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Twitter: Wonderful Tool or Just Another Distractor?

Posted by on July 21, 2008

I honestly don’t know when I first became aware of Twitter. I suppose at some point in the past months the sire began to creep into my consciousness, but I don’t recall when I first discovered it. I remember reading about on various sites. Los over at Ragamuffin Soul was using it, my friend David was using it, and I even read about a church that used it in a creative way during a worship service.

So, I signed up and began to tweet myself. (Wow… that sounds almost naughty. It’s not. A “tweet” is a message on Twitter, and it can be used as both a noun and a verb.) I discovered some friends on there to follow, and I even had a few choose to follow me. I figured out how to integrate it with my Facebook account, and I discovered that I could tweet with my cell phone by sending a text message. (Wow… again that sounds naughty. I know I have been teaching ninth grade for a long time… maybe I am just stuck there developmentally?)

And now I love it. I don’t have a huge following or anything, and I am not following some vast number of people. I just think that the concept is great, and it allows for great communication among a group of people in a quick time. I felt that way even before I found this article on that tells about an American student in Egypt who was arrested as he was taking pictures at a demonstration. As he and his translator were being taken to jail, he was able to shoot a one word message on Twitter: ARRESTED. Within seconds, his network of friends and supporters were working to get him released. Before he had even arrived at the jail, his friends in the States and in Egypt were working for his release.


I have been wondering about the implications for the classroom. I truly believe this has the potential to be a useful tool. After all, most of my students and many of their parents use both the web and text messaging. Right now, I am planning to set up a separate Twitter account for academic use. At the beginning of the semester, I will give the students a handout showing them how to sign up for an account and how to follow me. I will also send a handout home to the parents explaining the same. I will then use Twitter to update parents and students alike about assignments, projects, and the like.

Just last month, I did some research about various parental notification systems. There are some incredible ones out there, and most of them aren’t cheap. Some are web-based; others use auto-dialers. Some brag that they offer dozens of languages so that messages make it home in a form that the parents can understand. The goal of all of these systems is improved communication between schools and parents. After all, we all know that informed, involved parents can vastly improve their child’s chances of academic success. 

For the record, my goal as a teacher is not merely to improve the communication between parents and the school, but also between parents and their children. Who knows? Maybe my shooting out a tweet that reads, “Great job, 3rd block! You did great today!” will spark some conversations around dinner tables.

To be completely honest, I found the article referenced on the blog of Susan Brooks-Young, a leader in the educational technology realms. Thanks for pointing me toward it, Susan!

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