We’ve been looking at Social Media (and particularily Twitter) as a pedagogical tool and have been examining two examples at McMaster University. Please see our posts on Joe Kim and #MacIntroPsych, and Liam Stockdale and Globalization. Each of those posts goes through different techniques for Twitter use and any tools associated with the work. Let’s explore some of the technology that can assist you with incorporating Twitter into teaching and learning.  If you’re new to Twitter you can rest assured that the learning curve is manageable and if you’re already a casual user you may find some tips and new technology that will allow you to maximize the reach and impact of your tweets. This list is not exhaustive and is just a sample of some of the more popular uses for Twitter.

Getting Started with Tweeting

You can signup for an account at Twitter.com
Here’s a good article that will give you a primer on some of Twitter’s basic features. Download an app for a cellphone or tablet if you wish to tweet on to go and to tweet photos easier. Visit the app store from any type of phone and find the official Twitter app.

Tweet Management

There are many tools designed to manage Twitter accounts and to help you see the important stuff at a glance. All of the tools listed below work in a similar way. You are able to follow certain hashtags of interest to stay up to date on certain topics or certain conversations. These tools also allow you to monitor the Twitter activity of any account. A great time saving feature that’s available through these tools is scheduling tweets. You can bulk write many tweets and schedule them and have these programs tweet them out without any further activity from you.

TweetDeck – This is the easiest tweet management tool and is a great place to start if you’re new to this – An article that explains how to set up and use TweetDeck.

Hootsuite – This tool was designed for social media management and marketing, but it offers many powerful features that are helpful for any user.  You can sign up for a free account and use it to schedule your tweets in advance.  Here is an article that explains how to use Hootsuite to pre-write and schedule your social media posts.

Buffer  – This is a similar tool to Hootsuite. It also has a great free version that will allow you to register one account and to pre-write and schedule your posts.

Avenue Integration

If the ability for your students to see your course tweets without doing any extra work is appealing to you, we’ve got a good solution. Integrating Twitter into Learning Management Systems, like Avenue2Learn is a great way to incorporate tweeting into your course. As we’ve seen with Liam Stockdale (blog post), there is a possibility to embed a Twitter widget into an Avenue course shell so that your students will see Tweets in real time when they log into Avenue. The benefit of this approach is that students don’t need Twitter accounts or any extra links to see the Tweets. MacPherson Institute’s Learning Technologies Analyst, Jon Kruithof, has recorded a quick video that shows the step-by-step instructions of embedding Twitter into an Avenue course shell. Watch it here.

Liam Stockdale Avenue Example

LiveSlides & Twitter Walls

One interesting thing you can do with your Twitter account (or with any hashtag) is to capture and display this information in a flowing stream. This is a great thing to do at events like conferences and meetings, or at the start of class.  For example, if you do this in class you can have your students participate by using a certain hashtag in their Tweets – anything Tweeted with said hashtag will appear in your ‘tweet stream’ or ‘wall’. This should be approached with the awareness that anything Tweeted with the decided upon hashtag will appear publicly.

LiveSlides – This is a tool that will turn your lecture into a conversation. This is a free download presentation add-on that was mentioned in our Joe Kim interview in the previous Twitter post (blog post) This PowerPoint and Keynote friendly tool allows your presentation to interact with a Twitter element like a hashtag in real time. For example, you can embed the tool into one slide of your presentation and put that up in class and watch the tweets roll in.

Tweetwall – This tool is from the same company that makes LiveSlides. It works in the exact same way but instead of the tweets showing up in your presentation they will show up in a web browser. This is useful if you want to show off a tweet stream that’s independent from all other work. If you’d like to use this technique outside of a classroom setting, the Tweetwall may be more useful. TweetWally – This is another tool that does a similar thing.

Twitter for Content Curation

Twitter has become the main place where online conversation and information exchange happens. Many people turn to Twitter to get the latest news, to share interesting articles, and to communicate with people. There are many tools that are designed to help you gather the information you share on Twitter into a space that can be shared and saved for future use.

Storify – This tool allows users to curate stories using social media. Users can collect tweets, videos, photos and more into a single story on a subject of their choosing. This can be something that is done by instructors for the benefit of the students. An activity like story curation through Storify can also be incorporated into assignments. Storify is truly a versatile tool and is something to consider if you’re interested in timely storytelling through social media. Here’s an example of Storify at work telling a story about the election in France. There is also an article from Inside Higher Ed that explores some Storify uses in education.

Paper.li – This is a similar tool to Storify in that it leverages social media to create ‘stories’. The metaphor used by Paper.li is more akin to a newsletter or a newspaper. Paper.li allows users to populate their ‘paper’ with articles and elements of their choosing. It’s like a newspaper that’s entirely selected and approved by you and it can be created about any subject you choose. The great thing about Paper.li is that it is easily shared and is easily to populate. Here’s an example of Paper.li at work in an education setting.

While Storify and Paper.li are similar in many ways one key distinction is that Storify shines with timely and current events, and Paper.li is used more for less time sensitive content. Storify is used quite a bit in journalism to gather tweets, articles, and other elements about news like elections, crime reporting, sports coverage, and more.

Scoop.it  – This is a content curation tool that is popular with educators.  The mechanics of Scoop.It are similar to Storify and Paper.li in the sense that the user selects content to save and share and this can be done through social media (like Twitter). The main difference is that Scoop.It is designed to be set up once and then used over a long period of time. The first two examples we looked at are geared towards timely use where users created ‘stories’ or ‘newspapers’ to share on a regular basis. Scoop.It can be thought of as an information repository. Users set up topic sections and then gather relevant materials (articles, blog posts, etc) that are saved under the appropriate topic. This can be leveraged in many different ways. The great thing about Scoop.It is that is is quick and easy to use once it is set up. It is simple enough to connect a Twitter account to a Scoop.It account allowing users to retweet an article and add it to their Scoop.It account automatically. MacPherson Institute’s Educational Technologies team uses Scoop.It to curate and share articles and other online resources pertaining to technology and education. We have more articles about Twitter, social media at large, and many other educational technologies related topics on our Scoop.it page. Click here to see it.

Biljana Njegovan

Biljana Njegovan is a Digital Media Specialist at The MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching.