Twitter has been growing in popularity for some time now. We know that 26 percent of all internet users have a Twitter account, 73 percent of all Twitter users are 15-25, and that the adoption age has increased faster for 18-24 year old than any other adult age group in the past two years. This is why Twitter can be a powerful tool in any classroom.
In order to use Twitter chats the teacher should follow the subsequent steps.
First, the instructor and each student must have their own Twitter accounts. In order to create a Twitter account you only need an email account. Visit https://twitter.com/ and fill in the Sign up box and you're ready to go.
Second, you will need to create a hashtag for your classroom or course. A hashtag identifies topics or keywords on Twitter. For example, if you create a tweet (what a message on Twitter is called) regarding the last presidential election, you may have used one of these hashtags: #Obama2012 or #Mitt2012. The pound sign before the hashtag identifies it as such and makes your post searchable with all the other tweets about the same topic or keyword. Also there are no spaces in a hashtag either. A hashtag is a must if your want a chat or conversation.
When you create your classroom hashtag you could try one of these combinations for example:
- Your name and course topic (e.g., #LMoorescience)
- Your name and course number (e.g., #LMooreENG230)
- Your school name and topic (e.g., #JamesMadHighSpanish)
Whatever hashtag you create, be sure it's obvious, original and specific to your classroom.
A common example of hashtag conversations occurs at conferences. They will use what is called a backchannel discussion where a specific conference hashtag is used so participants can chat about the conference or a specific session as it is happening in real time.
Third, you will want to formulate a plan for your chat. This is a three part step. First, what will you use your chat for? It needs to be inviting and useful and not a long event or students will never use it. Some ideas include: homework help, review sessions, and general ask me sessions. Second, you want to decide on when you will host the chat. You may want to offer students a chat available each evening from 7-7:30 or once per week, say on Thursdays from 7-8. Third, you will need to advertise the chat and hashtag. You can put this chat on parent newsletters, on class websites or on a course syllabus. It is also a good idea to promote the chat every 2-3 weeks.
Fourth, you will want to use a webpage like TweetChat to track your Twitter chats. After you create your Twitter account, visit http://tweetchat.com/ and log in. Then follow your specific hashtag.
Next, you will run your twitter chat. First, start out with an introduction and ask others to introduce themselves by saying they are there and giving real first name or initials unless that's obvious by their username. If you have a specific chat topic announce that too and summarize what you plan to do. Here you will need to be creative as you only have 140 characters (including the hashtag) to create a tweet unless you use a website like TweetLonger.
Just a few more things before you proceed. Your students can use your course hashtag to communicate anytime outside class and outside any specific planned chat parameters using the course hashtag. This also means that teacher and student doesn't have to add each other as friends, which can keep the line between the two still evident. If your student are not using their real names, however, they should start their tweet with a first name or initials so you can identify them in the conversation.