Realizing that the opening sentences of books are often an intriguing attention getters, twice a day, TwitterLit creator Debra Hamel, posts the first line of a book, without the author’s name or book title. Why? Well, according to Hamel, “Because it’s fun and quick daily literary teaser.” There is a link back to Amazon so you can see what book the line is from and all the posts are available for subscription via RSS, Twitter, and email. A great learning activity might be to have students make a list books with the most interesting opening lines.
I thought this was a neat idea, and an interesting application of what many are writing off as a complete timewaster. Even among our edublogopeers, the general consensus among those who are giving it a chance is, “There’s something there, but I’m not sure what it is.”
Let’s try to put some practice to the theory together. I’ll start here with some English/Social Studies-based ideas; you follow up in the comments.
1. Easy way of posting homework assignments without creating/maintaining a website. Even the most tech-phobic teachers can log in, type 5 Tweets with the week’s homework, and tell their students to go to twitter.com/mrsmcgillicutty. As easily editable as Tiddlywiki, only less involved, if such a thing is possible.
2. Students writing a wiki, or working on some other collaborative project outside of class? When mine do, one of the chief complaints is emails left unchecked or eaten by spam filters. I work in a regional district, so it’s not always easy or possible for students to physically get together to work on projects. Try having them all sign up for Twitter accounts and follow each other. They can conduct real-time multiple-user discussion in which all group members can participate. Those who are offline can catch up later in the History, or have messages sent to their cell phones.
3. Will Richardson recently wrote about RSS feeds as texts for students. What if we turned the information flow in the other direction and had teachers subscribe to a Twitter RSS feed of their students? Tonight’s homework: Tweet in the voice of Abraham Lincoln 5 minutes before delivering the Gettysburg Address. Summarize the relationship between Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy in exactly 140 characters. Tweet your answer to this central question, and send @messages to at least two other people in the class. Eliminate the excess, get kids thinking critically about the meat of their message, and it’s all there for you in your feed aggregator.
4. Have students maintain a Twitter account for a week/month/unit/marking period. See who can create the most new social connections in that time, and at the end have them reflect on and share/compare their experiences on a class blog or wiki (or in person in small groups, if that’s how your school rolls).
5. “Follow” some major news organization like BBC, Sky, CNN, etc. with your students, and have your students select Tweeted stories to respond to (by your method of choice). Let your class double as Intro to RSS 101.
6. Set up an account and instruct students to “follow” you. When you’re online outside of school hours, Tweet a grammatically incorrect sentence or phrase. First student to Tweet back to you with the corrected phrase wins a small prize.
Standard disclaimer – when having students go online, especially in a social capacity, please also teach them about safe & responsible Internet use (I hope I’m preaching to the choir, but I feel obligated to mention it). Looking back, I’m not sure I like #4 anymore, but I’ll leave it up in hopes that someone can improve upon it.
So can math teachers use this tool? Tech educators, how will/do you use Twitter? Administrators! Is there a place for Twitter in your schools?