Common Sense Review
Updated May 2013

Twitter

Smart classroom tool if used with care; priceless for PD
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • When you open up Twitter, you'll see a timeline of people you follow.
  • You can follow all your students, and vice versa.
  • You can customize your Twitter home page with avatars and backgrounds.
  • Then divide each class up into separate lists.
  • Hashtag chats allow for more focused, topic-specific discussions.
Pros
Its energetic, fast-paced communication appeals to tech-savvy students and could really open up a classroom discourse.
Cons
Safety and privacy issues definitely come into play with kid Twitter use.
Bottom Line
The challenge of creating pithy statements can enhance learning as kids build communication, discussion, and writing skills.
Polly Conway
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

It can be crazy fun for kids to tweet back and forth with friends, so hopefully some of that will spill over into more educational content. Twitter's design is always top-notch, and kids will like personalizing their pages.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Twitter can help teens learn to write concisely, and hashtag chats on various topics can offer new perspectives on specific interests.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

There's a huge base of support for Twitter users, and teens should be able to figure it out pretty quickly. Data is well-preserved, and it's possible to tweet pictures and videos for those with different learning styles.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

A Spanish class could practice language skills by tweeting only in Spanish to each other; 140-character bursts would be perfect for the basics. It could also be interesting to research a current event through the eyes of Twitter; natural disasters and government uprisings are often better-documented on Twitter than some news sources. With the rise of "citizen journalism," many eyewitnesses use Twitter to give moment-by-moment accounts of what's happening. You can also use Twitter as a home base for classes, assigning homework or quizzes, or starting conversations with students. When using it as a class, though, make sure you set up ground rules for language and respect, as kids may be used to using Twitter for more casual communication.

Teachers should also be aware of the incredible resources available on Twitter for professional development. Across the world, educators are turning to Twitter as a way to build personal learning networks. By following other educators and participating in education-focused chats, teachers can expand their network of colleagues and find resources to further their classroom practice.

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What's It Like?

Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging platform that allows users to communicate through 140-character messages on a computer or smartphone. It's used by millions of people worldwide to keep up with news, gossip, events, weather -- you name it, it's being talked about on Twitter.

Once you sign up with an email and password, you'll be directed to start "following" people. The people you follow will show up in your Timeline, a scrolling list of real-time tweets. When you tweet, the people who follow you will see your tweets in their timeline. Those are the nuts and bolts of this platform -- it's pretty basic! You can organize the people you follow into groups (e.g., Ms. Johnson's World History Period 5) and view tweets separately this way. It's also possible to search Twitter for certain terms or hashtags -- for example, #Congress or #Obama. Hashtags are also used for topic-specific discussions (often held weekly) in various fields such as the weekly education chats #edchat, #ellchat, and #sschat.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Kids can learn some solid communication skills while using Twitter. How do you distill a great idea into 140 characters? It takes critical-thinking and writing skills to economize on language Twitter-style, and kids will have to respond quickly to keep up with the usually fast-paced conversations that happen there. Getting involved in a teacher-moderated debate or answering a pop-quiz question in one sentence, kids'll learn to focus on important points. Overall, Twitter can be a great, innovative place to foster scholarly discussion in this modern age.

Kids learn to stay organized, listen, and respond to their peers in the short and sweet world of Twitter. Seriously engaging in conversations on school assignments, local or global happenings, or even chatting about Katy Perry, kids will find themselves gaining communication skills and, hopefully, exploring new ways to convey information.

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See how teachers are using Twitter

Lesson Plans