Twitter is a free service that lets users broadcast short messages to a group of people. “Tweets”, as they’re known can be sent to mobile devices or read on a users profile page online. Followers subscribe to updates and they’re either aggregated on a web page or sent individually to a mobile device.
So where does all this fit in academia? Well think of Twitter as a virtual water cooler, fostering discussion of the weekends events or yesterdays lecture. It can help develop more of a community within your classes, encourage discussion and forge relationships outside of class.
Educators might be interested in Twitter to either give instant feedback on assignments or to get feedback from students, did they understand what was said or do they need further guidance. Sometimes the informal nature of Internet communication can be just what’s needed for a nervous student to put a hand up.
Putting technology like this into practice is nowhere near as daunting as it may seem. George Mayo, an eighth grade English teacher at Silver Spring International Middle School in Montgomery County, Maryland used Twitter as a collaboration tool. He invited his students and students around the world to take part in a story writing exercise by sending tweets and adding to the story, in six weeks students from six different countries had collectively finished the story.
Innovations like this are popping up everywhere as educators find more and more creative uses for social tools to cater for a new generation of digital natives. In the not too distant future we hope that we can make use of tools such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and others to make the learning experience just that little bit easier.