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99 Serious Twitter Tips for Academics

Posted on Tuesday July 21, 2009 by Staff Writers

Twitter’s popularity has soared recently, and for good reason. What started as a simple way to update friends about daily life has grown into a powerful tool for business, communication, and education. While many campuses and online colleges are just picking up on the educational rewards possible with Twitter, there is still plenty of room to create new and exciting ways to use Twitter. The following tips will help you know just how to get started using Twitter in academia, teach you etiquette, offer strategies and benefits, provide suggestions for specific ways to use Twitter, list tools to use with Twitter, and more.

Note: We’ve updated this list with even more suggestions for academics.

Getting Started

If you are new to Twitter or could use a few more basic pointers, check out these tips.

  1. Set up an account for your class. Academhack has excellent step-by-step instructions for getting your class set up with a Twitter account.
  2. Learn about the benefits. This article profiles three professors’ use of Twitter with their classes and watch this video about Twitter at college.
  3. Learn from others’ experience. Some of those who have used Twitter in an academic setting have graciously shared their experiences and resources. Get started with Howard Rheingold’s delicious bookmarks on Twitter usage.
  4. The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter. Read this blog post for great advice on getting started with Twitter.
  5. Ten Top Twitter Tips. Find helpful Twitter tips, including understanding the different types of messages.
  6. How to Use Twitter: Tips for Bloggers. Get some basic tips here.
  7. Twitter 101: Clarifying the Rules for Newbies. This article takes a look at three Twitter mistakes those new to Twitter can make and how to avoid them.
  8. Lunch n Learn: Twitter for Beginners. Watch this video presented by Birmingham City University.
  9. VIDEO: A beginner’s guide to Twitter. The article accompanying this video offers great suggestions for those just starting out with Twitter.

Twitter Etiquette

There’s nothing worse than finding out you unwittingly committed a faux pas, so brush up on your Twitter etiquette here.

  1. Keep direct messages private. If someone sends a direct message, be respectful and continue this conversation privately.
  2. Don’t post one-on-one chatter publicly. It’s a waste of everyone else’s time to read about your plans with a friend to meet up for coffee. Keep those conversations private and you won’t risk burning out other followers.
  3. Ask questions. Remember that Twitter is at its best as a communication tool, so don’t just write what’s on your mind, also ask questions to open the dialog to others.
  4. Be nice while tweeting during a presentation. This blog post recommends only tweeting something you would be comfortable saying face-to-face.
  5. Be prepared to feel the sting. Not everyone thinks before commenting on Twitter, so be prepared to have others tweet comments about you that may not be so diplomatic.
  6. Make dedicated accounts for each class or project. Don’t try to lump more than one group together. It can get confusing and too overwhelming.
  7. Don’t send messages just to make a post. Make sure what you are tweeting is relevant to the discussion happening on the feed.
  8. Learn the etiquette. This wiki page offers plenty of information on Twitter etiquette as well as ways to help manage your Twitter experience.

Strategies

These strategies will help you use Twitter smarter.

  1. Use hashtags. Hashtags, or the # symbol before keywords, can add order to what may seem Twitter chaos. This article describes three ways to use hashtags.
  2. Find and use apps. Applications can enhance your Twitter experience, so learn how you can find the latest apps for Twitter here.
  3. Join Twitter Freaks. This Diigo community offers a great selection of resources for using Twitter.
  4. Twitter Tweets for Higher Education. Find some interesting suggestions for using Twitter in academia here.
  5. TwiTip. This blog features advice for using Twitter to your best advantage.
  6. 35 Twitter Tips from 35 Twitter Users. These tips ranges from being honest to recommendations for apps to better manage your Twitter use.
  7. 100 Totally Free Twitter Power Strategies. Find tips lots of strategies and tips here.
  8. Twitter tips – tools for your tweets. Not only can you find tools to enhance your Tweets, you also learn some basics about using Twitter here.
  9. Top 10 Twitter Hacks. Learn more than ten ways to make Twitter work for you with this article.

Ideas for Instructors

Both online instructors and classroom teachers can benefits from these Twitter tips.

  1. Present a faculty forum. Once you have a semester or two of Twitter use in the classroom, host a presentation for fellow faculty members to help educate them on how to use Twitter in the classroom.
  2. Live blog a conference. Use Twitter to live blog a conference or lecture. Not only are you keeping notes for yourself, but you have created a record for others to access as well.
  3. Notes after class. Twitter can serve as a notepad to record thoughts and ideas after class.
  4. Lesson plans. Twitter your lesson plans so you, your students, and even other instructors can see what you are doing.
  5. Collaborate. Geography no longer has to divide good instructors. Learn from and share with other instructors at your own campus or at campuses around the world.
  6. Instant feedback. Especially in a large lecture class, Twitter provides instructors an opportunity for instant feedback on the class as it is occurring.
  7. Find support. Reaching out for advice or feedback on a specific task or project is easy with Twitter. Read Tom Scheinfeldt’s description of an outreach community created around Omeka users.
  8. Increase class participation. Having students use Twitter invites more class participation, from acknowledging their attendance to finding a daily schedule.
  9. Problem solving. If you have run into a snag, post your problem on Twitter and watch the creative solutions roll in.
  10. Testing new technology. Easily find participants on Twitter to help you test new technologies like Jeff Utecht did.

Benefits for Students

These tips offer benefits for students, improving their learning environment.

  1. Asynchronous class conversation. Students can discuss topics relevant to what is happening in class as something happens away from traditional class time. This is especially useful for students who may be in different time zones because they’re living in different states, or even different countries, as may be the case for online military students.
  2. Create community. Students who come together as a community are generally more open to communicating and learning from one another in class. Twitter promotes a sense of community through its sharing of personal information.
  3. Create a greater depth of interpersonal understanding. Getting to know small bits of someone over time provides a greater picture of who that person is, therefore developing a deeper sense of understanding that promotes more openness and sharing in the classroom.
  4. Make better connections with professors. Students and professors can communicate through Twitter to open up better working relationships.
  5. Post questions about assignments. If students are stumped, posting a question on Twitter opens up opportunities for other students to help clarify or for the instructor to step in.
  6. As questions without raising a hand. Standing behind Twitter is sometimes less intimidating than raising a hand and having an entire class staring at you when asking a question. Twitter can encourage asking questions or finding clarification.
  7. Provides “backchannel“. The term “backchannel” refers to the conversation occurring secondary to the main lecture or presentation. Read about some of the benefits of the backchannel in this article.
  8. Brings together online communities. Creating a sense of community in online classes can sometimes be challenging. Twitter can help create this sense of community.

Tips for the Class

Implement this tips in class for a new way of finding and sharing information.

  1. Twitter search. The search tool on Twitter will immediately provide you with any tweets including your given keyword, so go explore with topics from class.
  2. Direct tweet. Professors and students can contact each other through direct tweets without having to share cell phone numbers.
  3. Collaborate on projects. When working together on projects, set up a group using an app like Tweetworks to facilitate communication between everyone.
  4. Make announcements. Professors can send out reminders about upcoming tests, project due dates, or any other class news.
  5. Brainstorm. Brainstorm on class topics any time and anywhere ideas occur by posting them on Twitter and seeing who else contributes.
  6. Take a poll. Take opinion polls or get feedback by using an app like PollDaddy.
  7. Share interesting websites. Both professors and students can post interesting websites that are relevant to their class.
  8. Use tools to find answers from tweeters you don’t know. It’s one thing to gather information from your followers, but it’s a totally different opportunity to find answers from among a larger group of Twitter users. This article offers five suggestions to do just that.
  9. twiggit. Find interesting news articles or articles relevant to a current topic in class and share the results with this tool that combines Digg with Twitter.

Assignments Using Twitter

Try some of these assignments utilizing Twitter.

  1. Use it to teach a foreign language. Conversing with native speakers is an excellent way to reinforce foreign language lessons. See how this professor used Twitter to teach Italian.
  2. Learn from professional journalists. Study how these journalists use Twitter to enhance their careers or see what other teachers are doing.
  3. Write a thesis. Consider writing a thesis (or a smaller research paper) on the effects of Twitter like this student did.
  4. Writing succinctly. Have online journalism students practice sharing complex thoughts in 140 words or less for a great writing lesson.
  5. Play Telephone. Play this old childhood game with a new twist by having students create a story chained together by their tweets or use twittories to accomplish this goal.
  6. Learn probability. While this math lesson was originally done for younger students, it is an excellent example of using Twitter to deliver hands-on learning.
  7. Study geography with Twitter and Google Earth. Follow this teacher’s lead to incorporate these two technologies into a dynamic geography lesson.
  8. Twitter-specific projects. Help students learn how to use Twitter by offering assignments such as this one from this Georgia Southern University instructor.
  9. Have a Twitter treasure hunt. Follow the example given here to create a treasure hunt with students’ prize being the completion of the assignment.

Follow These

Here are suggestions for people and things to track on Twitter.

  1. A professional. Keep up with what professionals in your area of interest are doing through their Twitter feed.
  2. A famous person. Many politicians and celebrities are on Twitter. Follow them to keep abreast of current events.
  3. Mentors. If professors or other key figures in your field of study are on Twitter, follow them to keep up with their research and activities.
  4. The news. Twitter has quickly become a recognized resource for up-to-the-minute news from well-respected news sources.
  5. Citizen journalism. World events, such as the recent protests in Iran, are beginning to unfold on Twitter. Students and instructors alike can follow citizen journalism right alongside the mainstream news reports.
  6. Track a word or phrase. Track a word or phrase to see how it is being used by others. This is a great way to learn the nuances of words and phrases.
  7. Check out the recent public updates. The recent public updates shows the most recent posts from all Twitter users. This is a great place to spot trends and see what others are talking about.

Twitter Tools

These tools can help your Twitter experience become easier and more dynamic.

  1. Twhirl. This powerful desktop client helps manage your Twitter experience through such helpful features as URL shortening, new message notifications, image posting, and much more.
  2. TwitterNotes. This tool lets you make private notes for yourself among your tweets.
  3. QuoteURL. A great tool for summarizing a Twitter project, this tool will put different Tweets together on one page.
  4. TwitPic. This tool lets you share photos on Twitter.
  5. bit.ly. Shorten URLs so that you use fewer characters when sharing web links on Twitter.
  6. Tweetree. Groups entire conversations together to help put tweets in context.
  7. TweetGrid. Create a customized search dashboard to enhance you Twitter searches with this tool.
  8. TweetScan. Have tweets emailed to you based on keywords you select with this tool.
  9. TweetDeck. This app allows you to create groups of Tweets to better manage all the information you receive.
  10. TwitterFone. When you are busy, use this tool to leave a voice message that will be turned into a tweet.
  11. Tweet Later. This tool lets you write tweets that you can schedule for posting in the future. Write reminders, then schedule them to post closer to when they need to be used.

Great Twitter Tools for Use in Academia

The following tools lend themselves to the learning environment of academia.

  1. Outwit Me. This site offers “intelligent Twitter games” and is a great way to have students get comfortable using Twitter.
  2. Atlas. Explore the world with tweets that are shown on a map.
  3. Twrivia. Get a new trivia question each day with this tool.
  4. weather. Science News Blog post frequent weather news and events occurring around the world.
  5. EarthquakeNews. From the USGS Earthquake Center, get tweets about any earthquake that registers over 2.5 anywhere in the world.
  6. Tweetizen. Find specific groups on Twitter or start your own group.
  7. GeoTwitterous: Personalized Twitter on a Map. This article describes how GeoTwitterous works as a great tool to map your Twitter network.
  8. Plinky. Each day this app provides a prompt in the form of a question or challenge, then you can reply by posting text, photos, maps, or whatever you can use to answer the prompt.

Finding People in Academia to Follow

Take these suggestions for finding professors, students, and more on Twitter.

  1. Colleges & Universities Directory. From Just Tweet It, this directory will connect you with both professors and students in academia.
  2. Professors :: Twellow. Professors on Twitter can add themselves to this directory.
  3. Twitter Professors: 18 People to Follow for a Real Time Education. Mashable offers a list of 18 professors you should follow and why.
  4. Twitter Grader. This tool will grade your Twitter presence, but it also provides a listing of the popular Twitter users in your area, providing an excellent opportunity to find people to follow.
  5. Follow Fridays. This popular activity of Friday recommendations of others to follow provides an opportunity to find interesting people to follow.
  6. WeFollow. Add yourself and find others in this user-powered Twitter directory where you can search by hashtags.
  7. TwitterLocal. Used in conjunction with Adobe AIR, find local Twitter users based on whichever geographic location you supply.
  8. Twubble. This tool searches your friend graph and selects others you may be interested in following. This is a great way to discover others associated with your school.