[Teacher's Guide] Five Ways to Integrate Twitter into the Writing Classroom

5 ways to integrate twitter into the writing classroom

The best way to combat lecture boredom is to ask students to take out their smart phones and tweet. And, possibly, the easiest way to introduce how Twitter works is by providing students with a provocative image and asking them to tweet a sentence that includes both character and action in order to tell the story of the image as seen in the example in Figure 1.

The image of the snake portrays a story, a frozen moment at the end of the beginning of a life. The creature is both earth-bound and ethereal in appearance. The story of this snake would be that it was born late in the fall on a day too cold to sustain life; crawling from it’s egg, it found a warm location on a stretch of asphalt; and as the temperatures dropped, it tied itself into a knot of such beauty and mystery, one so taut and unlikely, that it will surely die within the hour. A tweet cannot encompass the breadth of this story, so I simply wrote: “Newborn snake tied in a Celtic knot.” When an image like this is shared on a social media service or platform like Twitter, it engages the audience in the age-old tradition of storytelling, Likewise, introducing Twitter into the writing classroom provides a social environment that allows students to form a community of practice and engage in formal learning through digital storytelling.

Twitter can be integrated into classroom practices for a number of purposes and a number of ways. Here are my top five twitter activities:

  1. Tweet course announcements prior to the start of class 
  2. Tweet sentence-level exercises
  3. Tweet questions for the instructor or guest speaker during lectures
  4. Tweet questions to the instructor outside of class  
  5. Turn twitter activities into a narrative to summarize what happened

Before you get started, you will need to understand basic Twitter terminology:

Twitter terms that you might need to know:

Social network service – a platform that builds social relations among people

Social Media – interaction that occurs or takes place through a social network platform that builds virtual or online communities that create, share, exchange information and comment

Twitter - an online social networking or broadcasting service in the form of a microblog that allows users to send text-based messages of up to 140 characters in addition to other forms of media such as images and videos.

Microblogging - the posting of short entries or updates on a social networking service

Tweet - a microblogging message limited to 140 characters

Hashtag - the # symbol is placed before keywords or topics in a Twitter message to facilitate a twitter search for that specific keyword (see Figure 2 below)

Backchannel – an online conversation that takes place in real-time alongside a primary spoken activity, created with a shared twitter hashtag

Widget - an application that allows a user to perform or access a service

Twitter feed widget – a service that displays current tweets from a specific hashtag or twitter user (see Figure 2 below)

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