After being required to create a Twitter account in two of my graduate level classes, I’ve decided that I need to research a little more and understand what this tweeting universe is all about. After a few weeks into my second semester I have found myself very interested in microblogging, which Twitter is considered to represent. I am of the younger generation in Boise State’s M.E.T. program, but the only social networking site that I use regularly is Facebook. I haven’t decided if this is mainly because I don’t have the time to keep up with more than one social site, or because I don’t feel the need to have minute-by-minute status updates or photos about people’s everyday situations. It is probably a combination of both. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning about people and having the ability to keep in touch with friends and family I wouldn’t normally call, but the “over-posters” on these social sites have kind of steered me away from this world. Now, on a scholastic level, I find Twitter to be an incredible resource and one that I would benefit from knowing more about.
Twitter is a social networking site that allows people to post (also known as “tweet”) and respond to messages of 140 characters or less. Along with short messages, Tweeters can also post photos. A hashtag (#) is used in a tweet to group posts together and allow people to see what is trending for a particular topic. There is a revolving Twitter feed for registered users that allow them to see Tweets from people they are following. Nonregistered users can read tweets, but cannot respond to or repost tweets.
My main focus of research was Twitter use in the classroom. After a lot of exploring I am excited to report that I have learned a lot! The following paragraphs will describe the strengths and weaknesses of using Twitter in the classroom.
In conducting research on classroom Twitter use, I was able to find so many inspiring uses. It makes me excited to be learning about Educational Technology during a time where integrating technology in the classroom is being so actively explored. When I think back to my grade school and high school years, I can’t help but think how great it would be to have something like Twitter back then. How many times did I have a homework question for the teacher or another student in the class, but wasn’t able to have it answered because I didn’t have a phone number or it wasn’t available on the Internet? How much more could I have accomplished and gotten out of a class had I had the opportunity to really be involved in the subject outside of class by joining in on conversations others students were having about the same topic? This is what Twitter allows students to do. By using the hashtag, they are able to narrow down their posts and strictly view feeds for a particular subject or interest. This feature could be immensely valuable for group work, homework help, brainstorming sessions, and the like. I thought, at first, “Well, that’s what texting is for,” but quickly realized that texting does not help anyone but the two or three people selected to be involved. You, as a student or educator, never know if your tweet will help others who you may not select to talk to outside of class. One tweet or chat session could mean the difference between a B and an A for some students. It could mean the difference between truly grasping a concept and struggling to understand it. Using Twitter for outside-of-class collaboration was the first big strength I saw with this online teaching tool.
Another strength I found was the fact that Twitter allows students and educators to be informally involved in the subject at hand. Participation in discussion boards is often required in online courses. They are meant to be more formal and address a specific topic, unlike a tweet that can be about a number of topics. One article I read talked about how librarians at their school were using Twitter as a place to post links to references for various topics. I find this is happening in our EdTech courses. Many students post interesting and relevant articles using a hashtag and the class number. I love this feature. There are so many resources and not enough time in the day to see them all. Twitter allows students and teachers to gain exposure to many different references and articles outside of their routine media sources.
I came across many other positives to using Twitter as an online teaching tool. A great article that I found on 21st Century Fluency Project’s blog was called 60 Inspiring Examples of Twitter in the Classroom. Lee Crocket (2013) mentions almost every idea you could think of to using Twitter as an integral part of learning and teaching. He covers topics like instant feedback, ambient office hours, student engagement, teaching bite-sized info, deadline reminders, communicating with experts, following conferences, sharing microviews, and much more. I highly recommend this article for more information and positive ideas.
Below is an inspirational and real-life example of how twitter was used in an actual middle school English class:
Twitter for English classes
Twitter is a way for students to be involved with something bigger than what is going on in their classroom. In a particular article called Pleased to Tweet You, Messner (2009) talks about how she was able to project a live Twitter feed for her 7th-grade students to read and participate in. They were actually tweeting, along with other writers around the country, with an author and her editor about a book that Messner had just booktalked the day before. This Twitter chat allowed the students to be engaged with the bigger picture. Twitter allowed them to experience another aspect of literature and writing that is often not explored due to location or accessibility. They were able to gain first-hand experience from professionals about what it takes to create a novel. This type of information and involvement has immeasurable value for children this age. Who knows, maybe this one Twitter chat allowed a student to peak into his or her dream world of becoming a great writer or editor one day. I truly believe that when you are able to meet students in their world, like the world of social networking, you can relate to them on a level that is not only easy for them to understand, but that they can thrive on.
Like all things, there are varying negatives that using Twitter in the classroom presents, the most obvious being security and privacy issues. Internet predators are abundant and without proper education and warning, people can fall victim of their crime. Another big issue is privacy settings. On many social networking sites, these settings can change without notification. Students and teachers alike need to be aware of these changes and continually monitor their settings for appropriate use.
Cyber-bullying is another big issue with using sites like Twitter. Cyber-bullying can be present in all levels of education; however, I believe that it is more prevalent in the high school and middle school age students. This issue would have to be addressed and teachers would need to provide guidelines for appropriate behavior.
The digital divide is a serious issue with educational technology integration. Using Twitter, along with other online technology tools, could further divide a class who might not all have the resources to participate.
Twitter is a great instrument for engaging students by using current technology that they are familiar with. It allows students and educators to be exposed to conversation, experts, and resources that they may not regularly be exposed to. The best learning environment for Twitter use would be one where students are high school age or older and are proficient in using social media sites. It would need be a class that has access to the Internet and that was given rules and guidelines for using Twitter for educational purposes with their peers. Overall, after conducting this research, I think Twitter is an exceptional use of an online teaching tool. There are many articles and ideas available for educators who want to start using it in the classroom, which is a must when implementing new technology.
Crocket, L. (2013) 60 inspiring examples of Twitter in the classroom. Retrieved from http://fluency21.com/blog/2013/02/19/60-inspiring-examples-of-twitter-in-the- classroom/
Lederer, K. (2012). Pros and cons of social media in the classroom. Campus Technology. Retrieved from http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2012/01/19/Pros-and-Cons-of- Social-Media-in-the-Classroom.aspx?Page=1
Messner, K. (2009) Pleased to tweet you: Making a case for Twitter in the classroom. School Library Journal, 44-47. Retrieved from http://webtools4teachers.yolasite.com/resources/ Pleased+to+Tweet+You+Making+a+case+for+Twitter+in+the+Classroom.pd