Sunday, January 18, 2009

Potential uses of twitter in teacher education courses

Twitter is a microblogging platform that allows users to publish brief text updates of up to 140 characters onto the web-based twitter network (aka the "twitterverse"). These updates can be generally broadcast to all of those individuals who choose to follow your updates, or they can be directed at specific individuals (these can be one of two forms:@ replies, and direct messages). Users build a network of people that they follow (followers) and within that network develop "friends" which are loosely defined as those who they interact with the most (through @ replies and/or direct messages). For a more thorough discussion of the "friend" networks developed on twitter, take a look at this paper by Huberman, Romero, and Wu. 

The rapid rise in popularity of twitter in the past year has brought to mind the following question: what are some of the potential uses of twitter or other microblogging platforms in teacher education courses? Others have blogged about uses of microblogging in K-16 classrooms in general, or about uses of twitter use by teachers, but we (@craig_schneider and I) haven't found much about using microblogging specifically in teacher education. I do have an ever expanding diigo list of pages which discuss uses of twitter in education in general. 

What follows then is our brainstorm list about how we might begin to use twitter or some other microblogging platform in our own teacher education courses. 
  • Set up a course group in a twitter app (such as tweetdeck )in order to facilitate general communication with and among students (course announcements, reminders, etc). Unfortunately, groups cannot be created in the twittersphere without the use of one of these external apps. An alternative, of course, it for users to have dedicated twitter accounts just for the course, and follow only the others in that course. This, however, could be limiting the potential of the technology. 
  • Polling. Using sites such as strawpollnow.com, teacher educators can quickly and easily poll their students about choice of discussion topics for the next class, how practicum placements are going, etc. Students could also use this feature to poll their classmates about teaching ideas or what to do in specific situations.
  • "Teaching moment of the day" tweets or posts. Students can tweet/micoblog a brief message each day they're in practicum about something of interest or something that happened during their practicum experience. These tweets can serve as the basis for class discussions, or can help the teacher educator as a sort of "temperature taking" mechanism in order to keep connected with the students' practicum experiences. A log of these tweets could be valuable for students in their reflection on practicum experiences at the end of the course.
  • Continuing conversations. Our class discussions are often (always?) limited by our time together in a common physical space. Of course we have online discussion forums where we can "continue" these conversations, but these are asynchronous and fairly formal in presentation and format. Microblogging could be used to continue the conversation on a more informal, synchronous basis as thoughts occur. Because it is so quick and easy to "say" something, a student doesn't have to log into a course management system and write out their thoughts.
  • Collaborative planning. In our teacher education courses, we often have students forms teams or pairs and plan lessons together. As students come up with ideas for their co-planned lessons, they could microblog or tweet these ideas and in doing so accomplish two things: 1) create a record of the idea, and 2) share the idea with their partner or team. 
  • "Teaching anytime". I often think of ideas or things to bring up in class discussions when I'm not in class. By using a microblogging platform, a teacher educator could tweet these ideas as they occur, thus extending the notion of the "teachable moment" beyond the walls of the classroom. 
  • Broadening the teacher education course community. We all have colleagues with whom we collaborate about our teaching. If some of these colleagues were willing and interested to be a part of the course group, they could chime in on relevant discussions within the group, and act as external friends or advisors. Further, former students might act as friends of the group and join in. Their experiences, just shortly removed from the course, would be valuable for the students. 
  • General reflection facilitation: students can reflect on the course or their experiences at any time and keep a record of these reflections by microblogging them. We know that the reflective practitioner is constantly reflecting on their practice and experience. Microblogging can help to instill this practice in teacher education students. 
We'll post some updates on this blog as we try some of these things out and as we think of new ideas. It would be nice to get a much larger conversation going about using microblogging in teacher education. That conversation could occur here in the comments, on twitter, etc. We will also cross-post this to the Classroom 2.0 teacher education group and the Science Education Research ning to see if we can drum up some interaction, and try to aggregate comments, feedback, and ideas from each of these venues. Please feel free to share your ideas and experiences. 

56 comments:

  1. Thank you for organizing these ideas in such a clear, concise manner. When my student intern began with me full-time last week, she signed up immediately for a Twitter account after hearing me talk about all the ways that my Twitter activity enhances my teaching/learning. Since joining, my intern has already networked with other student interns around the globe, found teachers in our state (including in the area where she hopes to find a job in the spring), and felt the power of throwing a question into the Twitterverse and getting multiple answers in just a few minutes. Thanks for bringing a brighter light to how Twitter is a powerful tool for educators!

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  2. Don't forget you could use Edmodo.com as a replacement for twitter :) We don't have an app like tweetdeck, but we do have groups.

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  3. Our seventh grade educational setting uses Edmodo.com with students and Twitter for adults in our school district. Edmodo is great for students because it is secure to only students who have "the code" which is the invite.

    I have also blogged about Twitter. Maybe some of the information could be of help.
    http://recessduty.wordpress.com/2008/12/23/twitter/

    I have also blogged about Edmodo
    http://recessduty.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/edmodo/

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  4. Thanks for the comments re: Edmodo. I'll certainly check that out as well. The group feature and more controlled access sound nice especially for K-12 apps.

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