Songhai Concepts

Media Literacy/Digital Archiving Instructor

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Classroom Twitter

After almost two years of trying to figure out just how we might use it in the classroom, my Digital Archiving class is finally using Twitter as a regular part of our classroom routine. We started using Twitter last week and I'm pleased to say that it's been a big hit with the students. Right now we're using the service for three main things:

  • Students use Twitter to mark themselves present
  • Students and teacher use Twitter to send each other direct messages
  • Students use twitter to list what they accomplished in class that day

In the next few weeks I see us using the service to do other things like back-channeling during class, sharing important web sites across the classroom and school, expanding our personal learning networks and sending and receiving audio tweets with Dial2Do. This week I used Dial2Do to post several tweets onto my Twitter page and onto my Google Calendar. It worked perfectly. Dial2Do is an amazing tool. It's convenient, compatible and the ultimate real-time application.

To get things started, I created a classroom Twitter account and asked all the students to follow my tweets. I post the day's classwork on Twitter before class starts so when the students arrive the classwork is waiting for them inside their Twitter gadget. I post class news, announcements and project updates on the network during the course of the class period. Since I am following all of my students I can see immediately when they post information on Twitter. I can also recognize those students who do not make their daily posts.

It only took the class a few minutes to realize that in addition to following me, that they could follow each other on Twitter. When they discovered that they could follow each other and send direct messages across the classroom, the language, and seriousness of the young network went from schooly to silly. I explained to the students that our classroom Twitter network was for scholastic purposes only, but if they wanted to create a network of friends, separate from the classroom network, that they could do so. I told them to just keep the language and content clean at all times. My advice to them was don't post anything you would not want your mothers or grandmothers to read.

Last week the students were instructed to follow President Obama on Twitter. This week they added two local news feeds, cbs3 and phillydotcom. Yesterday they started following noted blogger and podcaster Wesley Fryer. Tomorrow I plan for the students to follow the local public television station here in Philadelphia, WHYY as well as the Associated Press. As media followers the students get the latest local, national and international news delivered right to their desktops. And because the tweets are 140 characters or less the content is very easy to digest. Following the media on Twitter is similar to subscribing to feeds in Netvibes, iGoogle and Pageflakes. The main difference is that with Twitter the feeds are short, 140 character blurbs.

I've been pretty frank with the students about using profanity and inappropriate language while on Twitter. The same holds true for MySpace, FaceBook, Tagged, and other social networking sites. It is so easy to post rude and offensive tweets, especially when you are alone and behind closed doors. But many digital natives and many digital immigrants fail to realize that their footprint in cyberspace is much larger than their footprint in the physical world. What a student posts on Twitter, MySpace, FaceBook, et al becomes public record, so think before you post. You can never be too sure just who is watching and following you.

Overall I am very excited about the way the students have embraced and welcomed Twitter into our classroom business. There is an awful lot of work that still needs to be done, but I think it's gonna be alright.

I've compiled a handful of Twitter pages and related articles in Google Notebook. I plan to add more links to this page over the next few weeks. Feel free to share it with others. Leave a comment if you have suggestions or recommendations. This is a very exciting time to be a teacher and an even more exciting time to be a student.

H Songhai

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  • At April 23, 2009 5:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Songhai,

    Thanks for your post. An innovative way of conducting your class as well as getting them to use new social media tools.


  • At May 21, 2009 6:11 PM, Blogger DebH2U said…

    This is fabulous! Obviously Twitter is not a blocked social site at your school (like it is in my District). Have you had any problems yet with kids abusing the tools... how do they access Twitter at school (computer or cell phone)? Keep posting - I want to follow your progress!

  • At May 23, 2009 8:35 AM, Blogger H Songhai said…

    Thanks for visiting songhaiconcepts and for commenting. Initially there was some abuse within our classroom network - some foul language and some silly tweets, but I reminded the students that the principal, the vice principal and the education coordinator also read their tweets. The abuse stopped immediately.

    Most of the students access twitter inside of iGoogle with TwitterGadget. I have about a half dozen students who access it with their cell phones and a few students have made posts with Dial2Do. It has all been very exciting, engaging and informative.

    Thanks again

  • At June 29, 2009 3:28 PM, Anonymous Casey Mayfield said…

    Great info, I've been thinking about this for awhile.

    Question: I have 7 classes (3 different sections). I teach English III, English IV and Concurrent Credit English.

    So, it seems I would need 3 Twitter accounts. True? I'm not sure I would keep up with that.

    Any idea how to make it something I could manage?

  • At June 30, 2009 11:56 AM, Blogger H Songhai said…


    I wondered the same thing. I have five classes but I did not want to set up five separate Twitter accounts - that would just be too much signing in and signing out.

    Instead, what I did was subscribed to each student's Twitter RSS feed with Netvibes. You can also do this with Google Reader or with Pageflakes.

    I set up five New Tabs in Netvibes and named the tabs Period 2, Period 4, Period 5, etc. Then I added each student's Twitter feed to its proper tab.

    So what happens is this: your English III and English IV classes will see Concurrent Credit English assignments, notes, announcements that you post and Concurrent Credit English will see English III and IV's assignments, notes and announcements that you post. Not too big of a problem.

    You, on the other hand, by placing their feeds in separate tabs will have the ability to go to your Netvibes page, and select period 2, period 3, or period 4 and read through their posts in one neat and isolated work space. One Twitter account but multiple tabs for your individual classes.

    One more thing. If you want to keep your professional Twitter account separate from what you want to share with your students, than I would suggest setting up a separate classroom twitter account.

    Let me know how you make out.

    And thanks!

  • At June 30, 2009 12:47 PM, Blogger Hans said…

    Management may be easier with hashtags - that way you don't need to worry about seeing all of their posts, nor they all of yours - then follow the hashtag feed with something like Twitterfall

  • At June 30, 2009 1:35 PM, Blogger H Songhai said…


    Thanks for the tip about hashtags. I just heard about hashtags a few days ago but had no idea what they were. I just kept seeing them a lot inside folks' twitter posts.

    Since reading your comment, I've bookmarked and will be doing some experimenting.

    Thanks again

  • At June 30, 2009 3:16 PM, Anonymous casey mayfield said…

    Thank you! I will check into NetVibes (and I was getting to this post, I saw that you had info on NetVibes ... great!) Thanks for your help! -Casey

  • At July 30, 2009 5:16 PM, Blogger JBS said…


    Came across this through Edutopia, where someone left a reply to a comment and cited your blog on use of Twitter for taking attendance.

    I'm not clear on just how it is that students mark themselves "present" through Twitter - since they can do so from anywhere.

    Could you be more explicit, please?

    Thank you,

  • At July 31, 2009 8:42 AM, Blogger H Songhai said…


    It took me two years to figure out how to use Twitter in the classroom and I'm still looking and asking questions. But just to be clear, I don't use Twitter to take attendance.

    Back in April I blogged that my students mark themselves present in Twitter everyday, which in my mind is no different than doing warm-up stretches before running or playing scales before a music lesson.
    And because the students perform that routine daily - John Doe, present, 7/31/09, 4th period, today, they can do that simple twitter task in their sleep. They've mastered that. It's become a reflex. I don't even have to remind them. They just do it.

    Back when I studied music it was always scales and exercises first, then we worked on the main piece or pieces. That's pretty much how my class begins these days, with a Twitter workout and exercise and then we move onto the main piece or pieces.

    So now that my students are comfortable using Twitter, on a fundamental level, everything else is but an extension and embellishment on that basic opening exercise -, twitpic, Dial2Do, TweetDeck, Twitterific, Amplify, Twitcam, Twitmic, hashtags, are all hyper variations on a theme.

    Since April, Twitter has been the main engine behind our totally paperless classroom. It's become the primary delivery and exchange system for all our documents, links and classroom business. Twitter has really been a win-win for us all.

    Next semester I hope to explore the digital archiving and records keeping possibilities that exist within the twittersphere with my students.

  • At September 10, 2009 1:36 AM, Anonymous classroommng said…

    Social media greatly influences the education of students. Twitter, the social networking platform connects people with its rudimentary features. Teachers and students make use of twitter in the schools to communicate. A tremendous website renders information about using twitter in the classroom.

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  • At February 07, 2014 12:59 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Becoming followers on Twitter means that you are agreeing to receive text and other messages using this medium of communication. It is the basic feature of the Twitter website and helps you increase your learning about its usage. Once you start following someone, you can go deeper and deeper into its dynamics. Once you are member of Twitter you can also search for people that you want to follow. This can be done through the find people option on the main Twitter menu. Here you can look for people using their actual names or user ids. You can also find friends from other networks and from the suggested users list.


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