflecting on their own learning. Its use has created a greater understanding of real world literacy and helped develop digital literacy skills.
“Twitter has allowed the children in Orange Class to engage in using meaningful literacy that is relevant to the world that we live in. It is too early at this stage to argue fully that it has a positive impact on writing attainment. However, what is clear is that it has allowed the children to understand that literacy does not happen within the bubble of a classroom and that it permeates into all areas of life and can be constructed with other people, not just of their own age but of a different generation.”
Holy Trinity Rosehill C.E. Primary School, Stockton on Tees, Cleveland.
Follow them! http://www.twitter.com/ClassroomTweets
In the New York Times (January 2011) Rebecaa Ruiz wrote;
According to a new study published in The Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Twitter canbolster student engagement and grade-point average. They also more frequently participated in class, sought out professors and discussed course material outside of class. Students seemed to find the medium a less intimidating way to express themselves in large lecture halls. “Twitter was a useful, low-stress way to ask questions,” Mr. Junco (Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania), says. As one student wrote on Twitter: “One of my favourite parts of the day is when I’m sitting in Bio lecture and a tweet has been sent out through the class account and everybody looks at their phone.”
Twitter: The New Rules of Engagement
By REBECCA R. RUIZ
Jean Schnider and Matt Spencer form ‘ETEC 649 Development of Online Courseware’ conclude about the benefits of using Twitter in schools
“….metagcognition is the practice of thinking about what you have learnt. Thinking about what you have learnt outside of the learning environment helps learners understand and better retain content. When students are able to tweet about what they are learning they are not only thinking about these topics and concepts but it also gives them understanding that extends outside the classroom”
Tweets for Education Part 2
Dr. Monica Rankin of the University of Texas at Dallas used Twitter as an experiment to engage more students into discussion.
“It’s been really exciting because, in classes like this, you’ll have three people who talk about the discussion material, and so to actually have 30 or 40 people at the same time talking about it is really interesting,”
(Megan Malone, Teaching Assistant to Dr. Monica Rankin’s)
“It’s just an easy way to answer questions in class without embarrassing yourself and raising your hand in a big lecture hall,”
(Student in another Twitter-friendly classroom at Purdue University)
“The first thing I noticed when the class started using Twitter was how conversations continued inside and outside of class. Once students started Twittering I think they developed a sense of each other as people beyond the classroom space, rather than just students they saw twice a week for an hour and a half. As a result, classroom conversation became more productive as people were more willing to talk, and [be] more respectful of others.”
(David Parry, Professor of Emerging Media at the University of Texas)
How Twitter in the Classroom is Boosting Student Engagement
Mashable Social Media
- Select a targeted small group for you to trial using Twitter in the classroom. Perhaps a disengaged group of boys in English? Perhaps an unmotivated group of girls in Maths?
- Designate an appropriate teacher to help with the trial, they do not have to be an ICT specialist and in some ways it may benefit the project if they are not. This project could be part of their CPD and in the future they could be a Twitter ambassador for the school.
- Set up the use of Twitter in the school, for the trial; just allow access to Twitter in a specific ICT suite or for a class set of laptops. If necessary you may have to relax the ruling on mobile phones in the class if you are using them.
- Set the correct tone, by inviting a member of SLT or Head teacher to talk to the selected students, explaining why they have been selected, what is expected and rewards and sanctions that are involved.
- Plan an e-Safety talk from a member of the School’s ICT department before students begin to use Twitter.
- Involve parents, as well as informing them of what their child is doing at school and provides reassurance of eSafety, it also may motivate parents and carers in supporting and taking an interest in the child’s learning.
- Use relevant and current data to provide evidence that Twitter engages students and actually increases their learning. An online survey (such as Survey Monkey) is a quick and easy way to ascertain students’ thoughts before, during and after the Twitter trial; while NC levels/grades could be used to evidence attainment.
- Celebrate the success – write an article for the schools’ newsletter or better still contact the local press, or even better tweet about it!
- and then……..well? The whole school could be using Twitter to accelerate learning in the next academic year!
How can Twitter be used to accelerate learning? Here are 30!
1. Provide tips daily.
Teachers can tweet to their students a word a day, with short definition to provide a constant reach of vocabulary. Teachers can also tweet questions/ new words and ask students to find the meaning of the words and reply to the tweet. Teachers can also post questions about the current topic they are learning to provide continuous support for learning.
2. Review a book.
Set up a book reading club and integrate Twitter by providing a platform for the members to write a short review of the book that they are currently reading, or even provide a teaser for the members of the club about a book and ask them to predict the ending of the book. This forecasting activity will help the students to engage with the content of the book in order to know the chronology of the story.
3. Express thoughts.
Some students are afraid to put up their hands and participate in a classroom discussion. Students are afraid that their ideas may be ridiculed if they get it wrong. Teachers can use Twitter to help these “silent” students to participate in the classroom by providing a platform where they can express their ideas freely, without (or less) the risk of being ridiculed by other classmates.
4. Post questions about assignments.
Provide a place for the students to ask anything about the assignments that you have given to them. This simply replaces the role of e-mail. Gives the opportunity for students to think about their learning outside of the lesson.
5. Ask questions without raising hands.
Particularly in a large classroom, for example a lecture hall, you will be overwhelmed by the amount of students and often finds it hard to ask or answer questions. For this instance Twitter can be used as a mediator for discussions in the class. Using Twitter, students can personally post their questions pertaining to the topic that day and as the teacher, you can just project your Twitter page onto the IWB and have a live streaming of questions from your students. This will also encourage those who are a bit shy in raising their hands to post questions. As a result, you will have a higher degree of participation.
Generating ideas by brainstorming is an effective learning experience. You will have an influx of ideas coming out from many heads, but what if your peers, or your students cannot be at one place and at one time? You can use this particular idea when you or the students are not physically present. This is much like distance learning, but more on a discussion mode.
This requires participants to create a sentence of a continuation of the previous sentence made by the person before them. The game is often called ‘Consequences’ or ‘Chain Story’ because the participants must continually produce a continuous one-sentence story. Twittories is the adaptation of that game on the Twitter platform. Ask your students to write a chain story; with each student having exactly 140 letters to use. A fantastic idea for a creative writing project.
George Male a Middle School Teacher in Montgomery County, Marlyland set up a creative writing project using this approach called “@manyvoices”. The end result was a story in which over a hundred students from six different countries contributed. It is now a published book.
8. Connect with other classrooms.
In this digital age, you cannot limit your teaching and learning to your own classroom. By bringing in resources from outside the classroom, you can enrich the learning experience for the students. You can connect your classroom with those from other schools, bringing a wider dimension for discussions and knowledge transfer. Using Twitter, you can achieve all this by just simply following the person that you want to collaborate, or create a new Tweeter account for your class and for the corresponding class, and let your students posts tweets between the two classes.
9. Tweet Translate.
Perfect for Modern Foreign Language engagement. Tweet your students some sentences in a foreign language, and ask the students to reply to you using the same foreign language. Or you can even ask the students to translate the sentences into their native language.
10. Twit Board
Notify students of changes to course content, schedules, venues, exam dates, revision classes, relevant TV programmes currently on or other important information.
11. Summing Up
Ask students to read an article or chapter and then post their brief summary or précis of the key point(s). A limit of 140 characters demands a lot of academic discipline.
12. Tweet about useful resources. (One for the teachers!)
Teachers can tweet any information that they find which have the ability to provide support materials for the lesson and the students will have the access to these tweets via following their teacher. In addition, teachers can share useful resources with other teachers as well. This promotes a supporting environment for the educationist.
Popular educational hashtags to follow are;
#educhat - Education
#ukedchat - UK Education
#ntchat - New Teachers
#gtchat - Gifted and Talented
#scichat - Science
#mathchat - Maths
#engchat – English
13. Twitter Links
Share a hyperlink – a directed task for students – each is required to regularly share one new hyperlink to a useful site they have found. Perfect for collaborative revision or research.
14. Twitter Stalking
Follow a famous person and document their progress. Better still if this can be linked to an event (During the recent U.S. Presidential elections, many people followed @BarackObama and kept up to date with his speeches, etc).
15. Time Tweet
Choose a famous person from the past and create a twitter account for them – choose an image which represents the historical figure and over a period of time write regular tweets in the role of that character, in a style and using the vocabulary you think they would have used (e.g. William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar).
16. Micro Meet
Hold discussions involving all the subscribing students. As long as everyone is following the whole group, no-one should miss out on the Twitter stream. All students participate because a sequence of contributors is agreed beforehand.
Start off a tweme (a theme) – agree on a common hash-tag E.g. #mrcolescellsyr7 so that all the created content is automatically captured. The theme could be based on what was learnt in a lesson or future learning. The theme could be followed real time by students during the lesson on the specific topic and concept being taught on the IWB.
18. Twitter Pals
Encourage students to find a Twitter ‘penpal’ and regularly converse with them over a period of time to find out about their culture, hobbies, friends, family etc. Ideal for learning about people from other cultures.
19. Homework Tweet
Engage your students by tweeting them their homework! The tweet could be in a form of an exam question or a link to revision website or simply to comment on what they learnt in today’s lesson. You will receive instant indications of who or hasn’t completed their homework – and guess what? You may even witness your students talking and helping each other with their homework!
20. Tweet Self and Peer Assessment
A beautifully simple plenary for the 21st Century learner! Ask your students to assess each others work using Twitter and encourage them to give advice on how to progress. Also works as a way for each student to reflect on their own work and what they will do next lesson to help their learning.
Use Twitter to teach journalism. Ask students to use Twitter to report news in 140 characters or less to practice communicating important information succinctly. This could be used in a History lesson to learn about past events or it could be a way to inform and engage students in current affairs. As a class project students could produce a live minute by minute account of a famous news story – either a live news story or a past event.
22. Following events on Twitter.
Watch citizen journalism in action. World events unfold immediately on Twitter, so invite students to follow citizen journalism along with the mainstream news. The NASA website http://www.nasa.gov/ for example has a live Twitter feed keeping viewers informed of their projects and launches.
23. Tweet famous conversations.
Invite students to tweet imagined conversations between famous literary figures such as Romeo and Juliet, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, or Dante and Beatrice.
24. Alien Tweet
Create a fantasy planet and ask your students or Alien explorers to tweet back to the ‘Mother Ship’ what they have found out in today’s lesson – for example a lesson on Adaptation in Science could lead to the students tweeting about strange creatures found on planet Earth!
25. Create a career list.
Set up an interesting assignment requesting that students set up Twitter lists following feeds relevant to their career goals and keep a daily journal on any trends that crop up along the way.
26. Chat with industry professionals.
Students in Year 11 or the Sixth Form who need to explore their career options before leaving could benefit from real-world discussions with professionals in paths they’re considering. Twitter helps them connect with primary sources and facilitates educational communication.
27. Become politically active.
Any teachers responsible for educating kids in politics or government may like the idea of encouraging their students to use Twitter as a forum to make society aware of issues that affect them by retweeting relevant events, news stories, blog posts and other media revolving around a chosen theme.
28. Post Maths puzzles.
Maths, Chemistry or Physics teachers need not feel left out from playing games and posting teasers on Twitter. Like their literate contemporaries, they can microblog a daily problem for students to solve and tweet back the answer.
29. Create an online art gallery.
Students studying art and the humanities can curate their own shows based around creators, movements, regions, time periods or thematic elements that they enjoy, using Twitter as a way to show the world what they think belongs in a specific exhibit.
30. Present our Tweets.
Using software such as SAP Web 2.0 http://www.sapweb20.com/blog/powerpoint-twitter-tools/ students can present the tweets used in class onto a PowerPoint. The software also allows students to vote and comment on Tweets – perfect for a plenary!
…and one last thing!
Below is a response to a New York Times Article about Roslyn High School on Long Island handed out 47 free iPads to students. Cathy Davidson writes in January 2011
“Here is the issue: if you change the technology but not the method of learning, then you are throwing bad money after bad practice.”
“The downside is that it is not a classroom learning tool unless you restructure the classroom. By that I mean, there is no benefit in giving kids iPads in school if you don’t change school. You might as well send them off with babysitters to play in the corner with their iPads for eight hours a day. Without the right pedagogy, without a significant change in learning goals and practices, the iPad’s potential is as limited (and limitless) as the child’s imagination.”
In my opinion this issue is also completely true of using Twitter in the classroom. Twitter is a resource, one of many in the teacher’s repertoire, simply using this (and other New Technologies) in the classroom is not enough. The pedagogy also needs to change to allow students to use Twitter effectively and appropriately to accelerate their learning.
The learning of our students is paramount and should always comes first – using Twitter in the classroom will help facilitate the learning, but only if there is solid, engaging and fun teaching and learning strategies in place.
Articles and Journals;
How Twitter in the Classroom is Boosting Student Engagement
Mashable Social Media
10 Awesome Ideas to use Twitter in the classroom
Posted by najfeez
25 ways to teach with Twitter
Teaching with Twitter
THIS SITE PROVED INVALUABLE FOR WRITING THIS POST – THANKS STEVE!!
Using Twitter in the Primary Classroom
The Complete Guide to Twitter
‘It’s very very fun and ecsiting – using Twitter in the Primary classroom’
‘Mom, this is how twitter works’
Using Twitter in the Classroom
The Teachers Corner
Twitter in Education
Elizabeth Kumabe, Jean Schnider and Matt Spencer
Internet Safety and responsible use
Learning and Teaching Scotland
50 Ways to use Twitter in the classroom
University Reviews Online.com
Twitter at school: dimensions and implications
Twittering in the classroom: some issues
By Terry Freedman
Twitter: The New Rules of Engagement
By REBECCA R. RUIZ
Pointed Response to NYT Article on iPads in Schools
Cathy Davidson January 2011
Teacher Tips: Using Twitter in the Classroom
Using Twitter in Education
Twitter in the classroom?
Tweets for Education Part 1
Tweets for Education Part 2
Assignment: Education-Twitter and Education
Using Twitter in the Classroom
Prezi by Stacey Baker
Online discussion on safety and appropriate use of Twitter in schools
31 Interesting Ways to use Twitter in the Classroom