How Teachers can Add Twitter to the Classroom Toolbox

By Rob Klindt

With more than 200 million users worldwide sending about 500 million tweets each day, Twitter is one of the most popular social media programs on the Internet.

Its popularity is tied to its versatility. In addition to personal communications, Twitter is widely used in business, education, politics and even in government. It also is becoming an important tool in the classroom as K-12 teachers incorporate social media into lesson plans.

To get started using Twitter, teachers need to know how the program works and which Twitter tools can help their children learn.  

Twitter in the Classroom

Logo for how teachers can use Twitter in the classroomHere are some of the many ways teachers can put Twitter to work:

  • Building vocabulary and spelling skills.
  • Playing student “Word of The Day” games.
  • Teaching foreign languages.
  • Following news streams related to classroom studies.
  • Hosting an electronic classroom bulletin board.

 

Getting Started

It’s easy to get started using Twitter thanks to numerous online resources that can guide novice users in setting up and customizing an account.

  • Twitter for Educators. This interactive website is designed for educators who want a quick overview of getting started on Twitter and using it to enhance a personal learning network. A step-by-step tutorial assists in setting up an account. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Twitter Handbook for Teachers. This downloadable report by education blogger Tomaz Lasic offers an overview of Twitter and shares tips for using it in the classroom. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Twittonary. An interactive dictionary of Twitter-related words. Users can search the entire Twitter dictionary or by a single word. Don’t see the word you’re looking for? Submit it right here.
    Visit the site
  • Educational Hashtag Dictionary. This page by Edudemic explains how and when to use a hashtag and includes a list of the most popular education hashtag words.
    Visit the site

Tools and Multimedia

A host of third-party tools and programs can be used to enhance your Twitter experience and incorporate it into classroom lessons.

  • Linkyy. Twitter updates must fit within the 140-character limit, and that includes URL addresses, which often are much longer than 140 characters. Simply visit Linkyy and paste any long URL into its easy-to-use interface and the program will provide a shorter URL that will work with Twitter.
    Visit the site
  • Follow Famous. Use this tool to find and follow famous people who use Twitter. Search for politicians, world leaders, business executives, educators, professional athletes, celebrities and more. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Tweet Topic Explorer. Powered by The New York Times, this tool allows users to enter any Twitter ID and search breaking news, special reports and topic trends related to it in real time by clicking on a single word.  It can be helpful with high school civics or current events studies. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Twitpic. Users can instantly upload and share photos and videos with their Twitter posts with this simple-to-use tool, which also includes a hashtag search field. Free; registration is required.
    Visit the site
  • Instagram. Teachers can use this mobile photo sharing app with Twitter to showcase student projects, record steps in an assignment and even preserve and quickly share notes written on a whiteboard. Free.
    Visit the site

Applications

  • TweetDeck. This is one of the most popular apps around for scheduling single Tweets in advance. Examples include reminding students about tests and sending notices of parent-teacher conferences. It’s available for Android and iPhones. Free.
    Visit the site
    Buffer. The free version of this app allows users to schedule up to 10 Twitter updates a day via a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. It’s also compatible with Facebook and LinkedIn. The upgraded versions allow up to 100 posts a day for a nominal monthly fee.
    Visit the site
  • GroupTweet. This app lets teachers create a closed Twitter group for their classrooms. Lesson plans can be customized to include interactive Twitter feeds and group responses. Free for up to 300 followers.
    Visit the site

Twitter Feeds to Follow

Once a teacher has created a Twitter account, it’s important to log in regularly to keep up with connections and follow education trends.  There are hundreds of education-related Twitter feeds worth following. Here are a few of the most popular.

  • Teachers with Apps. This educational app discovery feed continually links to new and updated tech sites of interest to teachers.
    Visit the site
  • Teachers.net. Followers will find this feed an excellent source for teacher news, articles, lesson plans, teaching jobs and professional development tips.
    Visit the site
  • TeacherBeat. Education Week writer Stephen Sawchuk tweets the latest news in teacher development and education trends.
    Visit the site
  • Arne Duncan. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offers a Twitter feed that focuses on updates on federal policy and new education initiatives.
    Visit the site
  • PBSTeacherline. The official Twitter feed from PBS Teachers offers tips on professional development and resources for K-12 teachers.
    Visit the site

 A Word About Age

While some social media sites like Facebook require users to be 13 and older, Twitter has no age limit. Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea for teachers to contact the parents of younger students and ask if they have objections to their child having a Twitter account for classroom use.  It’s also important to check the school and district technology policies before creating any social media account for student use.

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