Turbo Twitter!

I’ve been using Twitter almost since it poked its little blue beak from its own virtual egg. I first came across it while listening to the Paul Boagworld Podcast when I was in primary school and was super interested in web design and web 2.0 in general. Throughout the years, seems like centuries rather than decades, although the actual platform has not altered, the way it has been integrated and embedded into education has. Practitioners across the world now use Twitter effectively to support both teaching and learning. But how are students engaging with Twitter as an educational resource. Well, maybe Twitter has turned on its turbos!


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Turbo twitter bird

It’s a turbo twitter! (Original Image from Pixabay.com

People’s perception about Twitter has changed over the years. Initially Twitter was just about tweeting what you were doing…literally – “I’m off to the shops now” … or … “sat having a coffee”. Although I might still use it for this, there now exists a range of people and organisations using the full potential of Twitter to enhance learning, teaching and communication. I’ve waffled several times on this blog about the use of Twitter and how I use Twitter in a range of teaching and learning situations, but how are the students using twitter and is there the same interaction with it educationally. What I am going to waffle about today are just my perceptions from the Twittersphere. Many students have professional accounts on Twitter which they use to follow me and some have made no difference between their personal and professional accounts. Although I encourage them to follow me, I don’t follow them back, but encourage communication with me very hashtags and @iwilsonysj. It has to be noted here that if an account is private then the ‘@’ and ‘#’ will not been seen unless you are following the account. I often need to make the students aware about this since, as previously mentioned, I don’t follow them. So how have I seen the students using twitter specifically relating to the programme or teaching/learning?

  • Communication – Twitter is a place for communication. Not only is it easy, but it is always free, reaches a lot of people instantly and can be replied to. In a similar way to Facebook, twitter is used by the students to communicate a range of topics and events. With students often away on placement, I often see messages of ‘good luck’ and encouragement being sent – with the encouragement further supported with replies. The use of hashtags are important here to allow everyone to be involved and see the messages. Also generic accounts – such as the awarding winning Primary Education Society – also allows the message to be seen by a large number of followers. My own mobile device is set up to ‘buzz’ if I get a reply to a tweet. There are times when I turn this off – via Do Not Disturb – mainly when participating in tweetchats but generally it is on. This allows the students to include my own account within the tweets so that I can also ask for my own contribution. Questions about learning also can be asked via twitter and I often receive messages involving the movement between back to back lectures and location of rooms. This is more efficient than sending an email and becomes almost like texting without the need for exchanging numbers.

  • Sharing – As well as tweeting a range of messages I have noticed the increase in the amount of sharing that occurs through twitter. With teaching in primary schools there is the requirement to create resources to support the children’s learning. Many of these resources are created and constructed away from the university sessions and then subsequently used in schools on placement. Images of these resources are now being shared on twitter – using the appropriate hashtags – allowing other members of the course and tutors to comment on these as well as celebrating their success. As a tutor, I must say that I really like this interaction – it is really nice to see the student’s creating the resources and using them successfully within school. Linked with the sharing of made resources also comes the sharing of achievements. Using #ysjmaths students let me know how lessons have gone in school, how teachers have liked the resources we have discussed in sessions and how their own resources have been shared with other practitioners. Often I will see tweets stating that students are preparing for their ‘first’ mathematics lesson – to be followed later by a subsequent tweet stating about its success.

  • Extended Learning – One area of my practice that I try to do, although often find it hard when I am busy, is to tweet various articles or stories which I have found in the media. Recently I have tried to move away from just tweeting the link to trying to provide some sort of engagement or comment with it. Simple phrases such as ‘ interesting article’ or ‘relates to this week’s session’ can often be added without going over the 140 character limit. As more students start to engage with twitter I have also started to see the emergence of students adding me to tweets about articles or stories they have found on the internet. These are often comments as simple as – ‘have you seen this @iwilsonysj’ or using similar phrasing to me e.g. ‘interesting article @iwilsonysj’. Being keen on encouraging learning at all levels, I feel that this as started to allow the extending of learning away from the actual sessions in a similar way as the asynchronous learning of online discussion forums. Or, maybe something as simple, as learners applying the university sessions to other areas of their practice.

  • As each new year of students start, I am aware of the increase use of twitter within the cohort. As the number of students using twitter increases, what twitter is actually used for might also increase. This could mirror the simple progression which we have seen as long lasting users of the micro blogging platform, from tweets merely stating what is happening to contributions to learning and engagement. As an e-practitoner (see my previous waffle about not being a Learning Technologist) I know that I will continue to engage with twitter and model effective and possible practice for the learners, as well as being receptive to the new and innovative ways that they start to use the platform. Although not a twitter expert (I’ll leave this accolade for the learning technologists) I do consider myself an effective user and hope that one day I will be able to say to myself, in true Star Wars fashion, that once the students were the learners but now they are the Masters.

    I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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