Twitter in education: Practical solutions

We talked at EDB about using twitter with students: the benefits, the drawbacks, the logistics – including the 48 hours of twitter assignment that Karen Russell and Kaye Sweetser use. One logistical issue was to help the students find and follow each other among the professor’s long list of followers. Karen Russell solved this problem by getting a new account to use with her class. However, one thing I like about twitter is the help I sometimes get from other people who jump in the class discussion. Creating a new account would make it impossible for my students to meet my twitter community.

Here are the 2 solutions I found, and I document them here so other instructors can use them (and so I don’t forget them!).

1) – ask students to use a specific number (or other set of characters) as part of their twitter user names. For example, the course number, or any other random number. Then, they can scroll through the list of followers and follow all the other people whose user names contain that number. This works well, but sometimes students dislike interfering with their freedom to create a user name they like. The second solution solves this problem, too:

2) – e-mail students a distinct, clearly different image that your other followers are unlikely to use and ask all students to upload that image as their twitter icon. Instruct students to scroll through your list of followers and follow all the people identified by that particular image. After the students have identified and followed all the other class members, they can upload their own photo to their twitter profile.

Another challenge is to keep track of a conversation students carry on a particular topic. Their tweets might get lost among the tweets of others you’re following. Ask your student to use hashtags (#) followed by a specific code so that Twemes will collect all (in theory, at least) the posts on that topic. For example, we discussed symbolic interactionism in my Communication Theory class and marked all tweets about it with #si. You can see the resulting conversation indexed on twemes. I noticed Twemes didn’t pick up ALL students’ posts, so I wouldn’t rely on it to assign participation points, at least not yet.

Do you have other practical solutions or ideas for using twitter in higher education? Please share them in the comments!

Need more on twitter? Here are some of my favorite links: