TTP 2: Why Twitter?

In an earlier comment, Bud says the same thing I’d likely say, were I reading this on someone else’s blog:

Interested to see what you do. Convince me that there’s a need that Twitter fills in the classroom. I love Twitter – but I’m concerned – I see people forcing its use for no particular reason other than that it’s Twitter. As I said – convince me.

After rolling this around in my mind a bit, I got to thinking that maybe they key here isn’t to use Twitter in the classroom, but rather outside the classroom in order to extend learning. Can Twitter act as a web-based learning network for high school students in the same way as it does for, say, edubloggers? Assuming that it can, how will high school students respond to it? This is the direction in which I plan to move with this project.

At this point, I can’t see myself using Twitter for anything in class, except to set up accounts and maybe give a demo and let the kids get their hands dirty. Anything I can Tweet to kids in class, I can just tell them face to face, and vice-versa. Outside of class, however, I see the following possibilities:

  • Network of students for sharing class resources that goes beyond social cliques
  • Built-in peer support system for immediate questions about/help with work
  • Easy way for me (or students) to send an “APB” or links to interesting/related sites
  • Convenient multi-user communication – especially useful for group project collaboration

The fourth point may not be as important to teachers in smaller districts, but I teach in a regional district that draws from several surrounding communities. It is not always convenient or possible for my students to physically get together, especially those who don’t yet drive.

So why Twitter?

  • Ease of setup and use
  • Minimal time investment in instruction of use
  • Likelihood of student engagement
  • Ease of teacher monitoring
  • Allows for community connections outside the classroom
  • Later on, possible entree to blogging/social networking for educational purposes

The same could be done with Jaiku or Pownce (but for the private beta); again, the specific tool doesn’t matter, as long as it can serve the desired purpose.

To get back to Bud’s original comment, I think I can already answer it – as far as I can tell, Twitter does not fill a need in the classroom. All I’d like to find out is if it can help to fill in some related gaps outside the classroom. As I’ve previously said, I’m not turning my class into Twitter 101, just trying to work a potentially helpful and minimally invasive tool into the mix.

I’m trying not to enter into this with any preconceived notions (other than, “there’s a possibility that this tool might be useful”), just a lot of questions. By the end of this, maybe neither one of us will be convinced.

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