Technical Features of Twitter
As of six months ago Twitter had reached 100 million users, and there was an average of 230 million tweets per day. The features which have made this Web 2.0 technology so popular are it's ease of use and collaborative features. Twitter is easy to use for a variety of reasons, beginning with how easy it is to start. User names and accounts are free and only take a few minutes to register. Anyone can access Twitter and generate content from Internet enabled computers, tablets, and smart phones. The search features are easy to use and allow users to search for people whom they wish to follow, or to search for trends and content which they wish to view. The collaborative nature of Twitter makes it attractive for users and educators alike. By tweeting thoughts, news, pictures and videos, and hyperlinks this tool allows anyone to easily reach a group of followers whom they wish to collaborate with.
I recently used Twitter with students for the first time and believe it holds massive potential as an educational tool. My experience with this technology started out of necessity as I was chaperoning a student weekend trip to Washington D.C. and needed a way to contact students with news and updates without calling each of the thirty students. My Assistant Principal and I set up an account and announced our user name on the bus on the way to the conference and by our arrival we had six followers. We found that students were more engaged with their colleagues than previous years, and we had fewer excuses from students about not knowing when and where they should be. While this was a seemingly minor experience I believe I can use this technology for multiple uses in my class.
Ideas for Usage
I would like to use Twitter for class announcements, homework assignments, and ancillary readings and articles which pertain to the class. Having a class twitter account would not be that much different from a class blog, but the ease of access for Twitter would better allow parents, students, and the teacher to communicate and collaborate. Most parents and students have to log in to multiple places to view class notes at my school, and since the vast majority of my students and parents have smart phones using Twitter would be an easy way for all involved to keep up with class postings. Also, parents and students can collaborate with the teacher and ask pertinent questions to better ensure student success. Also, I frequently find articles and readings on my phone which are pertinent to the classes which I teach, but have to email them to myself, print them off or scan them and distribute to students. By sharing these articles on Twitter, I would more effectively disseminate and discuss content with students outside of the classroom. Lastly, I think the collaborative nature of Twitter would be invaluable as a back channeling tool during class movie clips, discussions, and group assignments. Since students can access their Twitter account via a computer or phone it would allow them to connect in class and at home. While there are some snags and potential problems, I do believe that if teachers can begin to use Twitter for their classes there would be many meaningful opportunities for it's usage in classrooms.