Twitter was formed in 2006 and is now one of the worlds largest and most popular social networks. It allows users to send and receive short messages, up to 140 characters, called Tweets. The service is often accessed through the Twitter webpage, however free companion apps for iOS devices and Macs are also available.
Twitter in Education Twitter is a fantastic tool for educators! Firstly, it can be used in lessons (school policy permitting) as a good way to collate revision notes. To do this, simply create a unique #Hashtag for each class which learners should include in any posts they make. It also makes an effective plenary when used to ask students to send a Tweet about their learning. This gives everyone a voice, ensuring everyone can be assessed and can be carried out much quicker than expecting a verbal response off every pupil. Finally, in my subject area, Geography, Twitter is a fantastic way of keeping track of what is going on in the world in real time. This is particularly effective when studying natural disasters as it fully engages learners in the stories of real people. If learners have a particular question, why not get them to find an expert on Twitter and Tweet them the question? Although there is no guarantee they’ll get a response (especially if the person they Tweet is very well known), it can be a very engaging way to tease out great questions. Alternatively, why not set up a fake Twitter account for a particular person and get learners to send this person questions. One example may be in History where a profile is created for the figure being studied. Students can even take it in turns to run the account and try to answer the questions posed to them.
However, Twitter is not just a great tool for use with learners, it’s also fantastic resource for the professional development of teachers. I’ve found that educators around the globe are willing to share a whole range of ideas and resources for free which is truly amazing! @TeacherToolkit has already compiled a list of 101 Teachers to Follow on Twitter which is a fantastic place to start, whilst UkEdChat has also listed their Community’s Favourite UK Educational Tweeters.
1.) If you already have a personal Twitter account, create a professional one just for teaching Even if you don’t have a personal Twitter account, set up a professional one anyway. It’s a fantastic way to interact with learners, other teachers and many other people of interest.
2.) Create a Twitter name that reflects you and what your account is about As Twitter has become more popular, creating a name that is memorable and relevant is becoming difficult since all the good’uns are seemingly taken. Twitter advise users to add “numbers, underscores, or abbreviations [which] can help you come up with a great available username“.
3.) Learn the basics Do you know your RT’s from your #Hashtags? If you don’t, fear not. Twitter has complied a glossary of terms used on their website which is well worth checking out once you start. If you’re stuck, don’t be afraid to ask students in your classes as they can be a fantastic resource. The chances are many of them are using Twitter and are very savvy.
4.) Follow people who suit your interests If for example you’re interested in #EdTech, find accounts which share that interest. Import your address book and find people you know who are using Twitter. Also, see who they’re interacting with and check Twitter’s own recommendations to find more people to connect with. I’d recommend not to go overboard on following too many accounts as your timeline can quickly become overloaded and you might miss some of the really great Tweets people put out.
5.) Interact with people Don’t be afraid to reply to Tweets from people or organisations: if you have something worth saying, say it! The vast majority of Tweeters are fantastic and will often take the time to respond when necessary. In fact, I’ve managed to connect with some really amazing people on Twitter just by doing this. Also, if you have a question, put it out there and consider adding a relevant #Hashtag to increase the chances it is seen. Start off small: some of your early questions may not even get a reply, however as your network grows and you begin interacting with more and more users, the replies will come flooding in!
Caution: Firstly, I’d like to stress that this is rare, however it does occasionally happen. Some Tweets may attract an unsavoury response from Trolls. If you are unfortunate enough to encounter this, don’t respond. Just Block the account so they cannot contact you again and Report any abuse. Twitter have put together a helpful article which addresses this in more detail which can be accessed here.