Tools for educators and students: twitter

Quite often, I take the second step before the first one. In my last post, I referred to twitter quite often. It seems to be time to discuss it now. In this post, I'll discuss twitter, how it is and why it should be used.  And, as usual, I'll discuss possible scenarios for educators and students.

It's microblogging

Twitter is a microblogging application, its philosophy and how it works is beautifully explained in this video.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o&w=420&h=315]

Most of my students use Facebook for this. Twitter, however, has some interesting features that make it still interesting:

  • Sharing information is not based on a mutual relationship. Most of us only have a personal account on Facebook. So, I have to friend someone, if I want to exchange information with her/him. Though such a limitation can be set up in twitter, the default case is that you follow everyone, you find interesting.
  • Many people use twitter to make aware of links, they came across. So, it is a kind of "link catapult".
  • Twitter helps you separate your "private" from your "public" personality. For the first one, you have Facebook. The second one, though, can express itself on twitter.

How does it work?

There are only few things, one has to know.

  • You have only 140 characters. For most messages, this is enough.
  • Links are shortened. This blog entry's URL is "http://www.martin-doepel.de/blog/2011/09/30/twitter/" and has 52 characters. Therefore, links are shortened by services such as tinyURL or bit.ly. You as a user don't have to think about this twitter clients and twitter's website shorten links automatically.
  • If you want to address someone, you have to mention her/him. This is done by putting a "@" in front of their username. So, if you want to mention me, you would have to write @mgdoepel.
  • If you are writing about a certain topic and want to make it searchable, you can add a hashtag (#) in front of it. So, if you are complaining about your blog software, you can tag the topic with something like #wordpress.
  • Re-tweets. Re-tweeting means that you also publish the tweet. A simple re-tweet is very seldom. However, people usually re-tweet with a short comment.

Why should you twitter?

As mentioned before, twitter helps you to separate public from private. Through twitter, you can interact with people, you don't know, but you share the same interests. Very often, you can learn about news faster on twitter than on any other media, e.g. I learned about Amy Whinehouse's death when I realized that there are plenty of R.I.P. tweets about her.

Twitter helps you to formulate shortly. You can even break up with someone using twitter, as explained by Jason Preston.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTY9PjrFOhA&w=560&h=315]

Scenarios for students

  • Share links to videos, websites etc. you find interesting.
  • Follow your project partners and share links using twitter.
  • Give feedback. If your lecturer, teacher has twitter, you can leave her/him a short notice.
  • Practice a foreign language. The limitation of 140 characters can give you peace of mind, as
  • ...

Scenarios for educators

  • Twitter can be used as a "quick and dirty" announcement tool. Make sure that you have agreed on a hashtag with your students.
  • Share links that might be interesting for your students over twitter.
  • Set up a class account, so it's easier for your students to follow your updates and students can also share information by mentioning the account (e.g., "Hey @class5a guys, this could be interesting for us biy.ly/123856"
  • Twitter can be used for instant feedback (students can tweet their questions), this is great for lectures with many students. Tweets can also be included in the Powerpoint and Prezi presentation.
  • Make a twitter poll.
  • If you are  foreign language teacher, you can encourage students to write updates and see their progression.
  • Link your blog with your twitter account to announce/advertise your posts.
  • ...

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