Using Twitter in the Classroom

Hello teachers!

Today we’re going to discuss how social media, Twitter in particular, can help you connect with students, parents, and colleagues, as well as, provide instruction.

Many of us have, at one point of another, opened a social media account. Whether it was way back in the MySpace days or recently via Facebook or Twitter, social media can be difficult to avoid. While some teachers prefer to keep social media separate from the classroom, it can be a very powerful and beneficial way to connect with others on an academic level.

For example, in addition to the many professional athletes and celebrities that can be followed on Twitter, there are also many journalists, scientists, historians, and political analysts who pride themselves on posting only the most up-to-date and trustworthy information. Considering this fact, Twitter can be used as a medium to have valuable information delivered directly to you and your students.

If you’re new to Twitter, familiarize yourself with the Twitter lingo below before tackling this social platform.

  • Tweets: Messages or Twitter posts that accept a maximum of 140 characters. Tweets can come in the form of text or links to webpages, images, or videos. They can be about anything including thoughts, ideas, quotes, etc.
  • Follow: To follow someone on Twitter means to subscribe to their Tweets. The Tweets from those you follow are displayed on your home page. Others can follow you as well.
  • Hashtag (#): Hashtag symbols are used before keywords or phrases to categorize them within the Twitter community. Using hashtags helps users easily locate Tweets about a specific topic. For example, someone may post a link to an article about the Common Core State Standards and use the hashtag: #commoncore or #ccss. You click on or search for a hashtag to access the most recent Tweets from Twitter users who referenced the hashtag in their Tweets.
  • Mention (@): Using the @ symbol allows you to tag another Twitter user in your message. Perhaps the message you’re typing is relevant to another user or you think what you’re posting may be interesting to a colleague. In these cases, you can simply put the @ symbol before their Twitter username to mention them in the Tweet. They will then get notification of your Tweet.

Consider the idea of hashtags. They are used to categorize Tweets. However, you are not limited to using hashtags that already exist, you can create your own customized hashtags. For the following example, imagine you are Mrs. Jane Smith who teaches 7th grade at Garden Grove Middle School. Perhaps you want to create a general hashtag for the students in your classroom such as #smith7ggms or create different hashtags for specific lessons such as #sciproject-smith7ggms. You can create as many as you’d like!

Once you’ve chosen a hashtag, have students Tweet from their account and use the hashtag in their posts. Then, when you search for the unique hashtag in Twitter, you will see all of your students’ contributions. You and your students can then comment on one another’s Tweets.

A few things to note before you get started–First, get the OK from your administrator before using Twitter for any educational purposes. Second, keep in mind that though it is unlikely for someone to search for a unique hashtag such as #smith7ggms, Tweets are technically public. Take precautions as necessary. For example, you may wish to have students create separate accounts in which they do not include their full names (e.g., Robert E). Third, you will need to do a search for the hashtag you’re planning on having your students use. This is to ensure the hashtag is not already being used for a different purpose. If you search for the hashtag and no results appear, you are all set to use it with your students. Below are some examples of how you can use hashtags in your classroom.

  • Use hashtags for students and parents to post questions about school or classroom-related events and activities. You can create a general hashtag for questions such as #questions-smith7ggms or hashtags for specific events such as #openhouse-smith7ggms.
  • Create a hashtag to post announcements and reminders of due dates for assignments (#reminders-smith7ggms).
  • Create a hashtag for a question of the day that students need to access as a homework assignment each night, research the answer, and come prepared the following day for a class discussion (#qoftheday-smith7ggms).
  • Ask students to summarize news articles, textbook content, etc. under 140 characters (#summary-smith7ggms).
  • Using weekly vocabulary words, have students post a sentence a day on one of the words (#vocab-smith7ggms).

Have you ever used Twitter or any other social media in your classroom? Share your ideas with us in the comment section below! If not, hopefully this post will inspire you to maximize on the potential of social media with your students.

Happy teaching,

The #PDI Team