When I first heard about Twitter being used in education I was extremely sceptical at how useful and effective it was. I first heard about it from a friend, who found it incredibly, and I quote, ‘awesome’ that one of her friends’ teachers was using Twitter as a tool in her classroom. At first, as I said, I thought it was useless and kind of strange. However as an on and off Twitter user myself, I began to see how interesting the whole idea was as soon as I found myself clicking on hashtags and learning about many different global events happening in the news.
So that got me thinking about the whole initiative. How can we use Twitter in the classroom? What kinds of things can be done, and what has been done already? The answers to both those questions are: there are several ways to use Twitter and a pile of activities and suggestions are already available online.
Researching this topic is extremely easy. Why? Because it’s already so popular. As a teacher in training, it’s quite obvious that technology will be very present in my career. If other teachers are already coming up with all these ideas now, there’s no saying what will come up in a couple of years. However, that’s what makes it so exciting and so interesting. I managed to find a very interesting slideshow by David Hopkins, which gives an idea of how Twitter can be used in academics. He briefly discusses all the ways students could get involved on Twitter and how it can be deemed useful. It’s basically a “How To” guide.
Some of the ways Twitter can be used in education are actually quite practical. For example, in one of my sources entitled “100 Ways to Use Twitter in Education”, it is suggested that this social network be used as a learning tool. Similar to what I have done myself, they call it “learning through hashtags”. Twitter is used by all kinds of different people such as celebrities, universities, colleges, news channels, political figures, authors and the list could go on and on. Popular events or big news is always ‘hashtagged’ and even possibly ends up in the latest Trending Topics. The trends on Twitter are generally just the topics that are being ‘hashtagged’ the most on the site.
Another interesting way of using Twitter is for classroom announcements. Twitter can be accessed by anyone, even if they don’t have an account. Students could give parents the classroom URL and the parents could be kept in the loop with the announcements. One of my favourite ideas which I’d certainly consider using is creating a classroom hashtag. Students can come up with a clever hashtag which can be used at the end of tweets in order to link them all together and creating an online classroom community. It’s also a great way to stay in touch with people you may want to talk to later on. Perhaps a student will ask a question that another student had, and as long as they use the hashtag, it’ll be available to anyone who searches it.
Monica Ranken, a professor at the University of Texas in Dallas has actually used Twitter in one of her courses and called it, “The Twitter Experiment”. In order to see if it was worth all the hype, she created a Twitter for the class and had students tweet questions during the lecture which were answered by the TA or the professor herself creating a Q&A experience students could refer to. This is definitely a clever idea I’d consider using, and also a good study tool.
Of course, believe it or not, there are endless possibilities for activities. There is a website created which provides trivia-centered Twitter games. This is an interesting idea, which entices students to compete with each other while using their second language online. There is a presentation available on Google Docs which allows teachers to post activity ideas. Within this presentation, there are many ideas that really interest me as a future ESL teacher. Tweeting a story, GeoTweets, Twitter poll, all of these seem so much fun that it hardly seems like schoolwork. I like these ideas because while students are having fun, they’re actually practicing and developing literary, writing, thinking and grammatical skills.
Even though I initially thought this whole idea to be strange, I’ve come to see it as an extremely useful tool. There are so many ways Twitter can be used as an educational tool, and they all seem quite effective considering the reviews and comments regarding the implementation. This is definitely a tool I would consider using with my future students. There are too many possibilities and interesting activities not to try it.
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