Using Twitter to promote engagement in the classroom

What: If you have not experienced Twitter before it may seem like a trivial technology that should be kept out of the classroom. However, this social media is ideal for many-to-many or many-to-one interactivity. Several ideas are presented here that show how it is being used to engage students individually and collectively.

Why: Twitter is as simple as technology gets and this ensures that when we use it in the classroom its purpose is clear and straightforward. It is relatively unobtrusive too because it is most commonly accessed on personal devices, though messages can be easily aggregated either in real time or asynchronously using free technologies.

How

Here are some ways in which Twitter has been used to support learning:

1. Follow the hashtag – The first approach replicates the use of Socrative or other ‘clickers’ or student response systems. Students can feedback to lecturer prompts using a common twitter ‘hashtag’, Use of the hashtag helps to aggregate all messages into a conversation stream which can be displayed to individuals or the class as a whole.

2. TweetChats – students are asked to respond to one or more questions asked by the lecturer. Because Twitter is open text (albeit limited to 140 characters) students can generate a multitude of responses and compare their answers. The lecturer poses “Q1. What do you think..#[ourlecture]?” Students with a personal device (i.e. laptop, tablet, smartphone) can respond “A1 #[ourlecture] I think…”, etc. Different responses can be compared, replied to or retweeted by anyone, or favorited for follow up.

3. TweetTeams – small student groups can be set a series of challenges and required to post responses. Responses can be text-based, numerical, website links, photographs of what they are doing, audio or video recordings. Each challenge can be assigned points and teams can compete for kudos or prizes. This can be used sparingly to warm up a lecture each week, throughout a lecture, or prior to the lecture. Optionally, the activity can be used to generate data’ that is then used in class.

4. Storify –  Construct your own narrative around tweets using Storify. “A Storify story is more than just a collection of elements from social media. It’s also your opportunity to make sense of what you’ve pulled together. You can write a headline, introduction and insert text anywhere inside your story. You can add headers, hyperlinks, and styled text. Build a narrative and give context to your readers.” In terms of how to go about it:

  • Decide how long you want to spend on creating the story
  • Review the pool of tweets (they probably used a common hashtag) that were posted on the day to remind yourself of what happened and what people were interested in
  • Outline a narrative and think about incorporating a selection of tweets, using them almost as illustrations to the narrative
  • Then build the Storify and share it.

Resources

Case studies:

  • Look at Bring Your Own Devices for Learning (#BYOD4L) – an open online course. Tweetchats were used each day and involved people from across the world in intensive discussion around a set of questions each evening.

Further resources:

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