Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that allows you to answer the question, “What are you doing?”by sending short text messages 140 characters in length, called “tweets”, to your friends, or “followers.”

The short format of the tweet is a defining characteristic of the service, allowing informal collaboration and quick information sharing that provides relief from rising email and IM fatigue. Twittering is also a less gated method of communication: you can share information with people that you wouldn’t normally exchange email or IM messages with, opening up your circle of contacts to an ever-growing community of like-minded people.  You can send your messages using the Twitter website directly, as a single SMS alert, or via a third-party application such as Twirl, Snitter, or the Twitterfox add-on for Firefox.  Your tweets are displayed on your profile page, on the home page of each of your followers, and in the Twitter public timeline (unless you disable this in your account settings.)


Teacher <-> Student Communication via Twitter

If a communication is to be rational, it must have meaning.  On occasions, an individual tweet may not seem to meet that assumption.  However a thread of tweets on a particular topic can prove to be most meaningful, as they can provide the basis for subsequent analysis to reveal the meaning and other indirect, frequently irrelevant, information about the event.

As an education tool, tweets could suffice to merely track student attendance at an assignment, as well as determining of what value the assignment was.  To do this, the teacher could designate an account, a hashtag, e.g. #Assignment 01, to which the students as followers send their tweets.  The teacher then would collect all the tweets sent by the class to examine the tweets of those who did, or did not, attend to determine whether the value of what they submitted was worthwhile.  This might also prove helpful as a record of attendance for students who have to attend a number of activities in their field during the semester.

It can also be used to provide short, concise information on homework assignments, test dates, lesson details and link locations to interesting and relevant sites.  The potential to use Twitter as a real-time communication tool in the classroom is also intriguing and has been tried at post-secondary with mixed results.  A possible application could be to have a live-stream of comments from students, as a teacher lectures, to provide feedback to the teacher or even better to ask questions of the teacher that they may to shy or reluctant to ask otherwise.

There is value in the networking and real-time interaction that you can get using Twitter. Many educators and academics find this to be an effective strategy for dealing with the isolation that can come from working in the classroom or office. Imagine encountering technical difficulties during your lesson and having a means of receiving assistance within minutes. Consider the ability to receive assistance from others during a teachable moment in which you don’t know the answer to a student’s inquiry.

Pros and Cons


  1. It can be narcissistic. Does anyone care what I had for lunch?
  2. It can be boring. Is my average day so exciting that I have to share its details with the world?
  3. It can be redundant. I already have a daily blog. Why do I need Twitter?
  4. It can be time-consuming. It will distract from other, more important tasks.
  5. It can be dangerous. Letting someone know where I am at all times is like legalized stalking.
  6. It can contribute to the dumbing down of society. Most people don’t have the attention span for a well-crafted argument in a book. The blog is a step-down. Are we taking an even further step down, demanding our information in bite-sized chunks?


  1. The rapidness of disseminating information. amazed at how quickly the information went out.
  2. The ability to share interesting articles.
  3. The importance of conciseness. The brilliance of Twitter is its limitation of 140 characters. Most blogs are surfed, not read. Putting out a brief quote will probably be read by more people than a long blog post.
  4. Connecting with others. I am on Twitter primarily because I get to “follow” other people on Twitter. It keeps me connected to others who put out edifying “tweets” and who pass along interesting information.
  5. Boosting the blog. It takes a lot of work to maintain a daily blog. Linking to a blog post on Twitter gives my “followers” the opportunity to pass the article on to others who may benefit from it.

Here’s how to avoid the cons:

  1. Narcissism? Don’t make the majority of your “tweets” about you.
  2. Boring? Again, don’t make the majority of your “tweets” about you.
  3. Redundant? Instead of letting Twitter compete with your blog, let it point people to your blog.
  4. Time-consuming? Limit the number of people you follow and don’t constantly check for updates.
  5. Dangerous? Avoid giving details of your whereabouts and plans.
  6. Dumbing Down Society? Send along good links to thoughtful articles and news stories.