What can it add to your course?
I’ve been a bit skeptical about what Twitter can provide that’s better than what most instructors already do. It seem like a pretty superficial tool for academics. But after viewing a Faculty e-Commons webinar by Brian Mull, a former teacher and current education technology guru, I got the point. (I also found this article, which features his same story, and more information about using Twitter.) The resonating moment about the benefit of Twitter in education came after Brian posted a rhetorical question about the uprisings in Egypt, with the hashtag, “#Egypt.” Anyone around the world who followed or searched, “#Egypt,” could then see his question. And it was immediately replied to by an Egyptian woman who was actually standing in a Cairo street with a crowd of protesters. He had not expected this.
Being a good teacher, Brian didn’t let this unlikely connection go to waste. He continued tweeting with the woman, and the next day, he brought her into a classroom via a Skype video chat, to talk with a class of Texas students who had mostly never been out of their own small town. That’s a big deal.
So what’s the point of Twitter? The benefit comes from knowing how to use ‘#’ and ‘@’. These symbols allow users to search for a specific topic or for the posts of a particular expert. Find what people are posting about Gifted Education by searching, “#gtchat.” Get automatic updates from the experts at “@TeacherCast” by searching for them and clicking the “Follow” button. The benefit of Twitter over other searches is that the most current information lands on top, unlike what may come up from a Google search, and you can weed out the junk by finding and following a reliable expert.
And, like in Brian’s case, you and your students may be able to connect with people who are part of the action, simply by sharing a serendipitous tweet with the right tag.
Click here to see a list of hashtags for instructors. And for more on how to use Twitter, check out this tutorial video: