Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters. Users can tweet via the Twitter website, as well as androids, smartphones, and SMS from a mobile. (Wikipedia 2012)
Although Steven Johnson described the basic mechanics of Twitter as “remarkably simple” (2009 Time), the power of twitter is enhanced when it is used collaboratively with other online resources such as YouTube and Pintrest and Lynda.com.
Why Is Twittering an Appropriate Technology for a Modern Classroom?
Twitter is now being used in the classrooms as a tool of collaboration with increasing enthusiasm. Its advantages stem from the idea of a phenomenon called following and that the group can choose to remain a private by invitation only space. This ability to contain educational activity within an evolving Noosphere renders the learning situation as manageable as it is creatively fertile and productive. Twitter it is essentially a messaging mechanism that facilitates rapid pertinent, relevant and useful information delivery. The key concept is: just in time delivery accompanied by an advantage that the sharing mechanism can safely and incrementally be built into a targeted body of knowledge.
When class members sign up to be active users of Twitter, the collection of tweets appear in reverse chronological order on a main growing Twitter page. The power of Twitter can be harnessed for a traditional class room of 20 students or even collect the thoughts of thousands of likeminded people have become members of a Community of Learning Inquiry and Practice (CLIP); readers who sign up and follow the didactic trail of messaging will see a mix of tweets scrolling down the page in reverse chronological order. Latest messages will be at the top of the page.
How Twitter in the Classroom Could Function
For the most part, the use of twitter would simply mirror or augment the curriculum. Students can group posts together by topic or subject matter by use of hash tags, these are words or phrases prefixed with a
"#" sign. Teachers or students can research and tweet about topics either randomly or in a consigned manner.
"@" sign followed by a username is by students to mention or reply to other users. If students or teachers wish to repost a message from another Twitter user, and share it with class followers, the retweet function is symbolized by “RT” in the message. In this way educational conversations can be managed, while “Twitter Lists” make it possible for students to follow other coworkers and topics (as well as mention and reply to) ad-hoc lists of authors.
Because the messages are set to a 140-character limit they are compatible with SMS messaging, and often consist of shorthand notation and slang commonly used in SMS messages. The 140-character limit has also increased the usage of URL shortening services.
The educational power of Twitter is further increased when combined with content-hosting services, such as Twitpic, Morguefile.com or Deviant Art, YouTube and TeacherTube. Schools may have a preference for certain content hosting sites; however Twitipic could be used independently of Twitter, in a way similar to Flickr.
The compatibility of Twitipic to Twitter renders it an ideal companion site for the classroom or online learning community:
- TwitPic usernames and passwords mirror login procedures for Twitter;
- Comments to photographs are conveniently sent as a reply tweet; and
- TwitPic URLs are already short, making it unnecessary to use URL shortening.
Decomplicating the process is seen as desirable for students from lower grades that need to be presented with a process that is as simple as possible. Classes where professional artists are collaborating will have a need to think about and take action on issues of copyright and theft protection and choose content hosting sites appropriate to professional requirements. All sites have copyright issues and the choice of content hosting must always be guided by the level of privacy and copyright protection required. Morguefiles.com for example is an excellent content hosting site but one where work is not copyright protected.
Rapid eLearning Strategies Using Twitter Messaging
Whether teachers and students choose to use YouTube and/or Lynda.com or to sign up for regular educational tweets – Twitter is rapidly becoming one of the many powerful mechanisms that pulse through the quickly evolving field of Rapid eLearning. Rapid eLearning is an emergent phenomenon whereby information is received by students just in time for practical application and use of the information. Use of on demand information that is delivered in response to a request for help in the context of project based learning encourages immediate use of, understating and consolidation of that understanding and retention of that data. It may take time to set up this style of learning environment because it does require students are focused with goals aims and objectives rather than just floating about the web.
Structuring Structures Structure
Pierre Bourdieu talks of structuring structures structure (Hage 2010) and the idea of allowing a comprehensive learning structure to emerge as a consequence of sequenced collaborative project based learning episodes. This idea of bigger picture stragetizing may seem at first quite daunting. Wikipedia is an inspiring example of practical emergence growing as a consequence of online collaboration – it is amazing to watch as the phenomenon of collective intelligence becomes a way of thinking and working within the context of educational community.
This article is one of a series of articles outlining how Rapid Elearning can support project based learning in a context of a CLIP. This discussion takes place within the context of a soapstone carving workshop.
- Edutopia Staff. (Acessed 2012) Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience. Project-based learning helps students apply what they learn to real-life experiences and provides an all-around enriching education.
- Hage,G. (2010) Leading Thinkers Podcast University of Melbourne.
- Johnson,S (2009) How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live Time Magazine
- Murphy,J. (2012) Soap Stone Carving an Example of Rapid eLearning.
- Twitter (Accessed Nov 2012) Wikipedia