Twitter is a free social software and microblogging service that allows users to post, or “tweet,” 140 characters of text in the style of a blog orRSS feed. Posts can be made directly through the website or through cell phones, instant messaging, mobile devices and email. Twitter accounts and posts can be set to be viewable by the public or by a select group of users.
Twitter also features a large number of application based features such as Twitpic which allows users to share media, TweetDeck which combines Twitter with other social software platforms such as Facebook, and Twittercounter which gives statistics on an account.
Twitter users can choose to follow the feeds of other users and can allow people to follow their own feed. As posts are made they are automatically aggregated into an information stream, similar to an RSS Feed, which users can follow. Additionally, the user can tag posts with keywords, making their posts searchable, can comment on posts, and can have independent conversations.
Application to All Courses
Twitter, like most microblogging tools, is a relatively new form of communication that is still currently finding a niche in education. The application of Twitter will be similar in regular, large enrollment, online and hybrid courses. Some of the benefits of Twitter include:
- Can communicate short pieces of information quickly to a group or to a wide audience.
- Aggregates the postings of followers into a single feed to allow the user to quickly read through a large quantity of information.
- Allows for integration with social software tools such as Facebook.
- Allows for instant dissemination of information and communication with others.
- Is a portable mode of communication that allows users to communicate anywhere that they can reach an internet signal including from laptops, mobile devices and internet café’s.
- Allows for comments and conversations to occur on a posting thus enabling users to provide feedback to one another.
- Offers instant news coverage and current events.
- Provides opportunities to collaborate inside and outside of the classroom including for participants who may be shy or less willing to participate in a face-to-face discussion.
- Aids in the building of an online community as well as providing a virtual methodology for discussion in face-to-face courses.
- Provides opportunities for rapid feedback on the part of the instructor and students.
Some methodologies for utilizing Twitter in the regular, large enrollment, online and hybrid courses include:
- Students can post questions for the instructor who can then answer the questions during lecture, after class directly in the Twitter forum or can allow students to self-answer questions.
- Can serve as a discussion forum during live real-time classes allowing students to comment on lecture, post links or other pertinent information, ask questions, and so on.
- Send syllabus and calendar reminders such as test dates, project deadlines, cancelled sessions, study sessions, and so on.
- Create collaborative activities such as WebQuests requiring students to research a topic, answer a question, post an opinion on a controversial topic, find resources and more.
- Require students to find resources on a topic and have a class discussion on the reliability of resources, how to determine if a resource is valid and appropriate types of resources.
- Can be utilized for the life cycle of a project such as for social brainstorming, troubleshooting projects, evaluating and gathering resources, collaborating on face-to-face meeting times and places, and other collaboration needs.
- In a large enrollment course use Twitter filter tools to form learning teams, small groups and project based activities to keep the Twitter conversation from becoming too large or unwieldy.
- Form small collaborative or study groups who can post views on a topic, research links, provide quick updates on findings or results, help each other with questions, or work collaboratively on a project.
- University of Florida Twitter Feed: A “best-of” feed of Twitter posts related to the University of Florida.
- View a brief photo slideshow on Twitter.
- Create a Twitter account.
- Create a user profile.
- Enter a Tweet. If your user information is public then your Tweet will appear in the website timeline in reverse chronological order.
- Each Tweet post identifies the poster and links to their profile page.
- To send Tweets to specific people add them to your friend list and their Tweets will appear on your Twitter home page.
- If you choose to “follow” a user that persons Tweets will be sent to you.
- Twitter also allows users to subscribe to the RSS feeds of specific users which will allow the RSS aggregator to receive the Tweets of several users in one timeline.
To utilize Twitter in the classroom:
- Request that each student register for a Twitter account.
- Request that the students add each other to their friends list.
- The instruction may also wish to create a webpage with an RSS feed so that the class Tweets are aggregated into one location.
- If the instructor creates an RSS feed once the student submits a Tweet it will automatically appear in the Twitter timeline and in the RSS feed.
For more information on getting started visit the following Twitter help pages:
- Twitter: The Twitter homepage.
Articles – Journal and Academic
- 7 Things You Should Know About Twitter: A PDF scholarly article from Educause describing the educational uses and benefits of Twitter.
- Blogging as Participation: The Active Sociality of a New Literacy: A PDF of a scholarly paper presented to the American Educational Research Association on blogging and microblogging in higher education as an ontological literacy.
- Can We Use Twitter for Educational Activities?: A PDF conference paper from The 4th International Scientific Conference eLSE “eLearning and Software for Education” discussing possible educational benefits and detriments of Twitter.
- Using micro-blogging (Twitter) in your teaching and learning: An introductory guide. A PDF scholarly discussion paper from the University of Bath.
Articles – Blogs, Websites, Wikis
- 10 High Fliers on Twitter: A blog article from the Chronicle of Higher Education on administrative and instructional uses of Twitter in higher education.
- How Twitter Creates a Sixth Sense: An article on the growing popularity of Twitter.
- This Twittering Life: An anecdotal analysis of Twitter as an educational tool.
- Twitter Fan Wiki: A Wiki about Twitter by Twitter users.
- Twitter in Higher Education 2010: Usage Habits and Trends of Today’s College Faculty: A blog article from Faculty Focus discussing the debate surrounding using Twitter as an educational tool.
- Twitter in the classroom: 10 useful resources: A blog article from Social Media for Working and Learning looking at specific educational uses of Twitter.
- Wikipedia – Twitter: Detailed explanation and resources on Twitter.