As the use of social media rise, we may feel tempted to suppress its use inside of the classroom to keep students focused on the content. However, social media can provide tools to enhance learning for students. Twitter provides these four techniques (among many others) that teachers can use to enrich their student’s learning:
1. Follow the experts or topical Twitter accounts.
In many cases, experts or topical users can post tweets that provide new ideas to teachers or give teachers ideas on how to expand on their subject. As teachers, we can take these tweets and add them directly to our presentations, helping to create a more enriched presentation that also helps students relate to the material (a related tweet as opposed to a related quote). In the past, teachers may have quoted from books, but using modern social media for students can help them connect with the material.
Depending on how dynamic the class and materials are, we can also use embedded tweets at website locations or links to tweets so that students can interact with the experts or topical Twitter accounts in addition to reading them. This helps students to learn outside the classroom – they can ask questions directly and bring their findings to the class.
2. Use Discover
One challenge we face is finding material we can use and that will help our students learn. Twitter tailors “# Discover” for our own use. Under this tab, Twitter will make recommendations about tweets we’ll find interesting, who we should follow, activity of who we’re following, and categories. This can help, especially, if we feel like we’re low on material for a day, or if we’re tired of presenting the same material and want to change things for your students. This also shows what other Twitter accounts we follow have done – whether they’ve favorited or retweeted tweets that we could use or followed accounts that we may find fascinating.
3. Find a Twitter chat
Twitter chats open a channel for users to meet others on Twitter with similar interests that sometimes involve a series of questions (sometimes, chats involve a featured guest). For instance, if we teach science, #scichat offers us the ability to chat with educators in the science field (and possibly students). These Twitter chats offer us a few tools to enhance our student’s learning experience:
- We can meet others in our field who may have faced some of the same problems that we have. By connecting with them, we can learn what steps they took to overcome these challenges. Likewise, we may be able to help others – after all, we learn more material about any topic when we teach that topic because we’re asked questions that expand our thinking on the topic above what we ask ourselves.
- These discussions may occur when we have class and allowing students to be a part of a Twitter chat (or offering extra credit if they engage on their own) allows them to discuss what they think is important about the material with others. This encourages students to become active learners, sharers and possibly, teachers.
- Even if we choose not to interact, we can see a picture of how everyone interacts in the chat and how the chat can be useful. For instance, if we teach history, and want a previous of a topic like Genghis Khan, we could watch a history chat. Do we want a debate about the ethics of Genghis Khan, the rapid expansion and influence of his empire, or do we want to simply focus on his leadership methods? A topical Twitter chat can provide us with a snapshot the topic’s highlights.
- Twitter chats open the door for teachers and students to lead beyond their classroom – for instance, a teacher could have a computer science class lead a Twitter chat on MongoDB, Ruby on Rails, or Python techniques. Whether this engages with others immediately or not, it creates focused and social learning on a network where people seek information. A class may even start its own topical chat and experience others outside the class join in the discussion.
You can see some educational Twitter chats on this Google calendar.
4. Surf #Hashtags
Twitter allows users to “surf” a hashtag: when a user clicks on a blue item beginning with the # symbol, they can see the most recent tweets on that hashtag. A live hashtag feed can excite a class trying to learn about any topic (for instance, #romanhistory will show tweets related to Roman history). In some cases, these tweets will also have other content in them – media, articles, or book mentions that we can use for our classes that we didn’t know existed; in this way, Twitter acts like a news feed, where trends related to material, rise and become more frequent. Often these trends – if valid – will remain, while the invalid trends will pass in time.