For a blog post

A while ago, Andrea and I wrote “How to Hack it on Twitter.” This is a followup (of sorts) on some of those ideas and food for thought for those thinking of using Twitter in the HigherEd online, hybrid or face to face classroom, specifically at the graduate level.  There are lots of guides out there for k12 and undergraduate – I am speaking to the population that I know best!

WHY SHOULD I USE TWITTER?
My mantra has always been to lead by example, I am not out to “convert” everyone to a Twitter user. I have found Twitter invaluable as a resource for teaching and professional development and I would love for my students to experience that as well so they can decide if they want to integrate it into their own personal practice.  Specifically in teaching, I find Twitter useful for a backchanel, reading discussion and connection to wider ideas and communities. You can connect with the authors you’re reading and discussing (see Adrienne’s recent tweet) and have public conversations that are not dependent on time and space – these are things that I have not been able to do in a traditional CMS/LMS.

HOW DO I FACILITATE CONVERSATION?
In our face-to-face summer sessions, we use Twitter as a backchannel and have found HootCourse (not to be confused with HootSuite) invaluable for facilitating these conversations.  HootCourse is wonderful because it allows you to create a “class” or group & designate your hashtag so anyone who tweets via HootCourse will have their tweet pre-populated with the class hashtag (more on hashtags in a minute.) The other thing I like and appreciate is the fact that HootCourse allows for people who have private Twitter profiles to participate and be seen in class twitter discussions without the rest of the class/group having to follow that person. I respect the privacy of my students and while Twitter works best when public, there are legitimate reasons why some students do not want to participate in the public sphere.  This allows them to do so, with out compromising their personal reasons for remaining private.

As a concrete example – Mike and Sean have the students “tweet and read” at night. They’re given prompts like:

Chapter 2 in Sparks (deep read, be thinking about how imagination might be different from creativity). Read and Tweet just this chapter using #maetyr3 and #sg2

While teaching face to face, I have HootCourse & TweetDeck open and between the two tools, I have a fairly good hand on the conversations.

In my online teaching, I currently use Twitter as an informal backchannel and have a close ear to the ground for anything with the #maet hashtag. (I also follow our MAET course codes #CEP810, #CEP811, #CEP 812 and on.)

WHAT HASHTAG SHOULD I USE?
Hashtags are a very important part of using twitter with a group of people – they’re what set your tweets apart from the crowd and allow for easier searching.  I always suggest using your course code – generally that’s very unique and means something to your class population.  If you want your tweets read by a wider audience, you may want to selectively use other hashtags – SELECTIVELY is the important word here, you will be creating a lot of noise and chatter, all good noise and chatter and relevant to your context, but may not always be relevant to the more popular hashtags.  For example, as edtech goes – a conversation or reading my line up with #edchat one week, or we may be doing something relevant to #nwp, #highered, etc. at that time, I would either model this in my own tweets, or, explicitly suggest to students that they use those hashtags to engage in more global conversations.

One other note here for newbies, you cannot control who uses your hashtag – that is the beauty of the open, unregulated twitter-verse. You will want to search the hashtag you’re thinking of using http://twitter.com/search just to make sure there is not another organization or group using that code frequently.

HOW AND WHY SHOULD I ARCHIVE?
Twitter is nebulous – and if you’re a newbie Twitter user yourself, can be tricky if you’re thinking about using it in a “high stakes” way (aka grading anything that happens on Twitter.) Twitter is not self archiving, tweets can disappear, you can miss conversations between students if you’re not following a member of the conversation or if a student forgets to hashtag a conversation. Luckily there are some tools that can help with this. Those that know me know I’m probably the #1 fan of ifttt – you can create some pretty amazing recipes with ifttt & Evernote that will help with archiving.

If you have a small class,  this recipe should do the trick:
Specific User Tweets to Evernote http://ifttt.com/recipes/20726

You can also try:
if twitter #hashtag then archive on evernote – http://ifttt.com/recipes/13829
twitter fav to evernote – http://ifttt.com/recipes/9172

The Archivist is also a very beautiful and handy tool that will allow for data visualization from your archives. The trick here is BE PROACTIVE in your archiving strategy – these tools cannot go back in time, it’s not the way the Twitter search API works.

HOW DO I GRADE TWEETS?     
My answer to this one – don’t (for many of the reasons I just listed in the archive section,  you may not be seeing everything that happens.) If you have to put a grade on it – blend it in with overall participation.  All too often, message boards/posts are graded based on volume (post x many things) rather than quality.  I would suggest developing some sort of rubric/scheme around Sliver’s idea of “thick and thin tweets” and have a discussion with your students on how they think participation should be assessed and collectively construct a rubric or set of standards.

This is just the surface! Let’s discuss more in comments – please share your best practice tips, successes & failures!

 

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