Promoting Twitteracy in the Classroom

I can’t resist the urge to leap headlong into an awful portmanteau, but Dr. Yvonne Andres could when she posted about back in May. From her article:

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 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?


  • here’s an expansion for #4 – assign a random city in the world and give a set amount of time for students to make as many new twitter friends who live in that city.

    this one i think would be the one in which your caveat about online safety is most important. i would want to keep very close tabs on this project if i were working with younger students.

    love all the ideas, especially the first – my school is still waffling about what online management system to use, so in the meantime teachers still have zero web pages (and we’re even doing good old paper and pencil attendance). twitter is something that exploded after i left the states, so i don’t even have an account…

  • […] Here’s a particularly recent post about Twitter in the classroom, or as the author calls it, Promoting Twitteracy in the Classroom : Apace of Change (Via Dean […]

  • As a regular user of Twitter I am with you in advocating its use – we have to be cautious though with the digital divide that we don’t further disadvantage those without access to the technology outside school – a difficult nut to crack. Great Post.
    Paul Harrington

  • @Paul – I am always mindful of my students without access, and while there aren’t many where I teach, I am always trying to think of alternate ways of providing them access to the technology. I am lucky in that my school has much to offer students, and I haven’t (yet) run across a gap I couldn’t figure out a way to bridge.

    I completely agree that we can’t disadvantage these students, and I hope that no teacher ever would. The best we can do in those situations is provide access at school, perhaps after hours (e.g. immediately after school).

    That gets me thinking… if lack of access in the community is a widespread enough problem, I wonder what role the school could play in providing that access on an evening/weekend basis? And perhaps not only access, but instruction as well, perhaps in an adult-learning model?

    I know, if only funds were endless… but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t being done somewhere, this model of school-as-community Internet provider?

    Thanks for raising that important point. Hope to see you post again here!

  • I liked Debra Hamel’s use of Twitter. I a math classroom, I think I might pose an interesting problem, puzzle, or “what if” question.

  • Hey Damien, I like your ideas. You may be interested in this wiki we’re developing, feel free to jump on board and share your thoughts. I have added a link to your post.

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