Twitter for Teachers – Twitter for teaching?

This post is inspired by an old (2009) blog post (here) from San Franciscan David Silver on on what he defines as thin and thick tweets: thin tweets are posts that convey one layer of information. Thick tweets convey two or more, often with help from a hyperlink.

It is also inspired by a recent blog post (March 2012) by Rebecca Lieb How Real Is Social Media Fatigue? (here) from which I quote below.

Twitter for Teachers

I have blogged previously about Twitter in education, especially as a tool for professional development (here for example).

I think that debate is well and truly sealed with those of us who use Twitter for continuing professional development. We are convinced of its effectiveness in our practice. Teachers and educators have developed what Rebecca Lieb describes as deep networks on Twitter.

Twitter for Teaching

  • Some basics – Twitter as Media

I have been practicing a little Twitter literacy with some of my Transition Year History students (aged about sixteen). A common first  reaction from students is I just don’t get Twitter.

This reaction is easy enough to knock on the head – I show them my Twitter account and explain how I use it – I  separate the feeds out on Tweet Deck and show some examples of live feeds, hash-tags and trends. I then let them loose on Twitter itself. The students get it, even if they don’t necessarily want to us it.

This type of lesson is important if only to teach the basics of digital participation and citizenship.

  • Developing with Twitter – using it in a subject area

Fintan O’ Mahony (no relation) an educator from County Tipperary, has his class tweeting, what we history teachers in Ireland understand as Significant Relevant Statements. These could be, for example,  two or three tentative statements of fact or an important cause and effect. This is a tweet from one of his classes on the French Revolution.

I had hoped in my own practice to have students (aged about sixteen) adopt the Twitter persona of a Key Personality (examples here) off our Leaving Certificate History course.

This did not work out the way I wished, as I had no joint control over the accounts (over thirty) that I would require each student to create. It is not that I wish to control the students accounts in a negative way, but that I wished to have professional agency with the students as we worked together. This is one of the benefits of Edublogs where a teachers and student can have joint control over the individual student blogs.I have done this previously with up to thirty blogs.

One of the students I teach tweeted the following

It meets Silver’s requirements of a thick tweet. It gives useful historical information and I can identify the student by their initials. However for the moment the Tweet is lost within a Twitter stream of all the other historical personalities I had the students choose.

Twitter Stream

There are ways around this that I am considering but the exercise made me reflect once again on the nature of Twitter and social-media.

Rebecca Lieb talks of using social media strategically and tactically (in her context of marketing).

Why is it we want to experiment in using Twitter in teaching our subject areas?

  • Is it to give relevancy and teach literacy?
  • Is it to see what is feasible?
  • is it to engage with our subjects in new ways?
  • Is it indeed a good use of valuable teaching time?

It would be interesting to sit down with a developer and see how Twitter might be further leveraged for deep learning.

Is Twitter for subject teaching simply a tactic on our way or something significant that might really develop the teaching and learning of our subject areas.

Just some thoughts – any comments?

Thanks to @fboss for tweeting the David Silver link.

Thanks to @klillington for tweeting the Rebecca Lieb link.


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  4. Donal O' Mahony

    Thank you Joshua

    You are right – I saw a recent series of file reviews in 140 characters – short and to the point and some very well thought-through.

    Key words are important too as you point out.

    You the first to reply to this post which I find interesting – it was one of the most visited posts I have written to date!

    Kind regards


  5. Joshua

    As an English teacher, I am interested in saying more with less. Boil down a thought to 140-160 characters, yet still have meaning.

    Another thought about the endless stream, word choice and ways to select words and phrases that will make it appear or make it easily searched or make it come to the top of particular searches.

    Best regards,