Teaching with Twitter

Most would agree that Twitter is a social networking phenomena. It has recently enjoyed exponential growth in popularity. The microblogging tool has obvious potential to be used in formal learning, both in traditional online classroom settings and - through mobile technologies - for mobile learners.

Ever since I first began to use Twitter I have been thinking about how to harness the potential of microblogging for the benefits of my own students, and have tried out several ideas to exploit it already. Below are my 10 top uses of Twitter for education:

1. ‘Twit Board’ Notify students of changes to course content, schedules, venues or other important information.

2. ‘Summing Up’ Ask students to read an article or chapter and then post their brief summary or précis of the key point(s). A limit of 140 characters demands a lot of academic discipline.

3. ‘Twit Links’ Share a hyperlink – a directed task for students – each is required to regularly share one new hyperlink to a useful site they have found.

4. ‘Twitter Shadowing’ Follow a famous person and document their progress. Better still if this can be linked to an event (During the recent U.S. Presidential elections, many people followed @BarackObama and kept up to date with his speeches, etc).

5. ‘Time Tweet’ Choose a famous person from the past and create a twitter account for them – choose an image which represents the historical figure and over a period of time write regular tweets in the role of that character, in a style and using the vocabulary you think they would have used (e.g. William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar).

6. ‘Micro Meet’ Hold discussions involving all the subscribing students. As long as everyone is following the whole group, no-one should miss out on the Twitter stream. All students participate because a sequence of contributors is agreed beforehand.

7. ‘Micro Write’ Progressive collaborative writing on Twitter. Students agree to take it in turns to contribute to an account or ‘story’ over a period of time.

8. ‘Lingua Tweeta’ Good for modern language learning. Send tweets in foreign languages and ask students to respond in the same language or to translate the tweet into their native language.

9. ‘Tweming’ Start off a meme – agree on a common hash-tag so that all the created content is automatically captured by Twemes or another aggregator.

10. ‘Twitter Pals’ Encourage students to find a Twitter ‘penpal’ and regularly converse with them over a period of time to find out about their culture, hobbies, friends, family etc. Ideal for learning about people from other cultures.

Here are some useful links to others who have used Twitter in formal learning:

David Parry:
Teaching with Twitter (Video)
Alan Lew: Twitter Tweets for Higher Education
Melanie McBride: Classroom 2.0
Judy O'Connell: Twitter - a Teaching and Learning Tool
Gabriela Grosseck and Carmen Holotescu: Twitter for Educational Activities
Carmen Holotescu and Gabriela Grosseck: Using Microblogging in Education
Nicole Melander: 14 Days of Twitter
If you have any other tips or applications for Twitter or any useful links to share, please feel free to do so.

Cartoon source

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Learning with 'e's by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at steve-wheeler.blogspot.com.


Alan Thomas said…
I think there would be real value in a twitter discussing - real time, in class. There is some evidence that electronic communication - even in a classroom with all present - encourages some to join in that would other wise be reluctant, and alows some to "stand up" to the opinions of stronger class members who might not do so verbally.
Anonymous said…

I enjoy reading your note, and your tips are very good.

I also use microblogging platforms with peers, students, trainees, for knowledge management, for courses enhancement, or for delivering entire online courses.

If you have a little time, please take a look at my papers about microblogging in education: http://tinyurl.com/1paper, http://tinyurl.com/2paperen.

A Happy New Year!

tp_da said…
Thanks for this very interesting post and the hints in the discussion.

My main purposes to motivate my students to use Twitter is to understand the changing public sphere (they are studying public relations) and to connect with people outside the classroom (practitioners, other students, and lecturers) - following the idea of connectivism.

Will be happy to read the papers, Carmen...
If anybody likes to get further information on these ideas: I held a presentation on it some months ago: http://www.slideshare.net/apalme2003/social-media-in-pr-education/
Penny Ryder said…
Maybe for your "micro meet" you could use a hashtag and 'meet' at tweetchat.com that way even if they're not all following each other, they can track the conversation. (Twemes might be like this too, I haven't tried that yet.) Tweet chat also takes away that annoying need to keep refreshing the page.
etalbert said…
Valuable post. If, I were still teaching languages I would certainly be trying to use these microblogging tools.
I have not looked closely at most of these tools but I do love twemes.
You could also look at http://shoutem.com/ and a recent post by Miguel Guhlin on some Twitter tools.
Also, edmodo looks like an interesting app.

I have collected a lot of Twitter slideshows on one of my slideshare groups: http://www.slideshare.net/group/web-20-tools-for-effective-teaching
I enjoy your work.
Anonymous said…
I've been reflecting a lot about twitter too...and my delicious links tell the story about the rise of twitter!! I'm always adding a new post, tool, or story about twitter to my collection and it is growing the fastest! Great post - thanks for all the ideas included.
Carmen Tschofen said…

Just ran across Scott Schwister's slideshare presentation on Twitter the other day; it offers lots of classroom activity ideas. http://tinyurl.com/9r8x9r
Frances Bell said…
Fairly recent wiki at http://twitterforteachers.wetpaint.com/
Cheryl said…
Teaching hands on ICT sessions can be difficult - you're aware that people are waiting for your help but you're not sure how long their question will take to answer or exactly who's been waiting the longest. Twitter can be used to track their questions so you can deal first with the quick queries or the ones who've been waiting longest. It can also encourages peer support with students answering one another's queries.
Steve Wheeler said…
That's a really useful idea Cheryl. I will have to try that one out, but I suspect it will be a method the students use rather than one I will impose on my groups... What do others think?
Lee Kolbert said…
Great article. I'm going to share this. What is your Twitter name? I'm @teachakidd

GadgetGirl said…
I love these ideas! Thanks for sharing. I just wanted to let you know I referenced this post in my blog (http://gadgetgirl-ed20.blogspot.com/2009/03/twitter-tools-for-soul.html) and gave you all the credit, of course!
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Gadget Girl - I enjoyed reading your own Twitter blog post - packed full of useful information and great ideas! Keep up the good work....and watch this space! ;-)
Steve Wheeler said…
Hi Lee @teachakidd - my twitter name is @timbuckteeth. Thanks for the comments - keep em coming!
Marcy said…
Hi! I am a Spanish teacher, and I have linked your post to my blog. I am doing a series on Twitter in the classroom. Thank you for your tips, and your blog!
Tomaz Lasic said…
Great post, comes just after an argument with a family member (also a teacher) about Twitter :)

About your request for handy links - a whole heap of people (mostly teachers I presume), have found my
"Twitter Handbook for Teachers" useful over the last few days. Free to share at

Don't know, might find it handy too.

Cheers & keep up your quality work!

Tomaz Lasic (@lasic)
Sandy Mincone said…
Thanks for the ideas Steve. I have been gearing up to get the kids involved in Twitter productively. I am a high school health teacher and can tackle some difficult topics. I have had incidences where students who would NEVER speak in class post responses to blogs and then find the nerve to defend them in class when other students start asking questions. This type of technology is a great tool to foster better communication. I can forsee using many of your ideas as well as real-time tweeting in class. Thanks!
Ange said…
Some good ideas here. I thought I'd share my own take on how to teach everyday subjects using Twitter.

N. Zero said…
A problem I see with this fits right into my overall analysis of Twitter... Your students are being compelled to join and use Twitter whether they want to or not. And so the use of this "liberating" new technology is no longer optional, but required if they want to compete academically with their peers and stay in the good graces of their teacher. You might have an excellent student who excels in all other areas but now, if they aren't savvy with Twitter or if they don't have time because of their other studies and the rest of their life, they will fall behind and lose their teachers attention. All this despite the best of intentions.
Ken said…
Don't try squeezing everything technology cool we try online as adults into a classroom. 1. Is it appropriate for kids? 2. Is it edu necessary?
Saying this is one thing, thinking about the realities of the classroom is another.
Old line about using an elephant trap to catch a squirrel comes to mind as well.
Mr. Duez said…
Thanks for the post. Interesting. I loved what Monica Rankin did: http://www.utdallas.edu/~mrankin/usweb/twitterconclusions.htm

Very interesting.
TEFLTara said…
Interesting! We're hoping our English learners will give it a try (concentrating on one line of English at a time). We created an easy guide for them: http://www.englishclub.com/twitter/index.htm

Also Top 10 things Teachers are Doing on Twitter: http://edition.englishclub.com/tefl-magazine/english-teachers-twitter/
Mario said…
I would like to add to all this good resources the work my wife does on twitter with her Kindergarten class:

Tom said…
Great list of ideas for teaching with Twitter. One that I am involved with is called TwHistory. Students research primary source documents (letters, journals, etc) and set up Twitter accounts on behalf of the historical figures they represent. Then they tweet from that perspective. So far we have reenacted the Battle of Gettysburg and the Cuban Missile Crisis, with more coming soon! Visit http://TwHistory.org for more information. It's fun and it's free, so please join us!
Ahwoo said…
I think that Twitter would be an excellent tool for test reviews. I plan to use it in just that way for a class I'm teaching. I got the idea from Jane Hart @c4lpt, who used Twitter to deliver a collaborative keynote speech. I'm including the link and will update this post after I use it for my review this week. Enjoy. http://bit.ly/buKW2j
Nate said…
I've shown my students twitter because I think it's amazing for all sorts of purposes (we looked at it's use in the Iran protests for example), but I've never really thought about using it in the classroom. I don't know if I'll ever do so, but I especially like the sound of #5 and #8 (I teach both history and Spanish).
I have a friend who attends a church in which the congregation tweets important points the pastor makes during the sermon and they can all see each other's tweets with a tag as well as communicate with those who couldn't make it to the service. I wonder if this could be done in the classroom during a lecture too? Just a thought.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comments Nate. I would say that your idea would work very well. Many of of use Twitter as a backchannel at conferences so that we can a) summarize for ourselves what has been said b) summarize for those who are not physically present (via a hashtag) what is happening and c) relaying messages and questions back to the speaker/those present. If you try it in the classroom, do let us all know how you get on.
Hi Steve,

I have found twitter to be very useful for my own use as well as in one specific situation - Project Supervision.

Students sometimes write long emails, which may become difficult to follow. Using twitter instead of email with project students I have noticed that they can communicate a bit better as there is only few chars per tweet. They start off with multi tweets but then soon get used to the laconicity they get on twitter and from me. Win win for both!!

Other advantages of twitter in proj sup can be listed as:
1) Student share what they are doing on their project - this triggers peer support and support from personal learning network
2) Supervisors can also get a better view of what a student is fine with and what they are struggling with
3) Save lot of time for both parties. I reduced my project meetings by half and only ever spend a few minutes replying a tweet from a student. Plus what I say to one is also visible to another so it is open and fair practice.

For more detailed analysis of 2 yrs worth of data I share this with your readers :)



Noemí said…
Hi, I´m a Jose Luis García´s student (University of Cantabria, Spain) and I would like to say that we are using Tweeter in our classes and it´s great. We tweet the important ideas of our partners presentations while they are speaking. So people can not be physically present, can do it at home at the moment or then. If they follow the class at the moment, they can participate typing tweets in all caps, to be recognized by those in class.
All students can consulting the tweets to know what has been done in class, review ideas, make summaries for posting on our blog...
It´s a new method for us and although in principle, was something shocking, we are delighted with this. It´s fantastic to be the first to use it at the University of Cantabria (Spain).
Ranganath said…
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Tom said…
Hi Noemí, a really interesting story how you are using twitter during presentations. Wouldn't it be nice if all the tweets appear on the screen behind the speaker. So you are able to start a discussion via the screen or ask questions. If you think so you should check this website I found; www.shakespeak.com. They offer a free plug-in which you can download and use with powerpoint.
Let me know what you think about it. ^Tom
Anonymous said…
Hi Steve, just thought I'd let you know that I've linked this post to my blog, and that I finally succumbed to joining twitter!
Lenandlar said…
I have participated in fun quizzes (and some for prizes) using twitter and the #hashtag. Fun!!! Can be used for in class fun quiz sessions too i believe.
Rocky said…
Twitter can be used for all kinds of cool things. I use it all the time and love it!
WWE Tickets said…
i've used Twitter since the beginning for connecting with potential customers and now i have a huge social base of loyal fans. it's a great outlet and if you aren't utilizing it, then you are missing out!

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