Using twitter with students

How are you using twitter with students

Cloud created by:

Gráinne Conole
3 October 2009

Sparked by a conversation in a related cloud with Tony McNeil, I have set up this cloud to look at how Twitter is being used with students.

  • Have you used Twitter with your students?
  • If so how has it worked?
  • How have you set it up and how much have you structured/moderated in some way?
  • How is it being used alongside other communication tools on the course?

Extra content

TwapperKeeper archive of #EdTechTips (Hints and tips for using Twitter with students) here

Rebecca Galley
12:59 on 16 October 2009

The Twitter Experiment - "Twistory" in the Classroom Video

Giota Alevizou
13:15 on 12 February 2010 (Edited 14:39 on 5 March 2010)

Embedded Content

To Tweet or not to Tweet?

To Tweet or not to Tweet?

added by Rebecca Galley


Gráinne Conole
10:25am 3 October 2009

My own experience of using twitter as a student was not that successful. On my spanish course I set up a hash tag and suggested that we tweet in spanish - thought it would be a good way to practice our reading and writing. But there was little take up...

11:49am 3 October 2009

I have used twitter with my students in school with kids aged 11-16 - I have also blogged about some it on my blog - check out the blog post for more information on this!

Gráinne Conole
12:29pm 3 October 2009

Thanks for this! Really great idea!

Sharon Flynn
1:08pm 3 October 2009

I "teach" academic staff about using technology. Yesterday I introduced them to twitter and we are going to conduct our own twitter experiment, using a hashtag. I've given them all homework: to set up a twitter account; create a decent profile; tweet once about what they learned from yesterday's session; tweet again linking to a resource they have found; and to keep a watch on the hashtag.

Don't know how it will go, will report on any results.

Gráinne Conole
1:15pm 3 October 2009

Hi Sharon - sounds great! Will be interested to hear how it goes. Are you also planning to suggest to them people it might be worth them following? One of the amazing things for me with twitter is the serendipity of connecting with people you have never met! I ran a workshop a while back on getting funding from JISC and sent a tweet -"Tips and hints for getting JISC funding' and got loads and loads of really useful replied. The participants were really impressed seeing these tweets all arrive during the workshop! Brian Kelly wrote a nice blog post summarising what happened - will add a link to it.

Jane Challinor
1:21pm 3 October 2009

Not something I had considered until recently - but sparked by a similar question to this one I have now invited students on my Virtual Teams module to set up an account and follow me. My intention is to show them how to use this as a means for keeping in touch with their own dispersed team members. First task was to send me a Tweet about the challenges of leading virtual teams in 140 characters!!  I also hope they will branch out and start to use it for their own personal and professional development - some signs of this already!

Gráinne Conole
2:51pm 3 October 2009

Nice approach Jane! I think it is a good idea t semi-structure the use of twitter when it's being used with students - if only in terms of getting them started!


AJ Cann
3:03pm 3 October 2009 (Edited 8:39am 5 October 2009)

We have explored Twitter as an alternative communication channel for students:

While only a minority "get it", for those that do, Twitter becomes a very rich medium supporting learning. A paper describing our findings is currently awaiting publication.

Gráinne Conole
3:12pm 3 October 2009 (Edited 3:14pm 3 October 2009)

Thanks Alan and I agree it's not going to be for everyone, but if some students find it useful then thats all that's needed.

Peter Reed
4:18pm 3 October 2009

This is an interesting discussion that ive been meaning to ask on twitter for a while now.

Whilst twitter usage is high amongst the 'converted', I wonder how many actually use it within learning and teaching. My use (@reedyreedles) has varied quite a bit (see blog post, and I think there could be considerable challenges in getting a whole class of active users - anything else would surely raise questions around equality of experiences.

As a learning technologist in sunny Ormskirk (Edge Hill), and supporting Health CPD on a daily basis, I think a major problem would be getting learners signed up to an additional service. Plus, why would one be happy with restricting a message/question/instruction to 140 characters? I get frustrated with having to use 'text speak' to shrtn my msg so u can c it. ;-) it doesn't actually model good writing practice does it? Or do others see this as practicing the art of writing concisely?

Part of me thinks that it could be a bit too gimmicky, but having said that, if twitter was somehow integrated within the learning environment (VLE, PLE, whatever else), then it just might work - maybe for sharing links to resources (but isn't that what social bookmarking is for)?

I think we need to be careful that just because we successfully use it within our international community 'for' TEL, that we don't enforce it (or any other tools) onto students. To quote Mark Schofield, we need to consider the Purpose, Audience and Form within every TEL implementation.

Gráinne Conole
6:15pm 3 October 2009

Good point useage within a teaching/research context may well be different to use with students. I think its also important to think about the blend of communication tools. In particular I suspect its very important to be very clear with students what the benefits to them will be of using twitter.

Erik Duval
12:29pm 4 October 2009 (Edited 10:17am 7 October 2009)

Am using twitter with my students in my ongoing course on multimedia: you can join the conversation at - main idea is to maintain real-time awareness of what everybody is doing...

(We also use Facebook, delicious and blogs...)

Gráinne Conole
12:39pm 4 October 2009

Hi Erik

Looks interesting and pretty active. What do the students say about the use of the different media? On one course I chaired I used a mix of forums and blogs and got mixed views. Some students hated blogging and hated have information/conversations distributed rather than in one clearly signposted place.

Martin Weller
2:24pm 4 October 2009

I didn't use it so much as give it to my students at the start of the course and encourage them all to sign up. I think about half took to it, those that didn't had the usual reservations. What I think has been interesting is that a few have stayed active beyond the course and twitter is a much better way of maintaining this network than having to commit to using forums say. It's also a very democratising space - I often forget who are students and who are peers, which I think is great. For students I think if we encouraged them to get going at the start of their undergrad studies, think of the network they would have established by the end of their studies. This in itself is a valuable outcome of a degree.

Gráinne Conole
2:28pm 4 October 2009

Thanks for this Martin; two very important points. I agree networking is really now an essential lifeskill as important as literacy, numeracy etc, helping students understand that and develop their own network should be started as soon as possible. I also agree re: the democratisation - I like the fact I have interactions on twitter with students on one of the masters modules even though I am not directly involved in it, likewise putting my Spanish student hat on having people give me encouragement and support via Twitter.

Simon Brookes
8:34am 5 October 2009

Hi I am about to use Twitter with level one and level two Enterprise degree students.  I intend to use it in two ways:

1. As a mechanism for students to do short-burst reflection at the end of each taught session (Tweflection!).  The idea came from my experience of students finding it difficult to reflect on their learning experiences.  In this case I am using Twitter pretty much as a substitute for a traditional written journal which experience has also shown me that students do not use.  I think the benefits are two-fold.  Firstly, recorded, short bursts of reflection are better than no reflection at all.  It is my intention that the students will utilise the aggregated Tweflections as the basis of a longer reflective essay at the end of the unit.  Secondly, I can monitor individual student's and encourage those who are not participating.  I can also provide summative feedback where appropriate.

I do have a question relating to this.  Can anyone recommend a simple method of archiving Tweets?  I am going round in circles with this problem at the moment.

2. I intend to provide Twitter as an optional tool to encourage discussion amongst the level 2 students.  I have set-up a blog which I am using as an aggregation platform.  I will set various tasks for the group which will require them to gather and discuss information out of class.  Although I want the results of this to be posted online,  I do not want to be prescriptive about the tools they choose to use.  So the blog will aggregate Tweets, emails to the blog (which can contain photos, movies, audio, links, other documents) and SMS messages.  The students can use whatever technology they are comfortable/familiar with.  I will use the aggregated input, projected in class, as a catalyst for further class discussion.

I'd be pleased to hear views/comments.

Many thanks



Gráinne Conole
8:42am 5 October 2009

Tweflection - I love it! Have come across Tweetfolios before - think thats what @AJCann refers to them as. We use TwapperKeeper for archiving tweets.

AJ Cann
8:43am 5 October 2009

@Simon: In my experience, the best way of archiving tweets is to get students to use a course-specific hashtag, which means they can opt in and out of what they want to be archived, promoting conversation. Subscibe to the RSS fee for the hashtag in Google Reader and the job's a good 'un. Simples.

Simon Brookes
8:49am 5 October 2009

Problem is that Twitter only keeps Tweets for a relatively short period of time and an RSS will only aggregate information "on the fly".  So the #tag method is only as good as the length of time the tweets are available in Twitter.  The other thing is that the students "tweflections" have to be private (with the exception of myself).  I am asking them to set-up new, private Twitter accounts and then getting them to follow my new account I have set-up for this purpose. I was going to use "Twistory" but it is not compatible with our students Univeristy Google calendars.

Peter Reed
9:25am 5 October 2009

Hi Simon,

although I haven't used the archiving tools like the one Grainne suggested, I would have thought it would keep them safe for you.

However, I can't help but think your using the wrong tool for what you are trying to achieve. As other people have mentioned in this 'cloud' already, a key benefit of Twitter is the community aspect. If your encouraging private accounts with only you as a follower, then it removes all community aspects. Almost as though its using twitter for the sake of it.
Reflection is something that is difficult to keep to 140 characters, certainly if your encouraging some reflective model. How would one use the What, So What, Now What principle (Brookfield?) in this way?

I take the point that previous attempts to encourage a reflective journal may not have worked, but I'd be inclined to re-look at this and analyse the motivating factors that you implemented, rather than adopt something like twitter.

But then again, im not saying I know it all in this matter, and there are so many variables that can impact. Please let me know how it goes with it though. :-)

AJ Cann
9:44am 5 October 2009

@Simon: The point of subscribing to the RSS feed in Google Reader is that you then have your own permanent record of the hashtag conversation - try it and you'll see how it works. 

Simon Brookes
9:53am 5 October 2009

Thanks for the comments Peter.  I am so passionately against using technology for the sake of it - it is my biggest bugear!  I am not asking the students to reflect fully using this technique.  The idea is that they capture something - a mood, a thought, an issue, something they found interesting, something they learned etc.  The true reflection will hopefully precipitate (with guidance similar to the model you propose above)  when they come to re-look at these short bursts at the end of the unit. One of the biggest problems with reflection is that the students do not keep a record of these things during their day-to-day learning and by the time they are asked to reflect on the experience holistically, they have nothing to draw on (and often no appetite to think to hard about it "because the unit is over").

I really like the idea of short, concise bursts and hope that the students will be more inclined to do this because it does not involve much effort on their part.  Twitter is just a tool to facilitate this concept.  It's worth a try I think!


Gráinne Conole
10:45am 5 October 2009

Really interesting discussion - agree with many of the points you are both making Simon/Peter. I think one big advantage is that now that there are good iphone apps for twitter it makes posting something quickly, anywhere really easy and hence more likely to happen.

Emma Duke-Williams
4:17pm 5 October 2009 (Edited 4:19pm 5 October 2009)


do you think that it's Twistory that's not compatible with the Google calendars that the students get, or the fact you've got them to set it as private?


I'm working at the same university as Simon & have got a student a/c as well as a staff one. I've just tried adding my Twitter a/c Twistory to my student apps calendar. I know that it works fine on my "normal" google calendar. My twitter a/c is set to be public.

Giota Alevizou
4:54pm 5 October 2009

Great points and reflections about embedding twitter use in a particular learning design and/or demonstrating clear purpose and form. It would be interesting to 'survey' weather twitter use has been more succesful in (online) courses where inter-networking, announcing is part of learning design. Journalism comes to mind and from knowledge I know that Paul Bradshaw has taught online journalism students from Birmingham City University to use twitter to ask questions about twitter, signing their tweets ‘#twask‘.It would be interesting to follow that.

Kasper Sorensen has also blogged about this here

Nathan Lomax
5:41pm 6 October 2009

The 140 character limit is not a problem if all you want to do is post a link to more detailed info. I only use Twitter as a source of useful links which I store in Delicious.

One way of getting students to use it is to ask them to keep a blog of useful links they have found and summarise how they have been useful.

Gráinne Conole
6:29pm 6 October 2009

Nice tip Nathan - might be good to try and amalgamate out the tips which are emerging from this as I think people would find it really useful.

Emma Duke-Williams
7:07pm 6 October 2009 (Edited 7:15pm 6 October 2009)

I like that idea, Nathan! Also, the 140 characters lets you give a hint as to why the ULR's worth visiting - especially as you can't get any clues if the twitterer has used etc., to shorten the URL.

That said, I don't find people's links to their post's that useful - as you can't get that much information about the links - ... but on the other hand, given how hard it is to get my students to share bookmarks (in the past, via discussion boards; more recently with - I guess any way of sharing them would be great!

Emma Duke-Williams
7:19pm 6 October 2009

Slightly different thought, so a different post!

Has anyone tried using twitter as a back channel when lecturing, as (sometimes!) happens at conferences?

Most of my classes are quite small, so not sure that it would work quite as well (also I don't mind them interrupting; but perhaps some are shy)

[Practicality; I've got a spare projector in my office & several old lappys]

Peter Reed
7:24am 7 October 2009

Hi again,

Nathan an interesting use, but does this not duplicate the whole point of social bookmarking?

Why don't you just get people to bookmark in Delicious and then set up a feed to those bookmarks somewhere (PLE/VLE/MLE/Portal). It would reduce the need to use a seperate tool.... OR....

Just use a hastag in Twitter to share links, and create a feed to that.

sorry if this makes me look like the educational-twitter Grim-reaper :-)

Nathan Lomax
9:37am 7 October 2009

Hi Peter,

Yes, that makes sense if the purpose is purely bookmarking.

From an English language teaching perspective blogs are a good way for students to practice describing why links were useful and reflect on their own learning. It's also a way of assessing how much reflection they have done!

Hashtags are a good way to create a course community within Twitter but, considering the ephemeral existence of Tweets, I find having students post links to their blogs in a course Wiki is a better way for me to keep track of their work.

Clare McCullagh
10:00pm 7 October 2009

Here are a couple of beneficial and particular features of twitter that strike me, as a new tweeter: the massive potential access to such a broad range of 'nitty gritty' info in a very short space of time - this is something students could be encouraged to tap into but the 140 char limit means that scanning rather than deep reading is required, and this may need to be explicitly addressed with students, so that twitter use is efficient rather than very time-consuming - it can be easily overwhelming. I like the fact that it's an environment where people share cool ideas, resources and links - in itself a positive 'model' for group work and learning. Martin Weller mentions twitter is a fairly democratising space and I think as such could be empowering for students. Martin also highlights the networking potential for students as a reason in itself to twitter - Russell Stannard makes this point very effectively in a short article for the THES, although he's referring to the potential for academics:

Gráinne Conole
9:55am 8 October 2009

Great points Clare - totally agree. Also thanks for the article (have added as a link above) very interesting!

Simon Brookes
9:59am 8 October 2009

How annoying is this ridiculously narrow discussion column?


Rebecca Galley
10:05am 8 October 2009

@Simon agreed - we're on to it!

Giota Alevizou
10:09am 8 October 2009

@Simon. Thanks for the feedback! We are working to improve the interface for the discussions.

Gráinne Conole
10:41am 8 October 2009

@Simon - yep sorry will be changed very very soon! Juliette onto it as we speak!

Simon Brookes
10:43am 8 October 2009

I'm sorry I didn't mean for that to sound so rude.  Apart from that - it's fab!


Gráinne Conole
10:49am 8 October 2009

No problem SImon! Ww have recently had our designer back to look at the site again and he has made great suggestions for improving it. Particularly exciting will have activity streams much more prominent soon!

Rebecca Galley
2:35pm 16 June 2010 (Edited 2:36pm 16 June 2010)

Via @guy75 on Twitter checkout for using Twitter as part of a powerpoint presentation

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