What I learned about teaching Twitter to newbies…

Last week, I taught an introductory three-hour course on Twitter for Teachers.  It was my first time teaching about Twitter and here’s what I found that worked and what things I need to work on…

What worked:  Teaching about Twitter WITHOUT an account.

Don’t start the class by building a twitter account.  Instead, give them an opportunity to explore twitter in a safe environment where they can explore and can click on anything – which can be done by searching twitter without an account. We did this by going to  http://www.twitter.com/search    and then encouraging participants to…
1) Search for a topic or subject of interest, perhaps a recent event, tv show, etc.  Have them click around, exploring who the individuals are that are posting, what they are saying about the topic.

2) Eventually, the question comes up “What’s that # sign thing?”    We then transition into hashtags and talk about what they are used for.  We also provide links to some of the most popular educational hashtags – and ask them to search for some educationally related hashtags. 

We used the following sites for education related hashtags:

a) https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VelhMDERt4RxrX4rsF8aq8N2tma-gDme8fLpYMip4M0/edit?hl=en&pli=1

b) http://www.cybraryman.com/edhashtags.html

3) Next, we moved to searching for people and/or job roles.  For example, we typed in “Third Grade Teacher”, and then switched the search so it’s by people instead of tweets.  Most of the time this gave us a list of individuals who had  “Third Grade Teacher” in their bio.  Again,we gave time for them to explore, looking through these individuals for the following…

a) What types of information did they tweet?
b) How did they set up their profile? did they have a bio, what was in it?
c) Would you follow this person or not? Why?  (this is important because it impacts how you build your account) 

Overall, I was happy with how this worked out. It not only gave them a safe way to explore twitter, it also helped them out when it became time to create their twitter account.  Since they had already previewed other teacher accounts, it was much easier for them to understand why a bio and photo are important.


What I need to work on…

NEED: Specific classroom examples
Although we referenced the article “How Twitter is used in West Des Moines Schools” (http://wp.me/s1JF02-twitter),  this information was too generic.  Individuals who were building a professional account for themselves were fine – but those who wanted to explore it as a classroom tool for communicating with parents and students – they were desiring more detail. I need to create some specific profiles that highlight exactly how classrooms are using Twitter.  Within these profiles, I need to include screen shots showing the type of content that’s shared and how they involve/engage parents and students.

NEED: More ways to convince newbies to jump in.
The structure of our class (a single three-hour introductory course) did not lend itself to encouraging staff to “jump in”.  The time was ideal for searching and exploring twitter – but when it came time to jump in with your new account, folks were still pretty reluctance.  I’m wondering if it would be better to have a separate follow-up session? or if I just need some better structured activities for encouraging more engagement with their new accounts?

Here’s a copy of our full agenda/outline in Word : Twitter in the Classroom

6 thoughts on “What I learned about teaching Twitter to newbies…

  1. Chris Pultz (@cpultz)

    Very thankful for this reflective – and timely – post. I’ll be leading my first training session centered around Twitter in a couple of weeks and will try to learn from your experience!

  2. James Brauer

    I appreciate reading the feedback of this professional development session, as I believe many educators wonder how it will be received and perceived by participants.

    It was also interesting to hear participants’ desire/reluctance to register their own Twitter accounts, even after a 2-3 hour working session.

    Thank you!

    1. Brian Abeling Post author

      I can certainly appreciate their reluctancy to build an account… at first it seems like just another account that has to be managed and kept up. And as any good teacher would do… we should NOT overly focus on why participants are hesitant, but instead on what the instructor can and should do to create the conditions that will encourage them to jump in…

  3. Kelsey Hudson

    I was not a part of your class – but I have to admit that I’m a teacher who usually is pretty tech friendly (not an expert, just enjoy using technology and trying things for my classroom) and I identify with the post above – that it seems like just another account to be maintained that I will forget or stop using. I’ve signed up for moodle, jing, screencast, delicious, animoto, glogster, a blog, live binder, and more, all with the intention of using it for the classroom and finding that it falls short of what I need or can even manage with all that I have going on. Maybe teachers need a little bit of info on how exactly this will help them succeed in the classroom, and how this could really revolutionize teaching. It’s a promise that’s been made before, so how is this different from all of the other programs that have not worked out for me in the past? 🙂


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