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With an increasing number of students having access to the Internet and social networking sites becoming extremely popular, there are great benefits that can be gained by using such a site in the educational setting, specifically Twitter.  Setting up an account is easily done and can be implemented into instruction for a variety of grade levels. Not only is this service free to use, but it also provides a way to pass information instantaneously while keeping students actively involved and interested.


Twitter is a real-time blog that is used by a variety of individuals and institutions, including news services, job finding sites, and now schools. Blog entries on Twitter, or "tweets", are character limited so messages must be direct and to the point in order to effectively convey a message. This setup not only prevents users from becoming bored by lengthy posts but also allows for individuals to access such information by both computer and wireless devices. Additionally, Twitter users can set up their account to notify their cellular device when a new tweet has been posted.


How do we setup and use Twitter:

According to twitter, twitter is a rich source of instant information.  Users can stay updated, keep others updated and choose who they want to follow, all of this happens instantaneously.


Creating a twitter account only requires four things, a current email address, which  can be gotten for free on many domains such as gmail or yahoo.  A user name is created by the user and checked for availability by the twitter service.  The user also needs to put in their full name and finally, the users must create a password for their account.  An added benefit of this account is that campus IT departments are not servicing it, so any users that forget passwords or need other help can find it at twitter.com.  Users also have the ability to set their account as public or private account.  A private account prevents the users tweets from appearing in the public area of twitter.


Twitter is available to everyone who has access to the internet. Most users use Twitter from the mobile phone, or smart phone.  This allows users to tweet other users from just about anywhere they are, as long as they have a cell or data connection.  Users can also log into any number of programs available on their devices to post tweets and read what others have tweeted.  The only restriction on a tweet is the number of characters that can be typed, once a student passes 140 characters, they would begin a new tweet. 


Twitter has developed its own dictionary of words that need to be introduced here, briefly.  When a user sends a message, they are TWEETING.  When someone receives a tweet, that is because they are FOLLOWING a twitter user.  Tweets can include common words and links to sites on the web that may contain pictures, stories or whatever other information is represented by your TWEET.


Another common practice is the forwarding of tweets by another user, this is called RETWEETED, or retweeting a message.  Twitter users are also able to talk directly to a follower or someone they are following by initiating a DIRECT MESSAGE.  A DM, or direct message, is only viewable by the sender and the receiver. 


Tweets are also REMEMBERED and SEARCHABLE.  Users can search for tweets that contain certain words or phrases directly from their mobile device, or whatever device they have their twitter capable program on.  If a student has a question about something that was tweeted earllier, they can review their history and they can also search all tweets sent by anyone in the twitter network.  Searching does not return DM or private twitter account messages.


Some possibilities for a classroom setting include:

Tweeting to your friends a time and place to meet for studying.  This is called a tweetup.

Teachers can send out a tweet reminding their students about a quiz or assignment due date.

A student can tweet to the class or the instructor and ask a question.

There are numerous uses for twitter in the classroom that this presentation will cover in a few moments.


Twitter in Primary Education:


Using Twitter in a primary school

Using Twitter in the elementary classroom seems like a strange idea at first. How is it possible for young children use a social networking site to develop their own learning and is it appropriate or safe?  In both case studies (Kurtz 2009 and Waller 2009), Twitter was used to develop student learning in a primary classroom.  However, they were not used for the same purpose.  


Jeff Kurtz in Washington State, USA, used Twitter for a twofold purpose. The primary purpose was to develop students’ writing and editing skills. Students were led to use language creatively and descriptively but within the 140 character limit of Twitter. The teacher modelled this at first and then used it as a whole class writing activity. The class would microblog constantly throughout the day to describe their learning activities. The class would revise and edit the posting together as a class before tweeting.  It then developed to students being able to write down in a notebook their own ideas for the tweets and editing them themselves before the teacher tweeted them.  Students were editing and revising their own writing and were writing for a purpose and an audience. (Kurtz 2009).  He also worked on teaching internet safety as he did not limit their followers, but left it open to the public domain.


His second purpose was to keep parents and families engaged in their child’s learning.  Parents and grandparents could read on Twitter what the students were doing and would ask them about it at the end of the day.  The teacher also uploaded audio recordings of the class reading and singing. Children would show their parents what they did at school that day and the parents became more involved in their child’ learning. (Kurtz 2009)


Martin Waller in Stockton, United Kingdom, used Twitter to help children reflect upon their learning and develop their metacognition.  Students were encouraged to describe classroom activities and to tweet them on the public domain. The students’ tweets and subsequent comments were used to develop classroom discussion about learning and how they learned and what they enjoyed about learning. (Waller 2009)


In both cases, Twitter was used on at least a daily basis, if not several times a day. Twitter impacted students learning in positive ways.



Twitter in Secondary Education:


As children reach middle school, they start to shift some of their priorities to more social activities. Including technologies like Twitter can help lure the students back in to the task at hand. Because Twitter allows for open discussion amongst students it can raise the bar on study time. In the past children were free to visit each other after school. Studying together and working on projects as a group was not as difficult as it is today. Especially with students having to pitch in at home, as well as, the level of mistrust in our neighborhoods. Having a vehicle which encourages students to ask questions to their teacher and peers can bring down some of those societal walls.


As educators we have a responsibility to keep our students informed on proper behaviors, this includes texting. How else can we enforce proper grammar and spelling when (at least in my classroom) most of the students' writing is happening on their phone through texting. Having a Twitter page, which documents all Tweets can force students to be aware of the consequences. It can also allow a safe place for them to work through their mistakes anonymously because a teacher can set up the accounts as Student 1, 2, 3, etc...


Parental involvement is key to a child's educational success. With the use of Twitter parents no longer have to rely on their child's memory or sometimes honesty. They can follow their child's teacher along with the students and be kept in the information loop. This will help to build a stronger educational community.


One example that can help to build on the educational community would be a Twitter account setup by the campus administration. Through this account parents can receive newsletters and updates. Another example would be the two-way communication that can be setup between students and teachers. This form helps to strengthen the connection between teacher and student by making sure that each student is heard. Sometimes students can feel ignored in the classroom when asking questions concurrently.


Twitter in Higher Education:


In 2008 it was reported that approximately 96% of American college students were Internet users and nearly 90% of college students were cell phone owners.  It’s reasonable to assume that these numbers will continue to grow as technology becomes more available and affordable.   Essentially all students are wired and this is a fact that can and should be utilized.


There is a variety of ways in which Twitter can be implemented into higher education.  The first way is by instructors using Twitter to encourage discussions after class by posting a topic and then requiring all students to comment. Because of the 140-character limit, students will need to effectively convey their ideas without adding extra, non-essential information. Students can see ideas posted by others and have a chance to reflect and respond, effectively taking part in an online blog and sharing a great deal of information in between weekly classroom sessions.  Once an instructor and his or her students have created Twitter accounts, it provides a unique and powerful way to continue the communication flow outside of normal classroom instruction.


Additionally, students can use Twitter to post questions for their instructor. Chances are more than one student had the same question and both the question and answer can be viewed simultaneously by all subscribers.


Once students are following their instructor on Twitter, they can receive instant updates such as schedule changes or corrections to the syllabus. When posting tweets, the instructor can request for student users to confirm they have received the new information. And since Twitter updates can be viewed with a wireless device, information can be shared almost anytime and anywhere.


Another beneficial feature of Twitter is it allows users to track specific information, providing another means to gather data for research. Users can set up their account to track keywords and will receive an update each time a tweet is posted that uses that keyword. This same feature can be used to gather information on conferences or meetings. Users can also set up their account to receive constant, instant updates from subject matter experts whether from investigative reporters or political figures.  


While some students might be intimidated in the classroom setting due to a larger audience or fear or interrupting the instruction, Twitter presents an alternate way to allow for participation. It is a tool to disseminate information in an expedient and easy manner.


Classes utilizing Twitter will have increased communication between students and a means to get to know each other better than in traditional classrooms. Standard classes are normally limited to one or two hours per week, while Twitter presents a near infinite amount of time for information sharing. Through on-line discussions, instructors and students gain a greater understanding of each other's beliefs along with background information and personal experiences.


With increased knowledge of his or her class, an instructor can construct new approaches particular to that group for more effective instruction. Students will get to know each other better than with traditional classes and identify with those sharing similar views, which could be extremely beneficial when engaging in group projects.


Twitter is not a substitute for traditional research and all information should be checked for reliability, but it does present an additional means to obtain information for research purposes.


There are countless ways in which Twitter can be utilized in higher education, with more ways being developed each day as updated features are introduced and users become more imaginative. This Internet service provides a means for instructors and students to share information instantly even without the availability of a computer, encouraging communication outside of classroom sessions. It allows for all users to get to know each other better and presents a new way of gathering information for research. This service is highly recommended for use in higher education settings and proper utilization will help lead to instructional success.




With an increased percentage of students being connected to the Internet and the recent popularity of social networking sites such as Twitter, instructors can utilize these technologies for a more efficient educational process. When conducting research we were able to identify the numerous advantages and applications of this Internet site, specifically in primary, high school, and higher education classrooms. Tutorials were provided for Twitter account creation and implementation for instructors and students at each of the designated educational levels. Not only is this service cost effective but it is extremely user friendly and can be accessed in a variety of ways.


Utilization of Twitter in primary education proved to be a new tool in developing young students reading and writing skills. It supplements the traditional lesson by presenting a new and entertaining means for students to hone their literary skills. This is done both individually and as a class, allowing users to learn from others and keep them actively involved in the learning process. Twitter accounts also can be used by instructors to pass on updates on class curriculum and student progression to parents. All activities are archived and provide a tool to reflect back on past exercises.


In the high school setting, Twitter can be created for individual students, classes, or the entire school. It provides a way for information to be shared between teacher, student, and family users instantly. Uses range from broadcasting updates on school sporting events to student faculty members sharing recommended educational practices. At this age, students are more connected to the Internet and can access the various Twitter accounts on a regular basis.


Higher education students are more familiar with Internet technologies than the previous two educational levels and would benefit greatly from Twitter usage. Instant updates on course schedule and curriculum changes can be shared, along with encouraging discussions outside of regular scheduled classes. Twitter presents a new way for students to share ideas, follow users with similar interests, and conduct research.


Twitter is a newer technology that is used by a variety of individuals of different ages, interests, and backgrounds. As with any newly introduced technology, it's capabilities continue to grow and develop each day. Account set up is quick, easy, and free process. So there is no additional cost for the educational insitution for the service or for the maintenance. Users have gained a new tool to communicate with others, share information, and supplement education nearly anytime and anywhere due to compatibility with a variety of wireless devices. We fee this is an invaluable service that can and should be implemented in today's and future classrooms.

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