-By Ashley Canning, Educational Technology Instructional Designer
According to Pew’s Social Media Update 2014 edition, Twitter has seen a significant increase in user activity over the past year. As the popularity of the social tool continues to grow, many instructors are looking for ways to use Twitter to enhance their teaching arsenal and their students’ learning experience. Here are a few ways to get you started with using Twitter in education.
Expand your Knowledge and Teaching Toolkit with Hashtags
Hashtags are like the subjects of tweets. There are a ton of hashtags relevant to education. A few of the more popular ones include #edchat, #edtech, and #elearning. You can simply search Twitter for these hashtags to see what people are saying about a topic. This can help you find new ideas and learn about latest trends. You can find an extensive list of educational hashtags here.
Network with Other Educators
There are a lot of experienced educators out there that regularly post great teaching ideas to Twitter. Following these educators will allow you to stay up to date with what they are using in their classroom and, like hashtags, can give you new teaching ideas. Just a few of the educators that we follow in Ed Tech include Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom), Derek Bruff (@derekbruff), and Jamie Forshey (@edutech20).
Don’t forget to also follow colleagues at your own institution! It’s a great way to network and see what peers are using to enhance their students’ learning.
Learn from the Experts
Not only are there many experienced educators to follow, there are also experts in the areas in which you teach. You can do a quick Google search for “best [your field] Twitter” and find lists upon lists of suggested experts to follow. For example, when I did a search for “best biology Twitter” I came across an article from Teach Thought that listed 100 scientists by category to follow on Twitter. It also helps to look at who your colleagues are following. Remember to encourage your students to follow these experts too. This will help them continue the learning process outside of the classroom.
Many blogs and news outlets dedicated to education are also active on Twitter. Following them will keep you up to date with their latest stories. Just a few of the outlets you can follow include Edutopia (@edutopia), US News Education (@USNewsEducation), and Inside Higher Ed (@insidehighered).
Share Your Knowledge
After you’ve felt your way around Twitter by following hashtags, fellow educators, and other experts, it’s time to start sharing your knowledge with your students and colleagues! Come across an interesting educational article, successfully try a new technique in class, or recently learn about something exciting or new in your field? Tweet it! And don’t forget to include hashtags so that others can find your tweets in a search!
If you’re going to put effort into sharing your knowledge, don’t forget to share your Twitter handle with your colleagues and students. You can do this by posting it to your course site, adding it to your email signature, or placing it on your syllabus, just to name a few.
Live Tweet during Class
We’ve talked a lot about how you can use Twitter outside of class time, but how can it be used during class? Live tweeting is one great way to use Twitter to engage students during class, whether you hold class in a traditional classroom setting or online.
Live tweeting is a popular conference activity. When we go to a conference, we’re often provided with a conference hashtag so that we can tweet as we learn. Why not try it during class? Create a unique class hashtag, something like #canningmath101, and provide it to your students. They can then use that hashtag to tweet as they learn. This is a great way to keep everyone engaged in the material and gauge student understanding. You can then follow up on any questions and revisit material as necessary. Students can also refer back to the hashtag to see what their peers are taking away from the course.
Exit tweets are just a digitized version of exit slips, which are sometimes used to gauge what students have learned during a class meeting. After class, ask students to tweet one thing that they learned during the meeting. Like live tweeting, exit tweets will allow you to gauge understanding and revisit topics as needed. Exit tweets offer a little more control than live tweeting since you are limiting the tweet time to the end of class. This can be a good way to introduce tweeting during class.
Things to Consider
When using Twitter in education, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. First, remember that Twitter is a public platform. Don’t post private student information (grades, class schedules, course feedback) that would violate FERPA.
Keep it professional. It’s okay to mix some fun things in with your professional tweets to make you more relatable. But, for the most part, you should limit your tweets to sharing information on teaching and your field of expertise.
When asking your students to tweet, it’s important that you set netiquette guidelines so that students know what’s appropriate to post.
Share your Ideas!
These are just a few ways to get started with using Twitter in education. If you have other ideas or recommendations for who to follow, share by leaving a comment!
Drake, P.E. (2014). Is Your Use of Social Media FERPA Complaint? Educause. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/your-use-social-media-ferpa-compliant
Duggan, M., Ellison, N. B., Lampe, C., Lenhart, A., Madden, M. (2015). Social Media Update 2014. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/
100 Scientists on Twitter by Category. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/100-scientists-on-twitter-by-category/
Nettiquette for Online Learning. (n.d.). Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence. Retrieved from http://www.duq.edu/about/centers-and-institutes/center-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-and-learning/nettiquette-for-online-learning.
The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags for Education (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/twitter-hashtags-for-teacher/