Using a social media tool like Twitter is an excellent way to connect with your students and extend education beyond the classroom. It places learning experiences into a modern context familiar to this tech savvy generation. Let's look at a few ways you can incorporate Twitter or Twitter-like sites into your curriculum.
It's important to note that alternatives to Twitter exist and may be more appropriate for your classroom. TodaysMeet provides a very simple, Twitter-like environment that is easy to use with students. If you are new to Twitter and social media, give TodaysMeet a try.
Discussions in character
An effective way to use Twitter is to have students tweet in character. Let's look at a specific example based upon Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Divide your class into groups of about five students each and have a Romeo and Juliet tweetup. Assign each group a unique hashtag (e.g., #chsenglit11 for CHS English Literature Period 1 Group 1). If you are using TodaysMeet, create a separate room for each group. Then assign each student a character from the play. Each group will be assigned the same set of characters. In our example, you will now have several groups with a Romeo, a Juliet, a Mercutio, etc. For the assignment, have the students tweet in character about important parts of the play or even tweet new scenes. A directive might be, "Tweet your character's thoughts immediately after Juliet's wedding gets moved to the next morning (before she drinks the poison)." Make sure they tweet in the Shakespearean writing style! This assignment could be a one-time event or a continuous assignment throughout the entire unit of study.
The possibilities are endless with this use of Twitter…have the characters of To Kill a Mockingbird tweet at the trial or the framers of the U.S. Constitution tweet while negotiating the Bill of Rights.
Tweet in a foreign language
If you are a language teacher, add Twitter to your collection of teaching tools. The idea is so simple yet very effective. Assign for students to have a tweet chat and they can only use the language they are studying. Since the responses are short, students don't get overwhelmed. And, since a tweet chat can be fast, they will have to think quickly. As with all of these ideas, give clear criteria and the outcomes you will assess.
Homework help sessions
Helping your students with homework after hours is difficult for most teachers. Use Twitter and student helpers to tackle this problem.
Start by assigning homework mentors who will be willing to moderate tweet chats. Design a timetable that fits with your student mentors' schedules. For example, Mike will be the homework mentor on Mondays from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Create a homework help hashtag or a separate TodaysMeet room as needed.
Backchannel during class
Allowing students to tweet during your lessons can be a challenge but it is also an effective way to extend learning. Start by giving clear directions and goals you have for using microblogging during class. Explain how this is a way to write their thoughts while the lesson is in progress. Instead of just thinking, "I'm not sure if I agree with that," you can tweet it. This can help steer the lesson for better understanding for all. If you have a projector, try to have the discussion stream showing for the whole class.
Use Twitter to post assignments
Using Twitter is an easy way to post assignments and your students don't even have to have an account. If you are using TodaysMeet, simply create a new room and set the time frame to one year. Give out the URL of the room to your students and their parents. Now you have a simple way to add your assignments.
If you want to use Twitter, create a new Twitter account that will be used only for school business. Then, create a hashtag for each class and send this information to your students and their parents. To post an assignment, type a tweet and include the hashtag for the correct class. Students can view this comment stream by going to http://tweetchat.com/room/yourhashtag. You can even add documents to your tweets by using a service such as TwitDoc.