Monday, March 30, 2009

The Ultimate Twitter Teacher Resource

The Ultimate Twitter Teacher Resource
If you want to follow me on Twitter you can find me @mrdooley.

This blog post will incorporate an extensive list of resources, ideas, hints, tips, and tricks on how to positively affect your classroom with the use of Twitter. In addition, I will also mention how to go about extending your personal educational network by capitalizing on Twitter's mainstream (and sometimes cult-like) following.

Twitter in the Classroom
I'd like to introduce to you the work of Tom Barrett (Twitter ID @tombarrett) titled "21 Interesting Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom." The presentation, via Google Docs, is below. Some thoughts on Twitter to begin:
  • LIVE feedback - Twitter is a unique service in which you receive LIVE (meaning real-time) feedback on real-life issues from the most unique minds globally.
  • Better than search engines - the ability to instantly receive that feedback is the inherent benefit of using Twitter over a typical search engine (as search engines are typically finding thousands of out-dated or cached sites).
  • Connecting with students on their level - let's be honest, students are digital natives where we as teachers can sometimes be digital immigrants. Connecting with the students in "their world" might initially seem invasive to them, but they will soon see you as the Tech Teacher that goes out of your way to learn something new and useful in order to help them learn in their own element.
  • Connecting with parents on your level - couldn't you tweet your daily homework so parents are automatically updated? Better yet, take it even a step further and utilize free Video Chat services such as Skype or ooVoo. Allow parents to contact you outside the traditional realms of phone and email!
  • Better communication - this one may initially seem difficult to wrap your brain around. Understand that 140 characters is not a lot! How important is it to say what you mean in a clear and concise manner? Extremely important! This should help students improve their communication skills necessary to effectively tweet (and should transfer to their interactions with peers through verbal communication as well). Be VERY careful when students begin to use TXT talk!
  • Responsive student feedback - could you use Twitter to receive immediate student feedback? Why yes you could. Once again, you'll receive LIVE feedback from students to ensure they are all on-task and you'll be able to individualize instruction to those struggling. Students may even be more open to giving you their true feelings as they may feel "shielded" by their Twitter IDs.
  • Twincorporate - as Twitter's popularity grows almost exponentially, so to does the number of services that incorporate Twitter tweets. Check out the TechCrunch's blog for a list of the top 21 Twitter Apps.
Don't forget to browse through the Google Doc presentation, there are a LOT of excellent ideas and information that I did not discuss.



Additional Ideas for Twitter in the Classroom
From academhack's blog, I picked a few additional ways in which teachers can utilize twitter in their classrooms.
  • Classroom Community: I believe this to be a very useful way to "hook" non-believers into Twitter. Create the community by having all students follow each other and yourself. Tweet a few minor writing assignments and the community will be off and running. Students will undoubtedly be engaged in rich discussion (some more than others though), which should stimulate ongoing interaction beyond school walls. An interesting tidbit that academhack mentions is Clive Thompson sixth sense of Twitter.
  • Track a word or phrase: students can track specific words and phrases through Twitter which could help them keep tabs on current events. This could be really helpful in classes where Current Events is relied on heavily.
  • Student can follow professionals: following people of interest (and there are LOTS of them) can help stimulate the "believability" of Twitter's usefulness to students. Have students find political figures, rocket scientists, colleges, or famous people!
  • Write a Tweestory: have students create a Tweestory (just made that one up). One student starts the story with a sentence, then the next student adds on to it, and so on.
So, you want an example?
Check out the Horizon Project 2007. Students from five classrooms across the world created a "collaborative global project between classrooms in diverse geographical locations." Performing a search for Twitter, you can see where students have embedded their Twitter badges (meebo and MySpace among others) into the wiki so students could follow each other. Check the wiki for more information about their collaborative Flat Classroom Project.

What about Higher Education?
Check out the University of Texas at Dallas' ATEC 4346 course site. The professor made students tweet their weekend away to become familiar with the social networking site. In addition, Howard Rheingold utilizes Twitter in social journalism courses.

Additional Resources for Twitter in the Classroom
EduCause - 7 Things you should know about Twitter
David Warlick - Twitter in the Classroom
Damien Bariexca - Promoting Twitteracy in the Classroom

Twitter for the Educator's Network
So you're wanting to use Twitter to create an excellent online pool of innovative teachers like yourself? Follow these steps and recommendations and you're sure to have hundreds of followers - just make sure you tap their minds!

Step 1: the easiest way to gain followers is to follow others! Set up a search for keywords that are similar to what you're after. I set up (using TweetDeck) searches for #teacher, #educator, #edutech, #technology, and #tweacher. This automatically brings any post with these words into my TweetDeck so I can instantly view who is using the words and in what context. Upon viewing their profiles, if I think they have something important to say and it could add to my own intelligence then I follow. This usually results in them following back, however, that's not guaranteed.

Step 2: another way to find fellow teachers is to use the list of sources below. They are directories for fellow twittering teachers.

Step 3: once you've connected with a few fellow twitters, make sure you begin watching the conversations that they are having. You will see their followers which could potentially become yours! Don't be afraid to 'butt-in' to conversations - that's the power of Twitter and the public messages. Just be sure to be polite.

Step 4: if you are an avid blogger, or update your website regularly, be sure to share this with your followers. If you have a unique blog entry, simply sharing it with your followers could result in it spreading like wildfire through the Twitter community.

Step 5: collaborate with your followers and anybody else who wants to. Begin by tweeting your intentions, and gather whether or not the collaboration will be feasible and if there is enough interest. Start a wiki, a Google Doc, or other online collaboration source.

Step 6: learn useful tweeting techniques by checking out this article.

That's about all I have for now. I'm sure there will be other people with additional suggestions, so feel free to add comments!