Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Twitter: Microblogging & Collaborating

Sessions 1 & 2  
Feared by many educators almost as much as Facebook, Twitter is blocked by many school districts.  Many people think that Twitter is a huge waste of time - just another way to stay in tune with the antics of celebrities and sports figures. I admit that I do enjoy trying to “keep up” with the Kardashians; they are after all, very entertaining! However, entertainment aside, Twitter can be a very useful tool for students and educators to communicate easily and effectively.

Last year, my son’s math teacher posted her homework assignments on Twitter making it impossible for my son and his classmates to claim that they didn’t know what they were supposed to do.  I was at his school recently and I saw this sign posted in the guidance area informing the students where to follow them on Twitter – way to go NHS!  

Another notable use of Twitter is that it enables like-interested educators (from anywhere around the world) to collaborate with one another fairly effortlessly.  It's hard for many of us to imagine how anything posted in 140 characters or less can be useful. However, that is precisely what makes Twitter so appealing; unlike this post, there's little room for fluff!

How Do I Begin?
Deciding to start using Twitter can be a bit frightening. After all, what are you possibly going to Tweet about? My suggestion is to not worry about what you're going to say. Instead, start off real simple and just follow a few frequent-tweeting educators (such as: Gregory Kulowiec, KathySchrock, Dan Callahan, Patrick Larkin and Tom Daccord).  Once you get a sense of what other educators are tweeting about you’ll become more comfortable working with this social networking tool. In addition, follow other individuals, or organizations that you find interesting (such as: MTA, WSJ, NYTimes and Edutopia) and perhaps a favorite politician, a sports figure, or even a Kardashian or two.

Before we dive into Twitter-land, let's talk about security.  As educators, we need to be especially careful to ensure that we don't put ourselves in a situation that could compromise our privacy and our professionalism. Here are a few suggestions to protect yourself and your reputation when using Twitter:

1)   Create separate Twitter accounts
a.   Professional Account: Use this account to collaborate with your colleagues and other like-interested educators
b.   Personal Account: Use this account to communicate with your friends and family etc.
c.   Student/School Account: Use this account to communicate with your students, their parents or guardians, and the school community.

2)   Following Students on Their Twitter Accounts:
a.   Don’t do it!
b.   Don’t take the risk of reading a student’s tweet that might have serious implications (perhaps something that needs to be reported to school or law officials).

3)   Allowing Students (and their parents/guardians) to follow you on Twitter
a.   Don’t allow it unless it is an account that you have established to communicate only with your students, their parents or guardians! Be sure to save your security settings so that people cannot automatically follow you.
b.   Making use of hashtags (#) to direct your tweets to your intended audience is a safe and effective way to use Twitter to communicate.  Using hashtags in tweets allows communication without the need for teachers to follow students or for students to follow teachers. Students would be instructed by their teachers to search for a particular hashtag (that is related to their class) to get access to all of the class tweets. Hashtags are a great way to organize (and search for) tweets. For example, if I were to tweet a reminder to my students in my 10th grade English class (B Block) to study for a test, my tweet (and hashtag) might look like this:
  Reminder test on Friday Romeo&Juliet – Study! #eng10B

More on Hashtags

There are numerous education related “chat rooms” accessible in Twitter by using hashtags.  For example, there are Twitter chats for World Language: #langchat, Education: #edchat, Social Studies: #sschat, Science: #scichat. The list of educational “hashtags is very extensive; the odds are that you can find one that you will find useful. By entering the name of a hashtag at the end of the Tweetchat web address (, you can view Twitter posts/tweets from any particular chat (in this case, I was viewing the langchat chat room). I followed #olympics this past summer to stay informed about the Olympic games. You don't need a twitter account to view the tweets/posts in chat rooms, but you do need an account to contribute.

As you can see, Twitter is much more than just following celebrities and sports figures; it really does have its place in education.
           @LoriAlighieri  @LoriTech1

Homework Due: November 15, 2012
1) Send out 6 Tweets using our class hashtag, #pln12.
2) ReTweet 2 Tweets using our class hashtag, #pln12.
3) Follow additional educators so that you follow a minimum of 25. Pay attention to what they're chatting about. Is there anything that you find interesting or useful? 
4) Follow additional news sources so that you follow a minimum of 8.
5) Follow a minimum of 10 random people or organizations.
6) Send a Tweet with a Direct Message to me and to 3 other course participants (using our class hashtag, #pln12).
7) Read the articles about Twitter located at the bottom of the Session 1 & 2 Page. Be prepared to discuss how Twitter might be effectively incorporated into education and specifically, how you might be able to use Twitter. 
8) Find an additional web based article about Twitter that you think would benefit our class. While in class, we'll learn how to "shorten" a URL and how to include a link to your article in a Tweet.
9) Be sure that you're following me on both of my Twitter handles.
10) Visit the Edudemic web site on hashtags and find a few that are interesting to you. Then, either in Twitter or TweetChat, use that hashtag to see what all the chatting is about! Be prepared to share your findings with our class.
11) Be sure that you are following me (LoriAlighieri & LoriTech1) and all the class participants.
12) Play around with Twitter and have fun!