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Tweet Spot: Web 2.0 Educators Are Atwitter About Twitter

| Chris O'Neal

Twitter is a Web 2.0 utility that asks the question "What are you up to?" It's a microblogging platform that allows users to share small tidbits about their current activities, locations, plans, and more. I can send out a Twitter update using my cell phone or my blog or by logging into the Twitter Web site.

Think of it as a way to mass-blast your thoughts or schedule to anyone who's interested in following you. These Twitter blasts (also called tweets) are short -- no more than 140 characters per post -- so this is certainly not a way to discuss intense details or give exhaustive updates.

I use my Twitter account only from time to time, just to stay in the loop with fellow Web 2.0 educators. I follow a handful of people, which means I'm alerted to their latest tweets. A few people follow me as well. It's a nice way to keep up informally with colleagues, family, or friends. I tweet about what I'm working on, or where I'm headed as far as work goes. I can decide whether my tweets are public to the world or only to a select group of people.

In the classroom, I might set up a Twitter account for just my students and their parents. We can all update our little community about what we're up to in class. I also think it would be interesting to track brainstorms -- students immediately post a thought on Twitter as it enters their head, regardless of whether that idea fits into the current classroom lesson, making the site, if you will, a "parking lot" for thoughts. Or students can share requested information with their peers using the Twitter account.

A teacher might also share short updates at the end of each school week as a simple way to keep parents informed. As a creative project, a teacher could post a short-story starter, then let students continue to write the story as a group, each taking turns creating the next sentence or two. At the very least, it's a fantastic way to watch participants join in on a conversation and view that conversation as it unfolds.

I'm sharing my enthusiasm for Twitter with you just to hear your thoughts, let you know about its capabilities, and offer up another Web 2.0 tool for you to play around with. At the very least, it's something to explore for now. Try it out in test mode with your students or fellow teachers, or experiment with it yourself should you have the interest.

I'm not sure I've seen Twitter yet in all its glory in the classroom, but I'm hearing about it more and more, and it's certainly gaining popularity in numbers -- as of now, up to about a million people use it. Join the group, and find me on the site at onealchris.

Respond to this blog and let us know what you're up to! Give your feedback on whether you think this is a worthy classroom tool and, more important, where you think it might fit into the classroom environment.

Here is a quick video overview about Twitter on TeacherTube.com.

Last updated: 10/25/2011
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Comments (32)

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Megan Holmstrom (not verified)


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I agree, there are always tricky, uncontrolled "open doors" when using any type of instant communication and / or internet resource. I strongly believe in general programs that include some type of media awareness, media literacy for students. I don't think we can avoid how much is out there and how quickly it is available to them; therefore, we need to educate them to be intelligent connoisseurs of media.

On that note, I have always prefaced my Fantasy sports leagues (Fantasy Hockey starting in two weeks!) by sharing with the students that I do not control pages such as espn.com or sportingnews.com, which means I also have no control over pop-ups and advertisements. So we talk about what might appear and how to deal with it, while creating general working agreements as to how to make playing Fantasy Hockey successful and meaningful (for math/stats). There is a place for open discussion, but there is also a place for creating expectations and supporting general media literacy.

Chris ONeal (not verified)

Twitter inappropriate issues

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Hi Eric,
If I were you, I'd use a Twitter client like Tweetdeck - you can set up filters, only follow specific topics, filter out others, etc. In my opinion, it's way better than using just the Twitter website!

~Chris O'Neal

Raven (not verified)

me too

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I too am worried about this...

Amanda (not verified)


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What about privacy and student confidentiality? I love the ideas of using Twitter for classroom updates for parents/students, etc...but not for tracking student information. That sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

John (not verified)

It's Overrated

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I for one think the Twitter hype has gotten rather out of hand. It's fun and all, and somewhat useful, but are 140 character updates really breaking new ground here? Is this really a vast improvement over an email list of a class message board? I think Twitter can be useful for education, sure, but it's not the miracle a lot of people are claiming.

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eric (not verified)

Howdy, I love the idea of

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Howdy, I love the idea of using twitter in the classroom but am worried about the new feature called Trending Topics. Links show up on your twitter page and they are about anything and everything, include VERY inappropriate conversations for 6th graders. (eg. racist comments about Oprah, sex, etc). I'm stuck on this. Any thoughts?

Miriam Schleef (not verified)

Unlike other social

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Unlike other social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook, Twitter cuts out the extras like groups and fandoms and quizzes and photo uploads, and an austere 140 character maximum means that posts must be starkly concise. This might seem like a list of hindrances; in actuality the small post length, loose networking set-up, and easy trending topic search all serve to make Twitter the best new tool for focused online group conversations since the advent of the message board. As such, a growing number of professors across the country right now are embracing Twitter as an important teaching tool, to help connect students and communicate concepts. It's great to see the educational embrace this revolutionary technology!

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Brenda (not verified)


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Hello Chris,
Enjoyed the STEM conference! Thanks for presenting. No matter how long I think I stayed "plugged" and powered up", you always show me something new!
But Ive got one for yah. NASA and its probes have gotten to Twittering. Check out these twitters.. LRO_NASA, Mars Phoenix and NanoSailD. Each of these Twitters are maintained by the mission scientists, specialists or team member of the particular space missions. This is one aspect of NASA's public outreach initiative! If you follow close enough you can see the probes responding and encouraging each other!!

Anonymous (not verified)


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I think Twitter is an excellent idea. I’m currently attending school to get my bachelors in education, but once I'm in the classroom I will definitely have twitter for the students and their parents. I think by having Twitter is a way for teachers to communicate with the parents. Now a day we see more and more how parents are not concern with their child’s education. Parents that work more than 40 hours a week seem to not have time when they get home to ask. So by having a Twitter account they can be more inform in their child education.

Also, Twitter can also be useful so that fellow educators can share ideas, lessons, and activities with each other.

Personally I think this new technology will be helpful for students, parents, and teachers.

Chris O'Neal (not verified)

Web 2.0 Educators Are Atwitter About Twitter

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Hello Karen,
I think your question about whether it's blocked or not would best be answered by your principal or technology coordinator. It can be classified as a "social networking" tool, many of which are blocked across the board by some Internet filtering mechanisms. I would hope that if you find a legitimate classroom connection, that your principal/tech coordinator could help figure out the safety issues, whether it should be unblocked, etc. as a team with your input.

I think the benefit to this kind of tool, and what it brings to the classroom, is that it offers this non-stop educational dialog that's just practically impossible without this kind of technology. I think we'll all get wiser and better at finding a balance between the safety concerns and the educational value of these tools - hopefully sooner than later!

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