{ilearn} Twitter

Heather asks on the ilearn list: Is Twitter still in fashion? Or has its popularity plateaued? Is anyone using it with their students? How? What kinds of activities can you do with it? Or do you use it just to send information? Is it a worthwhile tool or an irritant?

My response: Twitter is eternally in fashion and infinitely useful. Twitter is a web site that resembles a blog in that it allows multiple (millions of) users to post messages of 140 characters max (so it’s often called a microblog). Because it’s a blog each user produces a feed. The feeds allow you to “follow” as many users as you like, either in Twitter, or in Google Reader if you prefer (you choose the handful or 100 users who you think are worth following). Or you can use an interface like Tweet Deck that installs on your computer which lets you manage feeds in ways above and beyond the features available at the Twitter web site.

The best way to overcome misconceptions about Twitter is to start using it. When I suggested this to a colleague recently, she asked me, “How on earth will I find time for both FB and Twitter?”

Twitter is completely different. It’s media, like radio, that you check when it happens to be on (when you have a moment to check it). It’s not like Facebook, which is usually for your friends and family, people whose every move you want to follow. Twitter is for professional networks. You add twitter feeds of people or entities you think put out useful information. The ‘tweets’ come in bursts of 140 characters, so it’s at-a-glance reading. Usually there’s a URL. If it grabs you, click on the URL.

If the URL interests me I usually bookmark it in Delicious so I can find it later if I need to recall it. I’ve bookmarked a number of sites about Twitter, many of them found through tips picked up from Twitter posts, and from elsewhere in my network: http://delicious.com/vancestevens/twitter

The trick is to create a network of people who give good information. For ESL, here are a couple:

Is it karma or coincidence? Checking Larry’s feed I see he tweeted just 23 hours ago, ” The Best Resources For Beginning To Learn What Twitter
Is All About http://tinyurl.com/ojauc9.”

That’s a good illustration of how Twitter works. I switched it on just now and I stumbled right on top of a resource that came in handy. I’ve missed thousands of tweets since I last checked it, but I don’t care. It’s not about what I miss. Like in fishing, it’s about what I catch.

Here’s another nice link from Jennifer Verschoor, one of the co-moderators of a course in multiliteracies we’re teaching now: http://jenverschoor.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/how-to-use-twitter-in-the-classroom/.

As the above links suggest, Twitter can be used with students, and in Larry’s and Jen’s links, and in my collection of delicious links on Twitter, you’ll find numerous suggestions about how to do that. A good way to do that would be to get your students Twitter accts and then add them to a LIST. That way you wouldn’t have to actually follow them, and they would be all grouped in one place. For example, a list for a course I teach now can be found here: http://twitter.com/home#/list/VanceS/multiliteracies

However, with students, you could consider other microblogging platforms that are lighter and can be used with just your class, e.g. http://edmodo.com. There are several such tools for backchannel chat in your classroom, or outside it. A potentially good resource (presentation still forthcoming as I write this) is http://classroom20.com/

  • Saturday, February 13th, 9am Pacific Time (US) / 5pm GMT/UTC (international times):   Classroom 2.0 LIVE’s weekly show.  This week:  Jeff O’Hara showcases Edmodo:  Microblogging in the Classroomhttp://live.classroom20.com/

The last thing you need if you want to learn from Twitter, or perhaps the first thing, is a network, and the best way to jump start one of those is to piggyback off someone else’s. You can go to anyone’s profile, for example mine at http://twitter.com/vances, and see who they are following. You
can see who follows them by using TwitterMozaic: http://sxoop.com/twitter/. By clicking on people’s profiles in the mosaic display you can identify those who you think have something to say. You don’t have to know them to add them to your network (to follow them). With Twitter,
it doesn’t matter who you ‘know’, you can learn from them anyway. For more on how that works, see http://advanceducation.blogspot.com/2009/08/new-webheads.html.

Once you’ve got this set up you’ll be on your way to creating your PLN or ‘personal learning network’. Google that to learn more. Good luck,


About Vance Stevens

http://vancestevens.com/papers http://adVancEducation.blogspot.com
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