Twitter BirdIn the classroom just keeping students on task and learning is hard enough.  Add technology to that mix and you have an incredibly difficult task to keep student engagement and learning on track.  Throw in social media and some teachers think the world might end.  But that’s not the case for thousands of classroom’s all over the world.

I get asked every so often, “what is Twitter all about”, or “how can you get away with having your students use Twitter during class”, or “I don’t get Twitter and I don’t know why I should”.  Well, my answer to all of those questions gave me this top ten list.

1. Twitter has the news.

Twitter not only has actual news sources such as NPR and The New York Times that keep an up to date Twitter feed, but also you have reporters from all over the world covering news live and Tweeting about it.  You have civilians that Tweet about things they see, and you have experts commenting on events and news articles.  This can be a much richer source of news than just a news paper or blog post.

2. Twitter has #Hashtags.

All of the above and most of anything else you or your students may be looking for is organized by these called Hashtags.  By including a hashtag in a Tweet you automatically sort your tweet into a category with other similar tweets.  You can add as many hashtags as are appropriate.  You can then easily search a hashtag or tags.  You might even find hashtags about things you wouldn’t have thought about researching based on how people hashtag their tweets.

3. Twitter allows quick and useful mass communication

As soon as I set up my classroom Twitter account, students started following me.  And then it happened… I had students asking me questions on Twitter after school hours, and as I answered that one student, the rest could see my responses.  By answering one question I effectively answered several of the same questions.  Also, I sent out tweet reminders of projects and tests, and had students ask me what they missed in class if they were out.  One of the lessons I learned in school was to learn how to communicate with students on their level to be more effective.  The students use Twitter (amongst other social media) so they are used to it, and it makes sense for them to be comfortable communicating with it.

4. Twitter lets you share the experience

Even if you aren’t the most techy of teachers, I’ll bet you use your phone to snap pictures.  Twitter lets you share out those pictures quickly and easily.  Instead of emailing or using a USB drive, you can share pictures on twitter and save you the time and hassle of individually sharing those pictures from the field trip or class project with students and parents.

5. Twitter can be simi-private

One of the biggest ‘scary’ things people think about social media is that everyone in the world will know where you are and what you are doing.  First, let me assure you that everyone in the world has better things to do than track you on the internet.  But you can require Twitter to ask you before allowing someone to follow you, and you can control just who see’s what from your account.  You can keep the boogie man out – I promise.

6. Twitter breaks down barriers

Twitter can break down the perceived barrier between your students and experts from around the world.  If someone is on Twitter, they usually look at 120 characters as an insignificant expenditure of time.  It is not uncommon at all for students who post questions on Twitter to have those questions answered by many people, including industry leaders, famous people, and experts in a field.  Twitter even helps us to sort out the real verified twitterpeople of the Rif-RAF by letting us know who is verified and who is not.  So just because someone chose Adam Savage as their user name, doesn’t mean that is who it is unless you see the Verified icon Twitter uses to denote the real person named Adam Savage (or whoever it is).  It’s not there for all people, but for prominent people Twitter is good about verifying those.

7. Twitter can Connect YOU!

Twitter can (and will if you try it) connect you to other educators and allow you to see what others are doing in your content or school type area.  It’s full of educators that share ideas, assignments, tips and tricks, heck – even this blog post to twitter.  Setting up your PLN (Personal Learning Network) should include Twitter along with RSS feeds of blogs, Linked In, perhaps Facebook (but not so much for me), and even Instagram so that you can connect with more than just the teachers and staff in your school and district but with the world and bring great ideas to your classroom and school.  Eventually you can become one of the people that other educators look to for great ideas and keep the circle of life long learning going.  Be sure to follow the ‘big’ hashtags like #edchat and #ntchat (new teacher chat).

8. Twitter can expand the walls of your classroom

Students can communicate with other students from around the country or around the world even.  This allows your students to learn how other students think, live, what they learn about, and what matters to them.  No matter what subject or level you teach, getting students to connect with other students can only enhance the learning experience and environment in your room.

9. Twitter can help you Flip your Classroom

If you have a Flipped Classroom (and I highly recommend you try it if you have never) Twitter can help you remember, keep on track, or enhance the Flip.  One of the things about a Flipped Classroom is that you are not present when the students are getting the material.  Twitter can lessen the ‘scariness’ of that experience because you can be there in a limited way.  Plus, you know how when you create a lesson, about 10 minutes after the students leave you find this really awesome resource (happens to me all the time).  Twitter allows you to share that even after the students are home from school.

10. Twitter Tip more than use

Finally here’s a great tip more so than a “what twitter can do for you” – get a Twitter account and play with it.  Seriously, once you get into Twitter you’ll have ideas on how to integrate it into your lessons.  But always remember that Twitter, or any social media, should enhance and add to your lesson not be your lesson.  And don’t forget to follow me and this blog @MrLeeTeaches

10 Reasons to Tweet in your classroom