Using Twitter with students has gotten easier

It’s been over two years since the last time I had my students send tweets during their field trip. The folks at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (one of our field trip stops) wrote a fun article about my students’ recent Twitter-filled visit.

Such may have been the disapproving sigh of an observer watching a busload of teenagers tour Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory last week. The 11th and 12th graders from Appleton, Wisconsin, spent an awful lot of time typing away on their cell phones. But be not dismayed, O horrified observer. They were just doing their homework. [read on…]

In two years, making this project work has gotten a lot easier. Here’s why:

  • a lot more students have cellphones with unlimited texting- and they all know how to text
  • many students have smart phones that allow easier tweeting via an app
  • students with iPod Touches just hopped on the public wifi they found available during the trip (we even had wifi on the bus!)
  • I didn’t have to explain Twitter to any of  the students- they all knew what it was and no one asked how to setup an account this time around
  • Twitter’s lists feature made grouping our field trip tweets super easy

This makes me think about what we’ll be able to do in two more years.

I do have two more things to add to my list of things that teachers should consider when using Twitter:

  • remind students that anyone will be able to read their tweets- they should never post about others unless they’re comfortable having that person read what they wrote
  • instruct the students to be discrete when they’re using their cellphone- ringers should be off and the activity of texting shouldn’t be any more disruptive than traditional note-taking

Lastly, check out the students’ tweets from this year’s trip.

5 thoughts to “Using Twitter with students has gotten easier”

  1. How many of your students were using twitter before the class? I find that virtually none of my college students use twitter, and the few graduates from my science-blogging capstone course that started twitter accounts did not stick with it for long. I have convinced two of them to get back on to promote their blogs, but there does not seem to be a critical enough mass of 20-somethings on Twitter. But maybe that is just here in Ohio.

    I am interested in reading more about how you use Twitter, as I am getting more caught up with it and think I see the benefits for classroom use.

  2. I had only a few students using Twitter before this- maybe three or four.

    I’m not too worried if they don’t go back to it. Twitter may not be around in the future but I’m sure recording and posting data from a hand-held device will be.

    I also think we need to be more comfortable with students using digital devices during lectures and tours- just like we’re comfortable with them writing in notebooks.

  3. It was an interesting experience when I wrote tweets from a conference last year, during the sessions. I wondered if people thought I was checking my email during talks, when I was really listening intently and compacting what I heard into my tweets. There is definitely a change in mindset needed if smartphones and laptops are going to be involved with education. I know that when the laptops are up, I may be competing for students’ attentions, but trust that they are doing something that is helping them with the class.

    I have found this semester that blogs are not a great tool for carrying on discussions between classes. Maybe because it is too much effort to get to the blog to post a comment, and students that do get there often write too much. Have you found twitter to be a better platform for discussion than blog comment threads?

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