Today’s materials address the question of how you could use Twitter with your students. In addition to some practical suggestions and guidelines on the topic (under ‘essential information’), we’ve pointed to some further reading and relevant resources (under ‘additional information’). For today’s task tweet a question, comment or suggestion on using Twitter with students and reply to other tweets on the topic.
Using Twitter with Students
Twitter can be used with students as a platform for communication, conversation and other collaborative learning interactions. More specifically, you might consider integrating Twitter into a programme or module to:
- Supplement module materials, therefore reinforcing connection between module materials and the real world and adding context to content.
- Build an online network (community of learners) among students and others. Twitter, if used effectively, has the potential to improve the social dynamics of a class i.e. it can provide a medium for more introverted students to express themselves.
- Enable the conversation and learning to continue both inside and outside the classroom/VLE, particularly it enables discussions with or input from others i.e. experts and academics in the field that may not otherwise be accessible to students.
Common Uses of Twitter with Students
- Providing Programme or Module communications i.e. updates and announcements (e.g. schedule changes, assessment due dates) and support (e.g. follow-up explanation, clarification or advice on learning activities and assignments).
- Pre/post lecture questions for discussion i.e. the lecturer can post questions before the lecture to get students thinking about a topic or afterwards to reinforce key points or continue discussions.
- Question & answer sessions – instead of interrupting a lecture, students can tweet questions that the entire class see and receive answers to. This offers students an asynchronous medium of class discussion.
- Enables interaction beyond the classroom/lecture theatre – by encouraging students to follow experts, professional working in related fields, news and media sources and even academics from the same discipline at other institutions can take learning activities to a global level.
- Decide if your programme/module requires a Twitter account or simply a hashtag. If you set-up an account students will need to follow that account and as the lecturer you will need to tweet from that account (and maintain it). Also consider if you want the account to be public (i.e. all tweets visible) or make it private by selecting to ‘protect my tweets’ (i.e. all tweets only visible to followers).
- A module hashtag means students do not have to follow the account, instead they can tweet using the module hashtag and all tweets can be easily searched in order to read class discussions. All tweets using hashtags will be public unless the Twitter account that they are being tweeted from is private.
- Regardless of whether you create an account or hashtag for a module, you’ll need to consider the name. Choose a username (in case of an account) or hashtag that reflects your subject and/or programme or module code.
- You can embed a Twitter feed (if using an account) or embed a search (if using a hashtag) which will provide an RSS feed displaying all module tweets directly in the programme/module virtual learning environment (i.e. Blackboard in UCD). Embedding a Twitter Feed will be covered on Day 9.
Benefits to Students
- If used systematically and regularly, students can learn how to communicate with one another and others using Twitter as a social media tool.
- Personal branding for students – employers are increasingly interested in social media profiles of their applicants and a professional Twitter stream can create a good impression.
- Creates an online community among students – a community of learners is generally more open to communicating and learning from one another.
- It can provide a ‘backchannel’ – this refers to conversation occurring secondary to the main lecture/presentation of content. Questions can be asked without raising hands or asynchronously at a time convenient to the learner.
Twitter in the Classroom: Early African History “How did it go? What did I learn.”
Hew, K.F. & Cheung, W.S. (2013): Use of Web 2.0 technologies in K-12 and higher education: The search for evidence-based practice. Educational Research Review, 9:47-64.
Tess, A.A. (2013): The role of social media in higher education classes (real and virtual) – A literature review. Computers in Human Behaviour, 29 (5): A60-A68.