10 Twitter tips for teachersICT & Procurement November 2013

Education Review suggests ten ways teachers can get more out of the Twitterverse.

1 Use TweetDeck

While you need to go to twitter.com to register, most agree it is easier to manage the world of Twitter from a third-party client, like TweetDeck, a Twitter application that allows you to order various feeds into columns, one for activity (others’ tweets), one for interactions (when others mention, retweet, or follow you), and so on. TweetDeck allows you to organise Twitter feeds more to your liking.

Some find the interface of Twitter’s website too finicky, with too many tabs and places to click on. It also doesn’t auto-update and has to be auto-refreshed to display new tweets.

2 The more you give, the more you get

The more you put into Twitter, the more you get out of it. As a Twitter newbie, a general rule of thumb is the more you tweet, the more followers you will rack up. Once a seasoned tweeter, it can open up connections with other people, new ideas, and relevant events.

3 The power of the hashtag

Rumour has it that one Irish bookmaker took a 500-1 bet that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would name their baby Hashtag. While Hashtag (thankfully) didn’t make it onto the royal family tree, there is no disputing that the hashtag symbol carries great clout in social media circles.

The hashtag symbol allows Twitter users to track what’s going on in the areas of their interests and to allow others who may or may not follow them to track what they’ve tweeted. It allows Twitter feeds to be searched on and tracked. Well-chosen hashtags can expand the impact a person’s tweet has far beyond the number of followers a given account has. Even people without a Twitter account can search the service for given hashtags to stay up on a given topic. With a Twitter account, however, the user can also post to Twitter with follow-up questions – and the use of the hashtag in that instance expands the number of people potentially who could respond with answers.

Before creating a hashtag, it is a good idea to type it into Twitter to find out if it’s in use for some purpose other than the one you intended. Then, to create a hashtag, all you need to do is type it into your tweet.

4 Join the #edchatNZ club

Every Thursday night at 9pm, teachers and anyone interested can jump onto Twitter and join the discussions at #edchatNZ. It’s a great way for teachers to connect with each other and share ideas. Taking part in #edchatNZ is simple – all you need to do is go to www.twitter.com, create a free account, and type #edchatNZ in the search bar.

Now there is a spin-off version for students: #kidsedchatnz, held every Wednesday from 2–3pm.

5 Focus on following not followers

It’s easy to become preoccupied with the number of followers you have, but what is really more important is the number of people you follow yourself – and the quality of their tweets.

6 Make use of lists

Twitter’s list feature allows you to group people based on any criteria you want for the purposes of reading their tweets. You can also subscribe to lists created by others by clicking on ‘lists’ when checking out somebody’s profile. Choose the list you’d like to join and click Subscribe. The list feature can be used in Twitter or TweetDeck. However, the list filter can’t be used to send a tweet to that specific group of people.

7 Saving tweets for a rainy day

Although Twitter offers a Favorites feature (tweets with a star next to them), the problem is they’re public. There are other, more private, mechanisms for saving tweets. Diigo.com is one way users can save their favourite tweets. Getpocket.com is another; it allows users to put tweets, videos, articles and other digital objects into a “pocket” for later. An Evernote account can also be connected with a Twitter account and you just need to add @myEN to any public tweet to have is saved.

8 Don’t be a boring tweeter

Tweetedtimes.com is a real-time personalised newspaper that’s generated from your Twitter account. Contents are culled based on retweets, reflecting the overall popularity of a message.

paper.li also pulls in content from Twitter as well as other sources such as Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and RSS feeds. You can configure the service so it organises content around hashtags.

Zite.com and flipboard.com are good for mobile devices allowing you to create personalised digital magazines sharing content of interest from multiple sites and providing ideas that might be worth sharing on Twitter.

9 Teaching with Twitter

There are many ways teachers can use Twitter in the classroom and there are entire websites and publications devoted to the practice, but here are a few.

Teachers can use aspects of microblogging in their teaching. The art of ‘summing up’ is a good place to start. Students can read an article or chapter and then post their summary with a limit of 140 characters.

Other teachers have encouraged students to follow the tweets of a famous person(s) during a significant event, such as politicians in the build-up to an election, for example. A variation on that idea is to develop a ‘time tweet’, whereby students choose a famous historical figure and create a twitter account from them, writing regular tweets in the appropriate vocabulary.

Progressive collaborative writing (micro writing) on Twitter can also be achieved when students agree to take it in turns to contribute to an account or ‘story’ over a period of time.

10 The art of pithiness

Even though 140 characters dictates succinctness, the adage ‘less is more’ is certainly true for Twitter. Aim to keep tweets as concise as possible. Many people receive thousands of tweets every day so don’t feel compelled to use up all of the 140 characters. Using sites like bitly.com can help to shorten links to keep messages brief.

Adapted largely from ‘Twitter Tips for Educators’’ by Dian Schaffhauser and her discussions with instructional technologist Steven Anderson.

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