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Barb's Bits and Bytes

Web 2.0 for learning and teaching - the continuing online adventures of a not-so-techie teacher

March 09, 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?

« EFL Classrom 2.0: A community by teachers for teachers | Main | When Facebook Becomes a Lifeline »


In another bit of serendipity, Willy Cardoso (a Twitter friend) just published a blog post on much the same topic. It's well worth reading:

Thanks for this, Barbara (Barb?) :)

Good points here. Twitter is amazing for my PLN, and I'm only disappointed that I came upon it just recently!!!

Enjoy the end of your day. :)

A great introduction Barbara it's such a fantastic tool for all of these things. I just wanted to add the DM (direct message) function which allows you to communicate directly with people. Wonderful if you're working on something with one or two others as it's like an instant message. Also good if you want people to hop over to twitter to do something immediately. Or for plotting Birthday greetings etc..!

Thanks for chiming in, Brad! You're a perfect example of someone I would probably not have met without Twitter :-)

(Barb or Barbara--I answer to both!)

Thanks for adding info about the DM function, Berni! I find myself using that quite often when I need to talk to one person and don't want to fill up other people's Twitter stream.

It's a great feature!

Thanks for teaching me the http search on Tweetdeck! I have lots to learn about twitter, tweetdeck and functionalities of both :-)

I have many favorite ways to use twitter, some of which you mentioned. Something it's very useful for is immediate tech support. Many times I caught myself not being able to do something I wanted / needed (i.e. save a wordle as an image in my computer, embed a video in my wordpress blog, etc) and tweet a help shoutout just to get helpful responses and be able to do what I wanted.

:-) Ceci

Thanks for this Barbara! A great summary of the fabulous learning possibilities via Twitter.

I've passed the link on to my work colleagues.

Look forward to seeing you online soon!


@Cecilia Thanks for that addition. Twitter is one of the only places I know where I can send out a help request (Does anyone know to ...? Does anyone know a good tool for....? Does anyone know a reference for ...?) and almost always get a quick answer. That's a great use, isn't it?

@Janet Thanks for the kind words and vote of confidence! I always look forward to seeing you around cyberspace, too!

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