The Education Review series is five high-quality, separate, subject-specific titles providing a valuable resource for educators, managers and education professionals.
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.
The rise of #kidsedchatnz
PASCAL DRESSE says student Twitter forum #kidsedchatnz is gaining momentum.
Have you ever had a kid say to you “This is awesome! When can we do it again?” This is the kind of excitement that children have shared with teachers after participating in a #kidsedchatnz on Twitter.
The idea began from an educational twitter chat (#edchatnz) late last year and has slowly been gaining momentum as the fortnightly chat has carried on this year. Just as we as adults use technology for various reasons: entertainment, connections and learning and so on, we need to teach our children how to use social media responsibly.
#kidsedchatnz has been running since Term 3 2012 and has seen children from all over New Zealand connect and share ideas on a variety of different topics. Regular chat participants include Morningside Primary (Whangarei), Henderson North School (Auckland), Te Kauwhata Primary, Broadlands School (half-way between Rotorua and Taupo), Maraekakaho (Hawke’s Bay), and Russell St School (Palmerston North). The excitement at connecting with others has been infectious.
“It’s fun talking to other people about what they do. It’s really cool,” says Elijah, a Year 5 student at Henderson North School.
#kidsedchatnz gives the kids an authentic audience to share their learning. Five-year-old Griffin from Broadlands School loved sharing his writing and his teacher said he works even harder now after being congratulated for his work and encouraged to keep working hard.
It has been a challenge finding the perfect time to all meet. School sports and other activities sometimes get in the way, but the words “we’ll have to stay inside this afternoon” is now said with enthusiasm on rainy days.
The benefits of getting involved in #kidsedchatnz are numerous. Children are reading tweets, asking/answering questions, communicating with others, and/writing, but best of all, it has provided an authentic context for teaching positive digital citizenship in the classroom. Teachers are able to scaffold how to be safe and responsible when using the internet, while learning.
Classroom teacher Stephen from Russell St School says, “The buzz and excitement the kids get from #kidsedchatnz is second to none! Kids’ minds are working overtime as thoughts, ideas, and connections are formed in an authentic context. It’s real learning!”
Someone once tweeted that every class in New Zealand should be involved in #kidsedchatnz. I guess that would be the ultimate goal, but for now we are just looking for any inspiring teachers, who want to get their kids excited about learning. The possibilities are endless, but we don’t know what our children can achieve until we give them a chance.
#kidsedchatnz is one way that kids can unlock their ability to be amazing and change themselves and others. As Stella from Morningside Primary said, “It was fun to teach other people about our Adventure Learning.”
#kidsedchatnz now happens weekly, every Wednesday from 2pm to 3pm (simply follow the #kidsedchatnz hashtag). Check out the blog page
(http://kidsedchatnz.blogspot.co.nz) for the latest topic, create a class Twitter account, and add your Twitter name to the Google doc. Or for more information and to hear how teachers are using it in class, feel free to ask some of the regulars: @PalmyTeacher, @ReidHns1, @simone015, @1MvdS, @Juliet_Revell or @PascalDresse.