Twitter Teacher: Twitter in the Classroom
Twitter has many supporters among education professionals, but also some critics. These detractors wonder what application the microblogging tool could possibly have in the classroom. If this sounds familiar, read more here on some of Twitter's education uses.
A Primer for the Uninitiated
In the past few years, Twitter has emerged as a cultural phenomenon. The microblogging site is now so ubiquitous in our lives that who we follow on Twitter has become dinner party conversation.
But while most people know how Twitter basically functions, some remain in the dark about the website. In a nutshell, Twitter allows users to stay connected with others by posting brief 'tweets' of 140 characters or less to those in a network of followers. It's a quick, convenient way to keep everyone up-to-date on what you're up to.
A Classroom Quandary?
While the practical applications of Twitter are plentiful, some educators are less than enthusiastic about the service. This may have a lot to do with the fact that students have thoroughly embraced microblogging, and teachers see the activity as yet another technological distraction from schoolwork.
But used properly, Twitter can be a powerful classroom tool that allows teachers to create a more interactive environment where students feel compelled to add to the discussion. In fact, harnessing young peoples' interest in technology for academic purposes is a very effective method for educators to increase student engagement.
So . . . Why Twitter?
Innovative educators are using Twitter to enhance the education experience in many ways. Here are just 10 ideas:
1. Gather information. With more than 175 million users, Twitter is a great source of information about various education topics. Students completing papers and projects can follow experts for information about countless areas of study.
2. Conduct virtual discussions. Having a lot of group interaction in the physical classroom is important, but extending the discussion to Twitter can be an effective way to keep academic content 'top of mind.' Students reinforce learning while sharing their views and engaging peers.
3. Involve parents. A classroom Twitter account can be an effective way for teachers to keep parents informed about what's going on at school. Not only that, educators can suggest ways for adults at home to extend learning at the dinner table or other family gatherings.
4. Engage reluctant learners. Studies have shown that technology can be an important tool for engaging reluctant learners. A bonus of Twitter: Struggling readers and writers can find success communicating in short text posts, thus building literacy.
5. Evaluate student learning. When young people post comments about topics from their classes, teachers have the opportunity to gauge students' understanding. This information can be used to inform future instruction.
6. Connect with the world. Budget constraints often don't allow teachers to take students to foreign countries. Twitter, though, represents a forum in which students can virtually connect with peers from all around the globe.
7. Gather feedback. Students love having a say in what they're doing in school. Educators can use Twitter to solicit the opinions of young people on topics of study, projects and classroom activities. Providing student choice can be an effective way to engage learners in lessons.
8. Class publication. Twitter allows classrooms and other groups to create newspaper-style publications. Educators can give students the opportunity to share announcements, laud peers and present personal accomplishments to the greater learning community.
9. Make a difference. Many educators engage learners in service projects and other community-based efforts toward improving our world. Twitter is a great forum for getting the word out on important school and neighborhood issues to parents and policy makers.
10. Build rapport. Twitter is cool. And educators who use it are likely to gain credibility from students who appreciate the classroom inclusion of an activity that's enjoyable to them. Rather than rail against technology's detrimental effects, it's a lot more effective to embrace new communication methods for the good they can serve.