Monday, July 6, 2009

Twitter for Education?

Launched in July 2006 (see as a little communications service (originally called Twttr and created by Odeo), Twitter has become the latest fade and fastest growing Web 2.0 tool on the planet. Twitter ( was described early in its history as “a social network around text messaging” (see above link). Early subscribers (twitterers) would send messages (“tweets”) on such mundane things as “totally could use a vacation now!!!” to “This girl can play some funky songs on her ukulele.”

While those types of tweets are still very common, the tool is also being used to offer customer support (, UPS), sell products (, inform about current events ( and more.

Of special interest to educators are the suggestions offered by Jim Vanides in his Digital Learning Environments blog back in early June 2009 ( He suggests using Twitter:
  • To create “a backchannel…for student participation (posting questions/comments) during a large group presentation – sort of like giving the audience permission to pass notes, because you can give the note-passing a metacognitive purpose.” Jim has seen this technique used at education conferences and we’ll give this a try at SIDLIT (the Summer Institute on Distance Learning and Instructional Technology scheduled for July 30-31, 2009; see
  • For “real-time collaboration” among students, such as when on a field trips.
  • To enhance audience participation at athletic events.
  • To communicate with a specific audience such as “students’ parents” or alumni or campus clubs (instead of “always creating lengthy newsletters or wading through lots of email”).
  • To handle conference planning or to provide “non-attendees” a sense of “being there”. Check out
If you’re interested in learning more about how twitter works, check out Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milsten’s The Twitter Book, from O’Reilly Press, $19.99. It’s a fast read.

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