Why would I use Twitter in my course? And how would I implement it?

Twitter is a microblogging tool that has been growing in popularity for many years. It allows users to easily share photos, videos, comments and links. If you are unsure how twitter works, check out the links below.

http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Twitter

So how can 140 characters posts in a social media tool be useful to you and your student?

Below are some ways you might think about integrating twitter into your course. This is not an exhaustive list, but there are resource links at the end of this article that provide some other options not explored here.

1. Promote engagement in your course

Everyone wants students to be engaged in a course. You hope that your lecture provides information and inspires; you hope that everyone chimes in during discussions; and you hope that students delve deep into understanding assignments. However, sometimes our students don’t provide us with feedback and we don’t realize they have comments or questions. This may because they are shy, just don’t want to interrupt the class or any number of reasons.

Audience Response Systems(ARS) are a great way of giving students a voice in class so they can overcome the shyness or the unwillingness to comment. However, many ARS options cost students money in the form of a separate device or require students to subscribe to a service at a cost that they use on their own internet enabled device.

Twitter although not a formal Audience Response System, can act as an open format ARS. Students are able to send questions, as well as comment and share interesting resources. Consider placing the a relevant twitter feed on the overhead screen during class. Also keep it in front of you via a computer monitor, phone, or tablet. This way is students have comments or questions they can post them and have them displayed in real time. You can address these comments and questions as they occur in class via a lecture or discussion; or you can take the time to post responses outside class time.

This does not mean that you should not look for raised hands in class, but it does provide another opportunity for questions and comments.

Here is how you can implement a twitter feed into your class.

Choose a hashtag that you would like students to include in their posts. Here is an example of a hashtag: #mooc. What the hashtag does is helps aggregate all related comments related to a particular topic, or in your case a particular course.

To begin implementing this, you will need to have a twitter account created. Once you have it created sign in to twitter.com so you have access to your account feed, settings etc.

Once signed in, simply type in your hashtag into the twitter search bar.

searchbar

Be sure to click all in the search results, otherwise it defaults to the top related posts.

showalltweets

But what if there are no results. Well if no one posts anything, then no results will show, especially the first class. To get things rolling and to test to make sure it is working, post a question or comment using the hashtag. This will allow you to check to make sure the feed is working properly.

There are twitter apps, that can be used on a laptop, or via a tablet (provided you have the proper connections) as well.

2. Keep the conversation going outside of class.

If you took the time to set up a twitter feed to be used in class, why not go one step further and embed the twitter feed in your Moodle course.

Go to twitter and do the search for your hashtag. Once you have done the search, you should see search results;”Results for #thingYouSearched”. Note that to the right of that text is a gear icon that is actually a drop down menu.

embedSearchButton

Click on embed this search. Note you will get a window that provides you with a variety of styling options such as default hight, link colours etc. It also provides you with a preview of what the embedded widget will look like. Once you have designed the widget to your liking, click on Create Widget.

createWidget

Note in the bottom right of the screen there is a field that has some code within it. Copy all of that code. It is your widget code. Select all, copy. Then log into your Moodle course.

embedCode

Once in your Moodle course, turn editing on. Choose to create a label. Be sure to choose to create a label where it is appropriate. In this case I would recommend in the top general section where the news forum appears.

buildLabel

In the Adding a new Label window, be sure to click show editing tools.

showEditTools

Click the HTML icon. The HTML source editor pops open. Don’t worry, you will not have to program. Paste the code you copied from the twitter widget window. Click update. Then click Save and return to course.

HTMLEdit
pasteTwitterCode

The widget should now be embedded in your Moodle course.

embeddedFeed

Be sure to let your students know that the conversation can go on after class, and that posting comments or questions using the hashtag is encouraged. Now students who login can see the comments as a review from class, or they can post new questions or comments using their twitter accounts.

3. Help students use Twitter to get the most out of it.

One of the biggest problems I had with Twitter when I started using it, was that I was constantly evaluating it. What was this tool good for? Once I got over the fact that I would never come across and original post that would change the world, I decided to determine what it’s real use to me was.

Twitter is useful as a discovery tool. It helps you find links and people that you may not have found with a normal search. Twitter allows you to retweet others posts, which allows you to share information you find with others who may have never stumbled upon it. It also shows you related tweets and who other people are following. This is great for discovering new people in fields of interest.

But the one tool twitter has that is very useful is the list function. Twitter will allow you to create lists, which is basically a feed of people you follow on twitter that is related to a specific topic. In the normal view of twitter when your home feed displays posts, it displays the posts of all the people your follow. In my case, I follow, technology magazines, technologists, illustrators, educators, musicians, writers, as well as friends and family. A post my friend makes is most likely not relevant to the illustrators I follow. Putting all the people I follow related to illustration helps me organize related topics.

One idea to try in class, is to provide students with a topic and ask them to create a twitter list related to that topic. Lists could then be shared with the class.

For more information about how you can implement Twitter in your class, contact the Teaching Centre or check out the other resources posted below.

Resources

1. 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom

2. 25 ways to teach with Twitter by Sonja Cole

3. Twitter for Academia