I'm pretty excited about this week’s post as it has to do with one of my favorite social networking tools, Twitter. Feared by many educators almost as much as Facebook, Twitter is blocked by many school districts, including DS (I work on all my Twitter stuff from home). Many people think that Twitter is a huge waste of time - just another way to stay in tune with the antics of celebrities and sports figures. I admit that I do enjoy trying to “keep up” with the Kardashians; they are after all, very entertaining! However, entertainment aside, Twitter can be a very useful tool for students and educators to communicate easily and effectively.
Last year, my son’s math teacher posted her homework assignments on Twitter making it impossible for my son and his classmates to claim that they didn’t know what they were supposed to do. I was at his school the other day and I saw this sign posted in the guidance area informing the students where to follow them on Twitter – way to go NHS!
Another notable use of Twitter is that it enables like-interested educators (from anywhere around the world) to collaborate with one another fairly effortlessly. It's hard for many of us to imagine how anything posted in 140 characters or less can be useful. However, that is precisely what makes Twitter so appealing; unlike this post, there's little room for fluff!
Deciding to start using Twitter can be a bit frightening. After all, what are you possibly going to Tweet about? My suggestion is to not worry about what you're going to say. Instead, start off real simple and just follow a few frequent-tweeting educators (such as: Gregory Kulowiec, KathySchrock, Dan Callahan, Patrick Larkin and Tom Daccord). Once you get a sense of what other educators are tweeting about you’ll become more comfortable working with this social networking tool. In addition, follow other individuals, or organizations that you find interesting (such as: MTA, WSJ, NYTimes and Edutopia) and perhaps a favorite politician, a sports figure, or even a Kardashian or two.
There are plenty of Twitter articles out on the web for you to get information as to how, why, and what to tweet. I’m not going to rehash all of this here but I have provided you with web based resources at the end of this post that cover those issues . What I do want to cover however is security. Here are a few suggestions to protect yourself and your reputation if you do decide to use Twitter:
1) Create separate Twitter accounts
a. Professional Account: Use this account to collaborate with your colleagues and other like-interested educators
b. Personal Account: Use this account to communicate with your friends and family etc.
c. Student/School Account: Use this account to communicate with your students, their parents or guardians, and the school community.
2) Following Students on Their Twitter Accounts:
a. Don’t do it!
b. Don’t take the risk of reading a student’s tweet that might have serious implications (perhaps something that needs to be reported to school or law officials).
3) Allowing Students (and their parents/guardians) to follow you on Twitter
a. Don’t allow it unless it is an account that you have established to communicate only with your students, their parents or guardians! Be sure to save your security settings so that people cannot automatically follow you.
b. Making use of hashtags (#) to direct your tweets to your intended audience is a safe and effective way to use Twitter to communicate. Using hashtags in tweets allows communication without the need for teachers to follow students or for students to follow teachers. Students would be instructed by their teachers to search for a particular hashtag (that is related to their class) to get access to all of the class tweets. Hashtags are a great way to organize (and search for) tweets. For example, if I were to tweet a reminder to my students in my 10th grade English class (B Block) to study for a test, my tweet (and hashtag) might look like this:
Reminder test on Friday Romeo&Juliet – Study! #eng10B
Reminder test on Friday Romeo&Juliet – Study! #eng10B
More on Hashtags
There are numerous education related “chat rooms” accessible in Twitter by using hashtags. For example, there are Twitter chats for World Language: #langchat, Education: #edchat, Social Studies: #sschat, Science: #scichat. The list of educational “hashtags” is very extensive; the odds are that you can find one that you will find useful. By entering the name of a hashtag at the end of the Tweetchat web address (http://tweetchat.com/room/langchat), you can view Twitter posts/tweets from any particular chat (in this case, I was viewing the langchat chat room). I followed #olympics this past summer to stay informed about the Olympic games. You don't need a twitter account to view the tweets/posts in chat rooms, but you do need an account to contribute.
Resources on How and Why to Use Twitter in Education
Twelve Reasons to get Your School district Tweeting This Summer Getting Smart: 8 Social Media Strategies for Your Classroom
Shorten your URLs (web addresses)
Teachers Teaching Teachers, on Twitter: Q. and A. on ‘Edchats’
100 Ways to Teach with Twitter
Emerging EdTech: Twitter (Microblogging)
As you can see, Twitter is much more than just following celebrities and sports figures; it really does have its place in education.