I blogged at the beginning of second semester how I was going to experiment with Twitter as a way to communicate with students, especially in terms of nightly homework assignments, reminders, etc. I was looking for something that would go to them, rather than something to which they would have to go, and something that was relatively easy for me to update regularly (and the announcements feature on our course management system is not). Twitter seemed a good solution, or at least something worth trying.
First and foremost, I didn’t entirely understand Twitter when I undertook this experiment. I thought that tweets came to followers via email, rather than followers having to go and monitor and their Twitter feed to find things (or search for me or hashtags). So this was a bit of a flaw from the outset; the students that benefited the most from my use of Twitter were those that subscribed via their phones and received the Tweets as text messages (and didn’t mind receiving the tweets that weren’t related to their class; some did mind this).
Will I continue to use Twitter next year? Somewhere between I’m not sure and I doubt it. Once there wasn’t a critical mass of student buy in, I lost my enthusiasm for it (because I didn’t feel like it was hitting enough students), which then created that vicious cycle of they used it less-I used it less-they used it less, etc. What I’d like to do is find an alternative, likely one more suited to what I have in mind. Kikutext is on my list. It has potential, but I’ll have to play around a bit before I give it a shot.
For myself, however, I have found Twitter a great resource. I haven’t quite figured out yet how people follow thousands of feeds and glean anything but Twitter is a great way for things to come to you. I’m following some like-minded teachers out there and am constantly getting interesting links to blog posts or other sites (I will admit sheepishly that I have a poor Safari page with innumerable tabs open, just waiting to be revisited; I’m trying to cover the Twitter-related ones here). Here is a nice post about a teacher’s use of Twitter, one that I would echo in terms of my own use of it. And another, a bit less practical and more conceptual, about why teachers should be on Twitter.
One of my Twitter conflicts (Twitterflicts?) is the notion of live tweeting. On the one hand, I get it from a producer standpoint; it is a way to make people part of the game, trip, event, whatever. On the other hand, from a consumer standpoint, it can be, to be frank, annoying. I love following the Worcester Tornadoes (found out that they’re back from the road trip and have a home game tonight; wouldn’t have known that without Twitter) but I don’t love when, at 11 PM I have 50 new tweets and 25 of them are live-tweets of the Tornadoes’ game. I wonder if such institutions can be convinced to have a separate feed for live tweeting (and, by the way, Twitter, if you’re out there: any way we can have multiple feeds under one account / handle?)? That would allow us non-super fans not to be inundated by the live-tweets but still get the updates we want. This was all brought on by this post on how an elementary school is implementing Twitter. I like the idea of the live tweet field trip, but then my immediate next thought was how many tweets before that got annoying to parents? Especially at the high school level (where I teach). On the other hand, I’d love to broadcast my yearly trip to Boston’s MFA, and I love the idea of posting them on the flat screen monitors throughout the school (which we, being in a new school, have plenty of).
I’m not as convinced of Twitter as a classroom tool; I just haven’t wrapped my brain around it yet. And that’s not me being curmudgeonly or Troglydytean, but I’m not familiar enough with the logistics of Twitter to envision how that would work: every student has an account and they follow me and I use my account to do the activities? That would seem a bit cumbersome for those students not in a particularly class when they are inundated with Tweets from other classes (though, as I’ve said, I’m not particularly good at ignoring Tweets, a skill I’m guessing my students are fine with). In any case, here’s a post about different classroom uses, and a specific one about using it to learn vocab, a variation of which I might try myself next year.
So my final verdict on Twitter remains to be seen. But I’ll continue to experiment with it and other social media outlets to try to improve communication with students and parents. That’s my goal.