Setup

Twitter was first marketed as a micro-blogging tool when it launched in 2006. Since then it has become a very robust social networking service, and has become an active home for discussion in academia. Leveraging the power of public, open discussion, it has also become an asset in teaching and learning. Course discussions once limited to the classroom can now constructively be expanded to interested parties across the globe. The article linked through the image below is an excellent primer for Twitter in Education.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 10.59.39 AMFirst things first. You need an account.

Go to twitter.com and signup for an account. Complete your profile with pictures, a name, and a description. Note here that you can maintain as much anonymity as you like, sometimes students might prefer to create an account for use in one particular course, conference, or other situation. Maintaining anonymity can be a good way to start if you’re nervous about participating in open discussions.

Next, let’s talk lingo.

This list is a combination of terms from Jesse Stommel and Laura Gogia.

timeline – Your dynamic home on Twitter, showing realtime tweets of those you follow as well as some promoted tweets. It is also known as your “stream”.

@ (handle) – The identification or account name of the tweeter (e.g. @wmtic), accompanied by an avatar (image) of the user’s choosing. When used in a tweet it becomes a link to that user’s profile and shows up in their notifications, and is referred to as a “mention” or a “hattip”.

# (hashtag) – Used to mark keywords in a tweet (e.g. #soechat). You can click on a hashtag to see all of the tweets and discussions that include that hashtag. Great for topics (#digped), courses (#EPPL532), and conferences (#opened15).

followers – Users who have chosen to follow you on Twitter

following – Users you have chosen to follow

retweet – The act of forwarding another’s tweet to all of your followers

favorite – Acknowledges a tweet without other comment. The original tweeter is notified of your action, and the tweet is saved to your “favorites” list.

Now practice.

Start searching for and following people you know, colleagues you respect, and organizations you interact with in your work. After finding some, share some with your neighbors, and also follow them.

One way to get going on Twitter is to find some role models and frequently used hashtags. Role models are those in your field who tweet regularly and well: they deliver relevant content, demonstrate effective tweeting practices, and provide a gateway for others who are interested in similar topics.

Tweet strategically. The purpose of educational tweeting is to connect learners with course content and other people in a context broader than the classroom. Approach Twitter with an eye to connect. Engaging other Twitter users through replies or mentions (inserting their handle into the message) significantly increases the potential of a response and a meaningful conversation. Hyperlinking to resources that support your ideas or provide useful information is a good way to establish credibility and increase your own understanding of the course material. Retweeting another user’s work has many implications, but can reveal your presence and interest in a conversation without requiring you to create original content. Retweeting might help boost your confidence while you are still new to the content and the practice.

Getting organized: Tweetdeck.

How can you make sense of the flood information you are beginning to access? One powerful tool is Tweetdeck. With this tool, you can monitor hashtags, users, or any other kind of search on Twitter. This is one of the easiest ways to keep up with live tweet chats.