There are really three parts to using Twitter as an educator. Professional Development, Parent Communication, & as a creative student tool. Below you will find a few ways I have thought of or heard of about using twitter in the classroom separated into these categories. Please share more ideas in the comments.
Professional Development:Twitter is the largest PLC - Professional Learning Community in existence & many educators have found the value of connecting with colleagues not just down the hall, but all over the country & all over the world.
Resources: Twitter is a treasure chest of creative thinking & ideas for the classroom. The key to finding them with ease is the hashtag. Hashtags - "#" are used to identify a key word or topic to categorize the tweet under. For instance most of my tweets can be found by searching #RPLC (stands for Reynoldsburg Professional Learning Community). This makes finding resources easy if you know the hashtags to search for...so when you create an account make sure to find out which hashtags will become your friends. To get started check out some popular educational hastags or see a complete list compiled by Cybrary Man.
Chats: Twitter chats allow you to plug in & connect with other educators from all over the world. They take place at various times & choose various topics to cover so no matter what your schedule or interest there is a chat you could join. Chats make use of hashtags so you simply click the #Discover link at the top of the Twitter page & type in the chat you want to join (ex. #ntchat or #edchat). You'll get a streaming list of everything listed under those hashtags & if you join during the live chat it will continually update as educators discuss the current topic. Sit back & read or jump in & discuss to collaborate in a way you never have before. Cybrary Man also has a list of Educational Twitter chats including times when the various chats take place.
Parent Communication:We all know that parent support, involvement, & communication is key. Using Twitter as a communication tool with parents can make your job a lot easier. Share homework, websites, pictures, upcoming events, info on things coming home, & whatever else. Highlight excellent work, announce achievements, even create a class archiver position & designate one student each week who tweets out what is going on in class during the day. Parents will love the communication & feedback!
They don't have twitter: In your Twitter settings you can easily set it up to post all your tweets to a facebook account (You could create a class facebook account just for this purpose). Between Facebook & Twitter you can probably cover the majority of your parents, but just in case you can connect to Linkedin, Google+, & other social networks as well, just Google how to do it. If parents are not on twitter encourage them to sign up for an account just to follow you. After they sign up they don't even have to get on a computer as they can have twitter text them everytime you send out a tweet. If parents have a cell phone but no internet access offer for them to come to your classroom to set up their account, follow you, & forward all tweets to their phone. Done!
Yes but I can send info via email: True, however Twitter forces you to keep it brief ..also those following understand it will be brief, 140 characters or less! Knowing this you tend to tweet more than if you just used email. Little things about the day, quick reminders, a pic of a project completed. These are things you might not email, but it is nothing to send a quick tweet. On top of that, as mentioned above you can also send via text to parents who may not have a computer. (If they don't have a cell, well, buy a stamp I guess)
Student Tool:Play TwitTag: Start by asking one of your students a questions on twitter using their @ twitter handle & your specific classroom #. They have to answer the question & then think of a question to ask another student including the new student's @ this way it keeps going. Have them always be sure to include the class # so that anyone can search & see all the questions & answers. By asking one question & pushing the domino you have now created an entire review. Smarter, not harder, plus students now have ownership.
Taking Notes: Twitter notes keep on giving. Not only do you take notes for yourself but anyone else who searches or happens upon your thoughts can benefit as well. As the teacher you can even create lists on twitter to organize & turn your students notes into a great resource. Reply to a students's twitter note to clarify or bring out an important point missed. I personally have started using Twitter as my primary note taking option when I go to conferences. Thoughts, questions, website links, are all posted to my twitter account for myself & anyone else who is searching.
Twitterature: Literature in 140-characters? Of course not, that's why we call it Twitterature, but what's wrong with that? Go outside the box & instill creativity in your students by challenging them to write something meaningful in 140 or less. Poetry, a short story (continued in multiple tweets), or another creative idea can challenge students knowledge of the English language & creative ability to organize thought. Check out this article in the New York times on The Rise of Twitter Poetry.
GeoTwitGraphy: For my fellow Social Studies teachers out there try making global connections along side real world people. Have your class tweet asking for participation from all over the world & see who participates. Ask 5 important questions that could have one word or short answers. Then map out your feedback & discuss the differences.
Class Discussion: Projecting a twitter feed or even having it run on an iPad in front of you can solicit questions that may have never been asked. Students who may not want to raise their hand either because shyness, or not wanting to "bother the class", may be more willing to tweet a question during a lecture or discussion. Sites like TweetChat, Twitter Fall, Tweet Deck, or Tweet Grid are great for this. If you have an iPad and use Google presentations, try checking out TJ Houston's Soapbox app which allows the presentation to coexist with a twitter feed. Whatever the method find a way to tap into those unasked questions we all know exist.
One of my sessions at the Ohio eTech conference this year is entitled "So I have a Twitter Account, Now What?". If you are going or know those who need Twitterlightened click here for more info about the session. If you're not going but can join us to share ideas of 140 characters or less, jump in Monday, February 11th @ 3:45pm #oetc13
For more ideas on how to use Twitter in the classroom check out "100 Ways To Use Twitter In Education, By Degree Of Difficulty" by Jeff Dunn at edudemic.com
*Important note please do not call GreenPeace, PETA, or anyother organiztion. I have nothing against Whales, Dolphins, or Trees.