Saturday, February 20, 2010

Twitter in the Classroom

It seems as if everyone is on twitter these days: kids, adults, all of Hollywood. Regular blogging has been replaced by this instantaneous communication tool.

For all of you who feel as if you've been left out in the dust, Twitter is a service that allows you to write short messages to friends and other twitter subscribers in "real-time" with a variety of communication devices and networks, including the cell phone.

Twitter as an Educational tool?

It's natural for teachers to be apprehensive about using twitter in the classroom. When people right about their daily aggravations or silly comments about nothing, it's difficult to imagine twitter benefiting a classroom environment.

Nevertheless, David Parry, Assistance Professor of Emerging Media and Communications at the University of Texas at Dallas, decided to experiment with Twitter in the classroom. It started with one assignment as a trial-run, and Parry noticed that the students liked using twitter and it helped them open up communication between each other and between his students and himself. One assignment led to another which led to another and finally Parry wrote some tips about using "Twitter in Academia," which he posted on AcademHack.

One benefit from using twitter in class was that it offered a communication service that could be used in class and continued outside of class. A greater feeling of community arose from the constant communication. Parry outlined some of the ways in which one can use twitter in the classroom: in writing assignments, instant feedback, tracking conferences, grammar, following the famous, and more. You can also use Twitter to send messages to your students, reminding them of upcoming deadlines. It's nice not to have to know each individual student's number in order to update your class, and yet they get the same messages on their cell phones or online as long as they subscribe to your Twitter feed.

Improving the Learning Process

Educause created a
PDF article that discusses the use of Twitter in the classroom and how it benefits students and increases their ability to comprehend and learn. The discussion talks about "Metacognition, which is the practice of thinking about and reflecting on your learning -- has been shown to benefit comprehension and retention. As a tool for students or professional colleagues to compare thoughts about a topic, Twitter can be a viable platform for metacognition, forcing users to be brief and to the point -- an important skill in thinking clearly and communicating effectively. In addition, Twitter can provide a simple way for attendees at a conference to share thoughts about particular sessions and activities with others at the event and those unable to attend."

Creative Uses for Twitter

George Mayo, an eighth grade English teacher at Silver Spring International Middle School in Montgomery County, Maryland, decided to use twitter to write a story with his students. But the story didn't just end up being written with his students, it continued with collective tweets from over 100 students in six different countries.
"It was incredibly simple and really amazing," Mayo said. "My students and I would come in, and suddenly kids in China had written a chapter for the book." When the book was finished, Mayo published the book online for his students to
download for free.

Paul R. Allison, a teacher at the East Bronx Academy in NY, created a site called
Youth Twitter after teachers wanted to have the ability to edit student's tweets. Teachers are now given "administrator" status in which they can alter students' tweets and provide them with better feedback.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Please contact me via our website.

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