Twitter like all other social media is a virtual Aladdin’s cave. It is a gateway to riches. But just like in the story, this Aladdin’s cave is also booby-trapped. Use it right and you will come away with the genie of knowledge ready to do your bidding. Use it wrong and you will be a casualty of wasted time. So, ‘rub’ it just right. Long back, we had taken a look at how to use Twitter for business. Many of the methods hold true for learning as well.
I remember my own school days. The fear of taking part in discussions taught me the art of strategically positioning myself in class. Shyness, not lack of knowledge was my bugbear. How great would Twitter have been back then? 140 characters would have banished the demon of shyness and freed my brain from my own trap. It is this very nature of free-flowing chatter on Twitter that is being embraced by teachers today. That’s not all; educationists are using Twitter in many other creative ways for teaching and learning.
Haven’t heard about Twitter? Where have you been? Here’s our handy – Complete Guide to Twitter.
Let’s check out the amazing ways 140 characters are helping to light the lamp.
Why Should Teachers And Tutors Use Twitter in Education?
Before we get to the actual uses teachers are putting Twitter to use in their classrooms, let’s see in brief why Twitter is a good enough study tool.
- Teachers can connect to their students on a wider level as well as on a personal level.
- Interactions can be taken beyond the classroom as Twitter is omnipresent in our smartphones and laptops.
- Twitter allows for customization of learning depending on the student i.e. differentiating learning for different students.
- Twitter can be used to quickly connect to multimedia resources (e.g. YouTube or Vine) and turn education into edutainment.
- Twitter gives new opportunities to connect to other learning communities and new educational content.
- The very nature of Twitter – brief and to-the-point makes for rapid broadcast of learning.
These six reasons aren’t the only benefits of course. As you try out the microblogging platform as an educational tool yourself, other benefits will soon materialize. These benefits and more are better illustrated with the Twitter teaching methods below:
Hashtags and Learning
— Matthias Rascher (@matthiasrascher) April 8, 2013
Set up custom ‘classroom’ hashtags around lessons and topics. Students can follow these specific hashtags and keep a record of what was taught in class. Again, lesson discussions can be started around these hashtags. Hashtags are the most powerful tool of the microblog and it helps to keep everything tied in together pretty much like a thread.
Hashtags also make it easy to follow interesting topics related to the curriculum or anything else that might broaden a student’s knowledge base. You can use them to pick up gems from the stream that is Twitter. Joel told us about 5 useful twitter hashtags that you really need to know. As shown, hashtags like #TED or #History are oceans of knowledge.
Twitter itself is a vast knowledge network. There are resources like Twitter dictionaries to teach a word a day. There are umpteen hashtags like #gbl for game based learning or #engchat for English language learning etc. Here’s a Twitter hashtag dictionary you can refer to.
Quickfire Recaps and Quizzes
Teachers and tutors can set up Twitter as a quizzing engine with periodic quizzes on lesson topics. Creatively used with rewards, Twitter quizzes could help to keep students engaged with their study materials. Encourage students to actively participate through Twitter and reward them for their initiative. Twitter’s conciseness makes it ideal for after-class discussions – 140 character discussions aren’t long enough to make you space out!
Citizen's mother. Where to begin? "When I die," she once told him (in a moment of intimacy), "I want the worms in my grave to poop silicon."
— John Wray (@John_Wray) March 21, 2013
You can follow authors, exchange micro-reviews of their work, start a Twitter book club, create 140-character poetry (twihaiku) or even Twitter fiction. Hashtags help to keep everything together. You can also use tweets as research material for a paper. Citing tweets in an academic paper has been standardized according to MLA guidelines.
Twitter as a Bulletin Board
No more tacked notes on the cork board. Twitter is the perfect broadcast platform to let students know about any news in and around class. It could be a reminder of an upcoming test or even better news like a cancelled one. Twitter may seem like a perfect tool to chat around topics, but teachers can use 140 character missives in more direct ways. A special Twitter account can be set up just for capturing all events in and around campus, a course, or a class.
Or Set Up a Twitter Wall
Twitter Walls are Twitter visualization tools that are generally used for large scale conferences and events, but they do find practical uses in a classroom also; especially one with a large number of students. Twitter Walls are web apps which allow you to project a Twitter conversation around a hashtag. These can be projected on a screen. Anyone with a smartphone or a laptop can join in and participate in the conversation. Twitter Walls are also great for bringing in a large audience into a conversation. Even shy students (like I was) and back benchers can join in for interactive Q&A sessions. Some recommended Twitter Wall web apps are –
Role Play on Twitter
@RealTimeWWII is a ‘live tweeting’ Twitter account started by Alwyn Collinson, a history graduate. He tweets events as they happened during WWII. This is an interesting project to bring history to life, and as you can see it’s difficult to argue with its impact because the account now has nearly 300,000 followers. In five years, he probably would become some sort of an expert on WWII and its historical impact. Bringing historical events or figures to life could be a class project that will not only teach students about research but also give them valuable lessons in critical thinking. The American President, John Quincy Adams is also a subject of an interesting live tweeting project by the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Bear in mind that these are different from parody accounts on Twitter
Create Class Newspapers with Twitter Streams
When in school, we had our own magazine and newsletters. Well, they are so old-fashioned when you can fashion a digital newspaper in seconds out of Twitter or any other social feed. A few months back I had looked at the The Tweeted Times to curate your favorite streams into a personalized real-time newspaper. He potential to do one around a topic or the entire class syllabi is quite varied.
Paper.li is another custom newspaper creation tool you can look into.
Seek Mentors with the Help Of Twitter
Teachers should prod their students to connect with established professionals in their areas of study or at least follow them on their Twitter accounts. Twitter is a great tool for being part of a professional community – a Twitter tribe, even as an eavesdropper. By being active on Twitter, students can connect to mentors online who can inspire them in their area of specialty. Who knows, these early contacts can later lead to jobs or even internships.
Parent Teacher Meet with a Tweet
Parents can connect to teachers and tutors via their Twitter handles and receive real-time progress reports. The Twitter interface cuts short the time parents or teachers put into interacting with each other.
Take a Break
All study and no play makes Jack a dull boy. At the end of a grueling classroom session, free up the mind by using Twitter to play trivia games like Outwit Me or Artwiculate. Check out ten Twitter games I covered a while back. A site like Outwit Me has eight games now – each just as challenging as the other. It’s a fun way to introduce some puzzle cracking competition in class and keep the students productively engaged.
With these ten creative ways to use Twitter, I have barely scratched the surface. Social media outlets like Twitter help you socialize on one level but on another broader level they can really enrich the learning experience. The good news is that educationists are using social media tools to make lessons more interesting. Blogs, wikis, YouTube, Facebook have established themselves in the classroom to a large extent.
For the sake of an argument we might say that this change is more in developed countries; but I dare say that as the new generation of teachers take up chairs, it could be just a matter of time for the rest of the world to follow suit. What do you think? Are you a teacher by any chance? Or, a student who uses Twitter or any other social media for more engaged learning?