Thursday, May 8, 2008

What Are You Twittering?

Chris O'Neal reports in Edutopia on Twitter's growing popularity with teachers and the varied ways they use Twitter. As a fast way to update and exchange information, Twitter can in some cases replace class blogs and discussion boards while also giving students and teachers up-to-date information and contact almost anywhere they are.

Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that uses an instant message interface. The basic question is "What are you doing?" Answers are limited to 140 characters or less. Twitter can also be used with a mobile phone. Once you are signed up, you can follow other people by getting their updates. Profiles give basic information on users. You can also set your preferences to include specific followers. Twitter also allows you to block followers and report spammers.

Many teachers currently use Twitter to keep up with colleagues locally or anywhere in the world, to find and share new ideas or methods, and to get and give information on conferences, to further professional development, and to network socially. But it can also be used in the classroom. Some ways Twitter can be used:
  • To set up an account for students and parents to keep everyone up-to-date on class activities
  • To create brainstorming sessions for students
  • To provide space for students to share information from wherever they are as they work on a collaborative project
  • To update parents at the end of the week on assignments, upcoming events, classroom needs, volunteer opportunities, etc.
  • To have students group-write a story or other text
  • To remind students of assignments and events
  • To compel students to respond concisely to a prompt, topic, article or other resource.
It is possible to restrict who is part of your Twitter conversation, making it much safer for class use and especially with middle schoolers. You can also change or adjust who is following you and can disable updates for people you no longer want to follow. And because Twitter messages can't be edited once they are posted, it can focus students on editing and proofing themselves to avoid embarrassment, misunderstanding, or a lower grade. Are you using Twitter? How? What are the best uses you've found or heard about?

SOURCE: "Tweet Spot: Web 2.0 Educators Are Atwitter About Twitter" 04/30/08
SOURCE: "Twitter FAQ" 2007
photo courtesy of trekkyandy, used under this Creative Commons license

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