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.