Twitter…in the classroom?

You read that correctly. I’m using Twitter in my classroom. A service that I frequently condemned as banal and self-serving is suddenly something I use on a daily basis. Before you judge me, though, please finish reading.

In case you live under a rock and don’t know what Twitter is, check out CommonCraft’s “Twitter in Plain English.” As always, CommonCraft gives the best quick introduction to a tech tool. Those that are well-informed are likely familiar with Twitter thanks to the likes of Ashton Kutcher, who won a “Race to a Million” contest with CNN. 

Aside from the inherently self-serving belief that someone actually cares what I’m doing, there was always one problem I had with Twitter – how am I supposed to use this in my classroom? I couldn’t see past the inane updates people put on there (you know the ones: “had cheerios for breakfast. off to school.”).

Fortunately, I took another chance and listened to a colleague teach at our district’s winter tech mini-conference. He shared something really great that he was doing – using Twitter to update parents on what was happening in class. I was impressed with the simplicity of the idea, and also a little disappointed I hadn’t thought of it myself. In any case, I decided to take his idea and add some of my own ideas. What follows are the many ways I have found Twitter to be useful in communicating with students and parents.

  • Class Updates. I update parents and students on what we’re doing in class. I’ll post periodic updates both during class and after school telling parents and students “here’s what we’re doing today.” This is a great way to provide people with a little window into our classroom.
  • iPhone Apps. I’ve been using the Echofon app for normal Twitter updates, but I also have been using the Twitpic app to take photos of students working in class, which I then upload to the class Twitter. In addition to that, I found the Vidly app, which lets me upload videos and share them on Twitter. So far, I’ve shared pictures of students working, photos of their work, and videos of skits they did in class. This has been a great way to let parents see what we do in class, and makes that little window into our classroom much wider.
  • Class Website Widget. Our class website has an “Announcements” page that I had to update at least once a week. After signing up for Twitter, I created a widget that now fills that same Announcements page and displays our “tweets” (that word still makes me cringe). This has been a nice time-saver for me. I just add a quick update during down time during class and don’t have to spend 15 minutes updating it during the week.
  • Reminders (by SMS!). I’ve been using Twitter to send reminders about due dates and upcoming events, and there is a really nice bonus to this. Since I teach 8th and 9th, most students have cell phones. Those that have unlimited texting are able to follow our Twitter page and, more importantly, have updates send to their phones via text message. The small handful of students using this feature have found it really helpful to get reminders texted to them about the assignment that is due this week.

That’s where I’m at right now with Twitter. I’d love to hear what people think.

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3 responses to “Twitter…in the classroom?

  • Bryan Dierking

    I think that is absolutely brilliant. I’m a 10th grader and if I had my teachers updating me on class assignments and lectures via my Twitter I would be much more apt to complete them in a timely manner…..also, imagine missing school for an appointment or sick day…….my assignments and what we learned in my absence could be right there on my cell phone.

    Thanks for being innovative enough to see the educational use in a social networking tool.

  • thehurt

    @Bryan,
    Couldn’t agree more with you on all of your points.
    I’d encourage you to share the idea with your teachers, though – you may be surprised that some teachers would be open to trying something like this out, particularly if a student asks.

  • Candice Hodde

    I use Twitter in my classrooms, too! My kids have made fun of it and lots are resistant to joining, but I just feel so much better about using Twitter in the classroom than Facebook, for some reason. I offered an incentive of bonus points if the kids “follow” the class Twitter, and I did have an increase in student followers. Of the students who are following me, they appear more prepared in class, do well on tests, and turn in assignments on time. Part of this may just be the nature of the student (the ones who took the time to follow the class Twitter are probably kids who care about their grade in the first place), but I’d like to say my reminder tweets have helped a little!

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