An email yesterday from a colleague reminded me that I need to investigate Twitter some more. Twitter is a sort of micro-blogging service, where you can post very short notes. These notes are your choice, of course, and can range from anything you are currently doing, to random thoughts you just want to jot down. You can invite friends to “twitter” with you and view these notes on your computer, cell phone, or other Internet-enabled device. You can embed Twitter code on your blog, wiki, or webpage to show a Twitter gadget, complete with your twitters.
What do people say about Twitter, you might ask? In an issue of Wired magazine, Clive Thompson wrote that “Twitter is the app that everyone loves to hate.” Productivity icon Tim Ferris called Twitter “pointless email on steroids.” So why do I feel compelled to try it out for a while and just see what it can do, how it affects me, and how it might be used in education? Because it’s out there, it’s evolving, and it’s emerging technology–something that always gets me moving.
So, here’s your assignment if you so inclined:
- Get a Twitter account http://twitter.com
- Post at least 10 times and see how it works.
- Invite some friends to twitter with you and follow their twitters. (Yeah, I know this sounds like a very silly waste of time, but there is some reason to my temporary insanity.) You can also choose to follow people.
- Think of ways you might use Twitter in your class after using it for a few days.
- Let me know what you think and comment to this post with ways you might use Twitter in the classroom.
Some more info to make your Twitter experience even more convenient:
Instead of having to go to the Twitter webpage, you can download any number of Twitter gadgets that interface with Twitter. (I like Firefox add-ons, so I downloaded Twitbin.) Twitbin opens as a side-panel on your browser, where you can easily Twitter. However, I also liked the look of Twitterrific, which is a widget on your computer and looks very Apple-ish. You should set the preferences to only your friends, unless you want to view twitters from everyone.
And if you feel uncomfortable having the entire world view your twitters, you can make your tweets (posts) private or block people. You just need to enable this feature in Twitter.
So, how would I use Twitter in the classroom? Since many students text chat on their cell phones, you could encourage them to Twitter comments, questions, and feedback during a lecture. As an instructor, you could then read these questions and comments and tweet back to them.
Students could also use Twitter as a way to stay connected to classmates and the instructor. It could serve as a quick and easy way to ask quick questions and maybe get the answers from other students. Twitter can do what discussion forums can’t always do–encourage students write spontaneously and more often. Sometimes, discussion boards are more daunting, since they require more of a commitment. A tweet just might be the fuel for a discussion forum post.
The Twitter for Academia link I provide below lists other ideas on how to use Twitter. I liked the idea for using it to “track” a word. When you do this, you will receive any post that has that word in it. How about “solipsism?” That’s a great starter word for students to track.
Additional reading materials:
- “Friends Swap Twitters, and Frustration” from the March 16, 2007 issue of The Wall Street Journal
- Clive Thompson, “How Twittering Creates a Social Sixth Sense“
- Twitter for Academia, academHack blog