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Tweet or not to tweet?

November 3rd, 2010 by Roland Straub

Many teachers ask themselves why they should use twitter. Even some of my students asked me why they should use twitter if they already have a facebook, yahoo messenger account. Frankly, you don’t HAVE TO use it if you don’t want to. No one will oblige you to create an account on it.

However, there are some advantages of using twitter for both teachers and students, despite the whole skepticism about it.

For those who don’t know it yet, twitter is a micro-blogging site where you can post any time what you are doing and if you follow someone such as your friends, family members or colleagues you will also know what they’re doing.

Here is the official explanation by twitter:

Why is it called a micro-blog? Well, first of all, you are not allowed to write more than 140 characters in one tweet (entry). This can be very refreshing for many but also kind of annoying for some of us.

When I want to read about something on a blog then I prefer not having to read the entire post because I’m probably not interested in everything the person has to say about a topic (of course it depends on the topic) so I’m just going to skim for the most important pieces of information. On the other hand, when you are on twitter you don’t have to read thousands of words or skim through the entire text just to find something useful. You can read the entire entry because it’s that short 🙂

Therefore, it’s more motivating to read short pieces of information thus finding out about many things in shorter time than reading for hours about one certain topic.

Nevertheless, many are still skeptical about twitter because of its quick flow of information and its, sometimes, overwhelming tweets. However, this might occur only if you have hundreds or thousands of followers – which is not easy to accomplish. And even if, by any chance, you get bored of getting the tweets of someone you’re following, you can easily get rid of them by clicking ‘Unfollow’ and henceforth you won’t get any tweets from that person again – if you change your mind you can always follow that person again.

Despite this skepticism about this rush of information, I think that this is something positive. Nowadays, you have to try to stay up-to-date with everything new that’s going on in the world. Why? Because your students are doing the same thing and you might find yourself not knowing what they are talking about or what students are into these days thus lowering your chances of making your lessons interesting. And if you can’t motivate students nowadays they will get bored of your lessons or, even worse, of you or your lack of interest. But this is almost a different topic that I might talk about another time. Let’s get back to twitter:) The main idea here is that, the more information you get on twitter the better. Of course this depends on what kind of tweets your receiving and this depends on who you’re following. Now these are all your choices to make. Who to follow, what to read and what not to read. You can have two separate accounts: one for work and another for personal stuff. However, I personally think this is unnecessary…it’s just one too many passwords to remember but as I said it’s a personal choice.

Outside the classroom

Lately, I’ve been hearing teachers talk a lot about twitter and how to use it to their advantage in their professional lives. I’ve been hearing about what a great way twitter is if you want to make new professional acquaintances and find out about new activities, links, conferences and many more and this is true, however if people are looking for conversations on twitter then it’s the last place to go. Yes, IF you follow the right person on twitter then you can see who that person is following and follow maybe some of them and then look at some of the people that person has as his/her followers and follow some of them and so on and so forth. After a while you will start getting lots of tweets about different stuff relating from day-to-day activities to professional ones. Then you can start filtering out the ones which are important for you and use them in your field of expertise.

  • you can stay in touch with some of your colleagues in a different country or continent and post new websites, software or activities that you have used or see what they are currently using. This is a fast and easy way of sharing experiences and different ways of approaching teaching.
  • I also found on Digg.com some interesting ways of using Twitter. Here are some of them:

Artwiculate

A fine use of Twitter which helps us learn a new word each day and replace the colorful adjectives we normally use at traffic snarls. Follow @artwiculate on Twitter and use the word they broadcast in one of your tweets. The more ‘likes’ or retweets each reply gets, pushes it up the popularity charts on Artwiculate. The prize: An enriched vocabulary which we can use to sound more intelligent than we actually are.

 

 

 

Atlibs

Solve user created puzzles via Twitter or create your own. The fun is in the off the cuff bizarre answers that get generated. The site could do with a boost as the responses seem to be flagging off. If you have a sense of humor, play this Twitter game which is short and funny.

Outwit.me

Outwit.me has a lineup of seven games based on Twitter. You can join and play anytime once one game is over and another begins. For instance, in Tweet Hangman you have to guess a secret word or phrase by replying with letters. Tweet Quiz is about guessing all the multiple answers that may exist for the quiz asked. Each correct guess that matches the majority earns a point.

Tweet Bricks

This Twitter game is the equivalent of the classic game of Bricks, except that the bricks come from Tweets. Stack up your Tweets as they fall down with the arrow keys. You can choose to play with your own Tweets, with other users, friends or followers, with your mentions, or with all Tweets posted with a Hash tag.

Chess Tweets

The idea to play chess with a remote opponent is nothing new. Chess Tweets just takes the idea onto Twitter. You don’t need to register separately. You can play against one or against the entire community by moving the set pieces and sending chess moves via your Twitter account. Depending on the responses, this game can be slow at times.

As you can see there are some ways to use these outside your classes with your students by motivating them to use twitter not only to say that they are washing the dishes or watching their favourtite TV series but also to use it as a useful tool.

Inside the classroom

Now, this is depends very much on whether your students have a mobile device (such as a smart phone or tablet/pad or  a laptop) that supports a twitter application. If not or they don’t like carrying it with themselves into classes then you pretty much can’t use it when teaching in the classroom. If they do have these gadgets and are happy to use them in class you might use twitter to:

  • receive feedback from your students on the lesson. They just have to hash tag (which is this sign #) the topic of discussion and send you a tweet on the lesson. They can then start a discussion on why they liked certain aspects of the lesson and why not. Students can vote on which part they thought was the most useful in the lesson by tweeting and retweeting each other.
  • you can ask them to give examples of sentences where they use some of the newly learned vocabulary. They could use one new word they’ve learned during the lesson in their tweets.
  • you can ask them to drill some grammar points. They could tweet a question using a particular tense and ask the others to answer the question using the same tense. In order to make it a bit more interesting you could tell them to tweet about a personal experience so they have an incentive to start with. You can always reply to their tweets adding some feedback on their tweets.

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