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March 9, 2011

So, what's Twitter good for, anyway?

Twitter has become fairly well known in Japan, so I'm going to focus on what you can do with it as a teacher rather than how it works (in a nutsehll, if you can send a text message, you can handle Twitter). If you want to start with basics, watch Twitter in Plain English or look at Can Twitter Make You a Better Teacher?

Ultimately, Twitter is just another tool for teachers, and how you use it determines whether you think it's brilliant or inane. Luckily, teachers are always finding new uses for Twitter, both as a teaching tool and as a forum for professional development.

Some of my favorite things to do on Twitter include:

Hashtags make it possible to follow discussions on twitter, and to search conversations for information and links that might have been shared when I wasn't online. I've mentioned #ELTchat before, which is a moderated discussion that happens each Wednesday at 12 noon and 9 pm GMT (which is 9 pm Wednesday and 6 am Thursday for us in Japan). Other moderated chats I enjoy following include #ELLchat (more ESL), #Edchat (more general education), and #ntchat (for new teachers). I check #twinglish to talk with folks using Twitter to practice English, and #edtech to see what cool new ideas are floating about. Tags mean that I don't have to be on Twitter to see what's being talked about by teachers.

Twitter makes it very easy to collaborate with teachers around the world. One of my favorite projects happened serendipitously. I helped my young learners create an alphabet book on Voicethread, and then sent out a tweet (message) asking people to add words to the various pages. The response amazed me. Within days, my students were able to listen to words in a variety of English flavors. Then, a technology teacher in New Jersey adopted our alphabet book as a project for her first grade students, providing students in both countries with an authentic global connection from a very young age.


I would never have met Kim if not for Twitter. You can read about this ongoing project on her class blog. Because the alphabet book is online, it continues to grow as words are added, and it can be shared by any class.

Searching and Discovering
Most of my most interesting resources come from links shared by teachers on Twitter. It's a lot like having a search engine whose results come with recommendations. I save my favorites in my social bookmarks on Delicious, and on my Teaching Village wiki, so I can find them later (and just as importantly, so others can find them). If you use an application like Tweetdeck to display your Twitter feed, it's easy to filter results to show only those messages with shared links--click on "filter this column" at the bottom of the column you wish to search, enter "http" and you'll see all the links that have been shared in that category.


What if you're not quite ready to dive into Twitter? There are a couple of easy ways to enjoy the benefits of shared Twitter wisdom without having to deal with the noise of multiple simultaneous conversations.

I've mentioned Tweetchat before, as a way to monitor #ELTChat dicussions. You can enter any hashtag, in multiple Tweetchat windows, to "listen in" on any conversation that uses tags.

Another way is to subscribe to a newsletter than collects and publishes links in a newspaper format. It's a nice graphic way to see what's happening on Twitter. I recently created a newsletter for my Starter PLN list on Twitter.


The Starter PLN is a list of about 100 educators I recommend for teachers starting out on Twitter. I've chosen them for two reasons--they share great information and they're friendly and helpful for newcomers. By subscribing to the Starter PLN Daily you'll receive an email each day with a link to a new edition, filled with all the links categorized by topic. Even if you are on Twitter, a newsletter like this can be a nice way to save links for future reference.

What about you? What are some of your favorite ways to use Twitter?

About March 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Barb's Bits and Bytes in March 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2011 is the previous archive.

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