While prominent scholars such as Professor Snarky and the Lego Academics are already harnessing the power of Twitter for connecting academic communities, Twitter is also a valuable tool for university teaching. There are a multitude of ways to use it, but here are three simple ones to try.
1. Embed a twitter feed into your iLearn space
This is a very easy way to introduce students to the wealth of online information about your field of study. Choose a relevant, active hashtag (e.g. #geology, or #climatechange, or one of the hundreds of popular hashtags for education) to appear in your block. The feed will automatically update as new Tweets are…tweeted.
- Very easy to do; just follow the Quick guide instructions to add the block to your iLearn space.
- As it’s dynamic, the feed gives your unit an engagement boost without you having to do anything!
- Students can join the conversation by replying, tweeting or retweeting directly from the Twitter feed block in iLearn.
- You have no control over what is tweeted to any given hashtag. You need to rely on students’ being digitally literate enough to discern what information is sound and relevant to the unit.
- Unless your students are already really keen on Twitter, this is probably not going to be enough to get them participating in an online conversation. It will more likely to be a one-way street for information – not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your aims.
2. Curate your own #hashtag
Start your own hashtag for your unit. By tweeting to this hashtag and selectively retweeting other content from across the social web, you’ll be curating a feed of relevant information for your students.
— David Christian (@davidgchristian) March 17, 2015
— Diana Perche (@Diana_Perche) March 18, 2015
- Allows you to easily let students know about latest developments in your field, such as a world event or a just-published piece of ground-breaking research.
- Although theoretically anybody can tweet to your hashtag, what appears in the feed will usually be generated just by you and your students.
- Again, unless you are very active, this will be more for information and isn’t necessarily going to get students involve and tweeting themselves.
More of a tip: check that your chosen hashtag is not already in use by another group before you decide to use it!
3. Use your class #hashtag for communication
Tired of discussion forums? Set up a class hashtag and encourage students to communicate with each other and ask questions this way.
— MqOllie (@MqOllie) January 25, 2015
- This can be a very dynamic way of getting students to interact with each other.
- Students might even sometimes answer each others questions about the unit on Twitter.
- Less simple than the other two!
- To make this work and prevent it from getting out of control, you need to be clear from the start about your preferred communication channels in the unit and what you want the class to use Twitter for.
- This approach requires modelling what you want your students to do by being active on Twitter yourself. Ollie Coady, tutor on EDUC261, found that a good icebreaker activity was to ask his students to find a useful resource on the internet and tweet it into the class hashtag.
A note of caution: Twitter (like all social media) can change without warning. It’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan when you’re using social media in teaching (especially if it’s relating to assessment).
Acknowledgement: This post was co-written with Ollie “The Oracle” Coady, Educational Designer (@MqOllie).
For more advice on using social media in teaching, talk to your Educational Designer by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.