In her October post, Emily Stone talked about using Twitter as a way to engage with her students. It allowed her to create a conversation and foster a community of sharing. These types of interactions are really Twitter’s bread-and-butter. But I’m more of a passive Twitter user. My last tweet was January 31, 2010: “really dropped the ball on this 3-d glasses thing.” (Apparently the Super Bowl halftime show that year included a 3-D component. Unfortunately I didn’t have the glasses. I cannot tell you if the show was good or not.) So don’t follow me. I won’t tweet anything. I just don’t find that I have anything really useful to say, and I’m uncomfortable “broadcasting” my thoughts. But I do log in to Twitter every day. Instead of sharing, though, I use it as another form of information gathering. I have subscribed to several feeds related to my field of study (Human-Computer Interaction/User Experience). I find it incredibly efficient and much less daunting than the 1000+ unread articles in my Google Reader, where I used to try and read articles. I think Twitter has incredible value for others who are more like me. For teachers who may not quite be ready to tweet their assignments, they too can incorporate Twitter in a passive way. Aside from subscribing to tweets related to their field to help stay current, teachers could simply point students toward some of the more engaging Twitter feeds. I found several examples re-creating historical events through “live-tweeting” (or rather the simulation of live-tweeting), which is simply Twitter’s way of reporting on key events as they happen.
Here’s a round-up of some of the more interesting historical Twitter feeds:
World War 2. Each day they tweet about things that happened on that day in 1939. It will continue for the same duration as the war: @RealTimeWWII
Extensive Civil War tweeting curated by the Washington Post. It has some live-tweeting and some quotes from famous people: @CivilWarwp/tweeting-the-civil-war
Live-tweeting the final expedition (1911) of polar explorer Robert F. Scott: @CaptainRFScott
Live-tweeting JFK’s presidency (run by the JFK Library: @JFK1962
Another WW2 live-tweet, using documents from the British National Archive and letters and memos from the UK war cabinet. This feed isn’t very accessible, though, as it just tweets links to where you can download the document in question but it is kind of a hassle to do so, especially if you are accessing Twitter on the go: @ukwarcabinet
Live-tweeting 1948 Arab-Israeli War—it’s from the Israeli point of view: @1948War
These could easily be turned into writing assignments. TwHistory helps teachers create assignments in which their students live-tweets historical events. I’m not sure how much traction this has, but it’s definitely interesting adoption of technology into education.
And for creative-writing teachers, I think one could also make the case for tweets becoming the next haiku. The 140-character limit for tweets is perfect for providing structure much in the same way as the haiku’s 5-7-5 syllabic construction.
There are also accounts that tweet out facts or tips each day. For example, someone named John Cook maintains several Twitter accounts that tweet math- and computer-science-related facts and tips, and @writing_tips posts daily writing tips. Who doesn’t need a reminder on some basic grammar every now and again?
At best I think these Twitter feeds could enhance students understanding by incorporating a technology that they use every day into their learning. At worst, they are just entertaining. And for right now, I’m really happy to be entertained by the World War II tweets. I’ve got six years to go!