Sunday, October 4, 2009

Using Twitter in School

Let me start by saying that I do not advocate students using Twitter to send messages during class. My goodness ... what a disaster that would be. There would be all kinds of tweets, including, I'm sure, answers to test questions, harassing or bullying remarks about classmates, and insults about the teacher. I'm afraid there would be very little learning taking place. So that is not what today's message is about.

Instead, I've been thinking about how Twitter could be used in education. First, there would have to be some training for those involved. Whether teachers or students or parents, everyone would have to set up an account, learn how to tweet, learn about RT and @ and hashtags, and learn the proper etiquette. After that, anything is possible. Use it for posting assignments, giving helpful hints, communicating with the teacher next door, or just getting the latest news from around the world.

One of the first ideas I thought of was having a sort of "homework hotline," similar to what we used to do over the telephone twenty-five years ago. Today, if a group of teachers would be willing to use Twitter for a couple of hours each night (taking turns during the week), students could post messages using an agreed upon hashtag or twibe. Teachers could search those hashtags and reply to the messages @username. That hashtag could also help others on Twitter find their responses. Because the tweets have to be short, a teacher could only guide the student; the student would then have to solve the problem or answer the question for themselves. And that's the way it should be. Too often, I believe, teachers and parents, do too much for students. Twitter would put a definite limit on that.

I also researched online what other teachers were doing and found an amazing number of activities and tons of information. Some teachers are using Twitter to have students write stories ("twittories") where each student uses their 140 characters to contribute a part of the whole story. One has the students read a story, assume the role of one of the characters, and write tweets as that character. One teacher tweets a problem of the day. Another has students research current events or historical figures. Still another has used it for foreign language practice. This is an excellent idea because there are people using Twitter from all over the world and many of them tweet in their own languages.

I believe there are as many uses for Twitter in school as there are teachers and students. A few links to websites with more information are listed below. Most of these contain additional links to additional information. Have fun tweeting!

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