Simple social networking and micro blogging

What is Twitter?

Twitter is the most popular of what has become known as 'presence' networks or micro blogging sites that are used to let people know what you are doing, where you are going, and what's on your mind. People also use it to quickly ask a group of people questions, to announce something that is happening and/or pass on a weblink.

One of the things that makes it interesting is the ability to receive the messages from your Twitter contacts on your mobile phone. This service is free once you have activated it (activation requires sending one SMS from your mobile phone) but is usually limited to 250 messages a week.


Using twitter and other similar tools you are limited to 140 characters. This is based on SMS message limits, although it also is very useful training in writing briefly and concisely.


An interesting vocabulary set has developed from the people using Twitter. Messages are often referred to as tweets and collectively the people using Twitter is referred to as the Twitterverse. To tweet is also used as a verb. Fortunately, people using Twitter normally refer to each other as twitter friends or (if addicted to Twitter) twitterheads, and not twits!

Twitter usage

As with many emerging technologies, Twitter users have subverted the main use of the tool and are also developing their own vocabulary and ways of using it. Here are some examples:

There is a way of sending direct messages to a Twitter contact, but if you'd like to speak to one person specifically but make sure all of your contacts receive the message, then add @ and the name of the person you want to direct the message to before sending. The people that do not have this person as a Twitter contact may well be intrigued enough to add them. Here's an example:

@darthvader can you harness the force using Twitter?

Is it useful?

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It's easy to dismiss Twitter as a complete waste of time at first, as Terry Freedman says in his evaluation of Twitter, but if you persist you'll see it does have potential as a tool for educators. Take a look also at Educause's 7 Things You Should Know About Twitter.

Classroom Applications

Is it possible to use these tools with classes or to help you as a teacher? What would you use them for? How would you use them?

For me, using Twitter or one of the other tools is an attractive option because of the potential of sending and receiving messages to mobile phones. Of course, if you wanted to use Twitter with a class, you would have to ensure that all the learners have mobile phones and are happy about using them for learning. If this is the case, you could set up an account especially for the class (probably a better option than using your main Twitter account for everything) and off you go.

How would you use it? See below for some ideas, although Twitter is still in its infancy as a tool for education.

I'd like to encourage you all to think of ways in which these tools may be used with classes - let's share ideas and see if we can come up with some new ways of using these tools.

Note: This would make an interesting project and presentation.

Micro blogging

As mentioned above, message limitations (140 characters) force you to be concise, which could be used to its advantage. You could simply ask students to write messages at the weekend or between classes telling everyone what they are doing. Or make it into a competition and ask them a question via Twitter and give points to the learner who answers correctly.

An example of how you might use this: Grammatical mistake competition, complete the sentence, order the words. Can you think of any more?

Presence Network

As a teacher you may just use it to keep in touch with your students, or to recommend they look at different websites, etc. You could also put them in touch with other students - this may be complementary to a blogging or podcasting project.

News and Announcements

The BBC have Twitter accounts, which means you can receive news updates from them to your phone for free. Another account sends quotes from novels (the game is to guess what novel it is). Schools and organisations could use Twitter to make announcements to students. You could also do the same with the students in your class.

More about Twitter and other Simple Tools

The video below is from the Chris Pirillo show talks about Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce

Twitter vs Jaiku

The video below compares Twitter and Jaiku. Many people have said that Jaiku is the better of the two tools, but Twitter is where all of the people are. Perhaps because it's easier to get tweets on a mobile phone?

Twitter Applications

Twitter's success has resulted in the launch of a number of Twitter applications to support the tool