“What’s the point?” I hear that a lot when it comes to the use of Twitter in education. And, in some cases, I completely agree. But if the beginning of the semester snuck up on you like it did me and you’re looking for quick student engagement wins, Twitter might be able to help. Here are three ideas to get you started:
Number 1 – Current events
As Hurricane Irene barreled toward the East Coast, citizens battened their hatches and concerned relatives rushed to the Web for the latest information. My husband, two friends and I had planned a trip to the Jersey Shore to watch our good friend play in her first roller derby bout with the Jersey Shore Roller Girls. Their bouting venue? On the boardwalk. Obviously, not the ideal place to be with a hurricane charging toward the Jersey shore.
While CNN.com and Weather.com provided frequent updates, the information on Twitter was instant. People reporting wind speeds, flooding conditions and general storm progress updates filled my Twitter stream, and I had some interesting conversations with people who knew exactly what was going on. The trip was ultimately canceled but imagine harnessing this in your classroom. Libya, Somalia, the world economy — we’re living in a time of rapid change, and Twitter can help your students interact with that history.
As an added bonus, you provide them with an opportunity to experience the challenges that come with finding and using information from the Internet. How can they verify their sources? Who can they trust? This is a lesson that will be important beyond college as the world becomes more and more connected and access to information becomes practically limitless.
Number 2 – Classroom TweetUp
You might be surprised how many of your students are already on Twitter. Creating a Twitter directory for your class might give them another avenue to connect! In my summer course I connected with six of my students on Twitter, a number that took me off-guard. It was interesting to see them engage in the things I talked about, whether or not I was speaking about class work.
Here, the standard caveats regarding the separation of school and personal life apply, and I wouldn’t recommend forced interaction, but simply helping students connect with each other (and with you) could be more fun than you think.
Number 3 – Data Mining
What are you covering in your first week of class? Send students to http://search.twitter.com and see what they can find on that topic. They don’t need to sign up to search what’s happening in the Twittersphere, and having them bring in the tweet they found most thought-provoking or relevant to your topic could provide good fodder for classroom discussion, on or offline.
The beginning of the semester is a hectic but exciting time. Why not let Twitter help you hook your students right away to keep the classroom momentum going? In the words of Claude Bernard, “Experimentation is an active science,” and with millions of users worldwide, so is Twitter. Experiment with me!
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