Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Twitter for Administrators, Teachers, and Students

Twitter is a powerful tool that enables administrators, students, and teachers to develop and strengthen relationships with others who share their passions and interests around the world. Despite the common criticism, Twitter is not about meaningless 140 character sound bytes. The reality is that it’s all about the conversation. Just as in real life there can be meaningless or meaningful conversations. It’s all a matter of who you choose to connect with. The beauty of the 140 character limit is that is helps prevent folks from dominating the conversation and promotes a give and take dialogue.

It also provides concise chunks of information about topics of interest when users know how to follow hashtags. A hashtag is simply the Twitter way to search for items of interest by placing a “#” before a term. For example administrators may use the tag #cpchat (connected principals), teachers may use #edchat (education chat) and students may use #APEnglish (advanced placement English).  For a list of commonly used hashtags visit the compilation Jerry Blumengarten‏ (@cybraryman1) has created at http://www.cybraryman.com/edhashtags.html.

So how might administrators, teachers, and students use Twitter to enrich leading, teaching, and learning?  
Here are some ideas.


  • Administrators - When Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School in Bergen County, New Jersey wants information or an immediate response to a question he often starts with Twitter. As he shared in his interview with Scholastic Administrator, Twitter is the tool he used when he was seeking out ideas for a new school policy on social media. "I put it out there on Twitter. I used a hashtag with the initials NMHS for my school, which is not readily used by anyone but me. I got so many responses. Some were linked to policies, but then other people actually e-mailed me their entire policy." Sheninger, explains that Twitter enables him to harness the power of a human-generated search engine driven by education professionals who are passionate and have determined that having an online presence will have a dramatic, positive impact on their professional practice. (You can see the rest of his interview here.)
  • During the school day his Tweets often consist of shout outs to his students and staff. He has his Tweets  directly embedded on the right side of his web page which has the added benefit of making the home-school connection. Students and families are always in the know about what is being celebrated and focused on in the school.
  • Teachers -
    Teacher librarian Tracy Karas uses Twitter to share the great things going on in the Marta Valle High School Library Media Center. She does this by creating a webpage for her library and Tweeting her latest updates out for students, visitors, and the school community to read. She embeds the tweets on her webpage page so those who care can get instant, real time updates. Like Tracy, you can set up your own class page and Tweet what's new, what's hot, what's not.
  • Students -
    Michelle Luhtala has her students use Twitter to collect research about topics they are studying into a
    Paper.li newspaper. Students use Paper.li as a content curation service to publish newspapers using a selected Twitter hashtag selected for the topic they are studying. The tag is simply put in to Paper.li and a unique newspaper with all the research articles, pictures, and videos are compiled into a professional newspaper with information that matters most to the students.
For more information about and ideas on how to use each of these tools, check out Teaching Generation Text.

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