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…that may well be the question you are pondering. Twitter is one of those Web 2.0 applications that people either love or love to hate.  “Why would I?”  is probably the first reaction from time poor teachers. Fair enough.  As with any online application, it pays to keep an open mind but in reality, you should only go there if it enhances the teaching and learning process.

In case you’ve been asleep for the past five years, Twitter is a microblogging service. Think of it as the equivalent of a Facebook status update. In 140 characters or less, you can share news and information with a network of followers and vice versa. 

Here’s some tips on getting started:

  • Sign up and create a profile at twitter.com
  • Include a photo or Avatar and a quick description of yourself
  • Unless you specify otherwise, what you write will be seen by the whole twitterverse
  • If you want to follow a person, click on their name and then click “Follow”.
  • If you don’t want to receive their updates click “unfollow”.
  • If they are being a pain, you can block them.
  • Links to websites in your tweet are automatically shortened but are active so your followers can click on them and visit sites of mutual interest
  • RT is a retweet – handy for passing on useful information to your network while acknowledging the source
  • Use # hash to tag tweets and make searching easier
  • Te reply to a fellow tweeter or mention them in your tweet, use the @ sign For example:

@budgie10 thanks for that link to the Kings High blog (reply)

Just saw @budgie10’s newest post on the Kings High blog – hilarious (mention)

For English teachers, the brevity of twitter can make it a useful classroom tool.  Using 140 characters or less is a great way to teach young people to write simply, using the best words available.  Twitter also presents a range of specific classroom activities. Here’s a few I’ve gleaned from reading how “real” teachers are using twitter:

  • A tweetstory – Choose a theme/genre, post a standard story opener and tweet to your network, ask network to continue the story and follow them via www.twitterfall.com or a #tag. Then students can follow, choose the best ones and edit them into a coherent story – great for editing skills.
  • Short but tweet – give students the 140 character rule, assign them with either the intro, character description or whole story.  In groups, get students to play “pass it on” – but they must do this in twitter speak (140 characters). They then add to it in their groups. Results can posted to twitter or via blogs.
  • Word morph – Use twitter to send out a word and have your network give students the synonym and other meanings.  Or have the classroom connect during a writing workshop.  Then have the students help each other create a wordle cloud of a word and its synonyms, antonyms and examples to foster more descriptive writing.
  • POV and character development – After reading a novel or short story, assign students a character and create a twitter account e.g. @atticusfinch. Students use their study of that character to create conversations around key events in the plot.  Or focus on events or situations that are omitted from the plot but referred to so students are creating their own fiction based on their knowledge of the writer, the time period and the characters.
  • Word Play – online games eg: anagrams – post 8 letters and see how many new words can be formed, “What does it mean?”, use twtpoll to post definitions – “Who can guess the correct definition?” post a word and guess – synonyms, antonyms, homonyms?
  • Bite Sized info – Set up a twitter account dedicated to just one topic for pure information eg: Shakespeare quotes, poetic devices, newspaper jargon etc
  • Multi-media class newspapers – Students shared links and tweets become professinal looking articles. Create a class or project newspaper at Paper.li by creating a specific twitter account for the class/project. It will auto-publish a multimedia newspaper to all the tweeps followed by the main twitter accounts and send it out to those who subscribed.  

More ideas like this can be found here with thanks to @tombarrett on Twitter.

Personally I can’t wait to have a go at paper.li  but there are clearly lots of really practical and engaging ideas of use to English teachers.

For all teachers, twitter offers a forum for professional development and reflection. Here’s why Twitter is also useful in this regard:

  • It’s instant – if you’re under pressure to find a resource or come up with a lesson activity, tweet to your network and get help quickly!
  • Access to global experts – you can follow people you may not get a chance to shoulder tap in the real world and ask them questions
  • Access to colleagues – twitter can be used for peer review – ask and you may well receive
  • It’s quick and easy to use  – which lays to rest the “time poor” argument!
  • It’s inspiring – you can follow really smart people on twitter as Phil Beadle says: “Following smart people on Twitter is like a mental shot of espresso”

Don’t forget to visit my resource page for links to more articles and resources on Twitter in the C21 Classroom.

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