Written by Rebecca Goodway, Swinburne University of Technology
Twitter 101 – What is Twitter?
Twitter is a social media platform and micro-blogging site which has 126 million daily users. Because Twitter is an open platform it provides unique opportunities for teaching and learning, such as engaging students online, building community and relationships in courses, curating digital resources, and supporting students to engage in public conversations.
In this coffee course, we’ll explore how and why Twitter can be used for teaching in higher education, explore how to design and use Twitter effectively, and how to handle some of the challenges that come along with teaching in the open.
As usual, we invite you to join us in the comments on the blog to share in the discussion, but we also encourage you to discuss with us on Twitter.
Creating a profile
If you’re keen to join us on this Twitter journey, then click here to create an account
To sign up you will need to give a name (which doesn’t need to be your real name, although if it is then people will be able to find you), as well as supply an email or phone number.
Once you have selected your ad preferences, your username will be selected for you based on the name you used to sign up. You can either stick with this name, or edit your username by following these instructions.
Twitter tip: don’t create a username that is associated with your employee or class/program. While you may be thinking of using Twitter as a teaching tool for a specific purpose, you don’t want to limit your use of it in future.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a social media platform where you can curate a ‘feed’ of content based on people and hashtags youfollow. A Twitter feed is comprised of short posts called ‘tweets’ which are 280 characters long. Tweets can be broadcast out to other Twitter users who ‘follow’ you, sent in response to another tweet by way of the ‘reply’ function, or shared with a broader audience via the use of hashtags.
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is a series of characters preceded by the pound sign, for example #ANUCoffeeCourses.
On Twitter, hashtags have multiple functions:
- Hashtags operate as a searchable link which you can click on to find other posts on that topic.
- As a visual cue to as to what the tweet might be about. E.g. the hashtag #DragRace indicates the tweet is relevant to fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
- You can use your own hashtags as a way for you to curate your own content, like a low tech version of Diigo.
You can add multiple hashtags to a Tweet, to further refine the audience who may be searching for your tweet.
The hashtag we are using for this coffee course is #TWTCoffeeCourse.
Anatomy of a Tweet
Click on the interactive buttons in this H5P activity to see the different components of a tweet.
- Find Katie (@katiedigc) and Rebecca (@rebeccagoodway) on Twitter and follow them! (This step is the most important, so make sure you don’t skip it)
- Write your first tweet – use the hashtag #TWTCoffeeCourse. Introduce yourself and let us know why you are joining us!
- Search for the hashtag #TWTCoffeeCourse and follow anybody you see tweeting using it. You now have your own starter community who can share this journey with you!
Why use Twitter for Teaching
The use of Twitter (amongst other social media platforms) represents a shift in pedagogy away from consumption of learning materials within the ‘walled garden’ of a learning management system, where all course interactions are only between the approved teaching staff and student in a closed environment. One of the main affordances of Twitter is that it is a move towards an open, digital pedagogy, where course conversations are held in the public and those from outside the course itself are able to see and participate in it. Unlike the LMS, where teacher and student roles are enforced and more hierarchical, open platforms can help students co-create their own learning spaces (Rosen & Smale, 2015). Put simply, Twitter can shift the focus from the directives of the teacher onto the student, by facilitating increased learner autonomy and agency. Part of the fun is Twitter is that its use can lead you and your students in unanticipated directions!
Share in the comments below or on Twitter, using the hashtag #TWTCoffeeCourse.
- What is your experience in using Twitter? Are you a Twitter novice? Or a long-time Tweeter? Share your Twitter handle if you have one! Either way, we want to hear more about your experience!
- What brings you to this coffee course? What interests you about using Twitter for teaching?
Join us for a live chat on Twitter on Friday, 11 Oct at 11am AEST, where Rebecca and Katie will be answering your questions and hosting a live discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #TWTCoffeeCourse.
Axel Bruns (2016) Prosumption, Produsage. In Bruhn Jensen, Klaus, Craig, Robert T., Pooley, Jefferson D., & Rothenbuhler, Eric W. (Eds.) The International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy. John Wiley & Sons Inc, London, UK.
Cadey Korson (2015) Political Agency and Citizen Journalism: Twitter as a Tool of Evaluation, The Professional Geographer, 67:3, 364-373, DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2014.970839
Adelle King (2019) Digital natives are a myth, RMIT feature article, located at: https://www.rmit.edu.au/industry/develop-your-workforce/tailored-workforce-solutions/c4de/articles/digital-natives-are-a-myth
Jody R. Rosen and Maura A. Smale (2015) Open digital pedagogy = Critical pedagogy, Hybrid Pedagogy, Published 7 January 2015, located at: https://hybridpedagogy.org/open-digital-pedagogy-critical-pedagogy/
I have been using twitter and on off since 2011. My handle is @hpstorian. I think that twitter is a great resource for teaching, however not in the way that I have often seen it used. This course, and similar, are good examples of how it is best utilised: as a space for building educational culture and expertise in an informal and globally connected setting. While I am sure there are some educators who can use it as an interface with students, I have generally found it to be less effective (and in some ways less ethical) than other avenues. However when it comes to networking and skills sharing with other educators I think it is almost without peer.
This is particularly the case for those (like myself) who have spent a lot of time in precarious academic employment. Twitter is a tearoom for those who aren’t on permanent contracts.
It found its way into my feed and I thought it was great to see someone at the ANU doing something like this. I ran a twitter workshop called #twitterstorians101 and it was an absolute blast, so I wanted to experience and participate in it from the other side.
Thanks for joining Katie and I. To address your points:
1. I think the most ineffective way I have seen Twitter used is as a broadcast platform – for people to shout out into the void about their publications and activities. It is best used as a platform to facilitate networked learning and connections. So I agree with you, it’s great! I am looking forward to making new connections via this course. The ethics are something you may like to tweet with us about using #TWTCoffeeCourse. One hashtag I have seen for sessional teachers in Australia is #auscasuals, so that may be of interest to you as well.
2. I am very keen to learn more about #twitterstorians101, I am going to check it out now!
Hi Will, welcome and thanks for all your great tweets over on the hashtag! I have really appreciated reading them. I myself have been in that precarious academic employment situation and have found Twitter to be a really valuable community for support, resources, and especially networking and engaging with others. The community that you can get from Twitter has helped me through some tough times and opened my eyes to conversations around precarity – particularly discussions like #auscasuals and #adjunctchat.
I have had a Twitter account since 2008, with the handle @tom_worthington, but rarely use it. I tend to post to a blog first, then a Tweet to point to that.
I doubt the value of Twitter for education, but decided to enroll in this course to see if I was missing something. I worry that encouraging students to use Twitter places them at risk, particularly International students.
Hi Tom! I think that’s a very valid point and one to carefully consider when using any public platform. One of the things I have seen in various case studies of Twitter use is that it depends very much on the discipline context and how/when public, professional identities are helpful for the students to develop during their degrees. This is something we will explore in detail in Day 2, so hopefully we can explore the issue in more detail then. Looking forward to it!
William, I was curious about comment that Twitter was ” in some ways less ethical”. I worry students will get into trouble by oversharing.
1. I’m old Gandalf. @stephendann is March 2007 (the secondary, @drstephendann was commissioned in January 2008). I was using Twitter before the ANU had social media policies 🙂
2. I’ve used it for classes way back in the day, running it as a backchannel when it was much easier to wrangle through desktop software. The lost of the API ecosystem basically resulted in my decision to drop it as a live tool (vale TweetDeck, and all who sailed forth upon those API calls), and sort of leave it about the place as a means by which I can be reached if necessary. So I’d like to see what the contemporary toolkit looks like, and what can be done with the platform since I’ve not really engaged in the last couple of years.
Welcome Stephen! It’s always nice to hear from long-time Twitter users who have watched the platform grow and change over time; it provides a unique insight! I think Tweetdeck has been resurrected now — and by resurrected, I mean acquired by Twitter. But it is available again in any case, and we will mention it on Day 4 of the course on Friday. I wonder if this and other tools might be suitable for you to begin using your class backchannel again?
I thought this recent blog post might be of interest to people following this Coffee Course. Not so much Twitter for teaching but for networking, as William mentioned above:
Academics and Twitter: the good, the bad and how to survive out there.
Hi Lesley, thanks for sharing this – it looks great! I might tweet it out as a resource using the course hashtag if that’s okay? 🙂
So glad to see this topic! I’m an avid academic tweeter @gemma_s_king. It’s where I’ve met multiple academics who would become co-authors, connected with people at the same conferences (who I’ve then met up for coffee with in person), and started up collaborations with people in adjacent industries, such as film festivals, film journals and museums. One of my PhD examiners even took on the marking of my thesis despite being really busy, because we’d been in contact on Twitter. I second Rebecca’s comment above; I think it’s worked so well because I don’t just use Twitter to announce my own news (though there’s a place for that, too!) but to engage with others. It’s a place for conversation, rather than a bulletin board.
Hi Gemma! Nothing wrong with broadcasting your own achievements at all, but making connections is where the value definitely is for me 🙂
I have always used Twitter as my conference ‘note taking’. Using the conference hashtag, I post images of slides, quotes, and my own commentary which I can then look back on! No more lugging around notebooks or laptops because it is all on my phone!
I will be at Edtechposium in October doing just that!
I think students already have active social media lives, and are usually made aware of the dangers of a social media trail in high school. However that doesn’t detract from the kind of duty of care we take onto ourselves when requiring twitter for full participation in a course. I’m conscious of something Evgeny Morozov said as a counter to net optimism: “states get from twitter the kind of information they used to use torture to acquire.”
In certain fields (journalism for example) twitter becomes a necessity, but any promotion of the platform needs to come with a consideration of its implications. I think, as Katie and others have point out in the twitter conversation, it also has to come with some form of guidance and introduction to the medium.
This is not to mention the kind of avenues it open for problematic communication between students and academics. Most wouldn’t use their personal email to communicate with students, but twitter has the potential to create exceptions.
It’s true that students are much more likely to be engaging with social media than ever before, but it doesn’t mean they are using it for the reasons which may benefit them in future, and they are perhaps not as likely to be thinking of it as an information source to be drawn from (and critiqued/viewed with skepticism). On day 3 we will be looking at some of the practical challenges of working with students on Twitter, will be really interested to learn of your insight over time.
Just this morning I was tweeting about being on Twitter at nearly midnight as a sessional member of staff, deciding what communication happens on Twitter (and what doesn’t) is really a critical part of the learning design of your unit, to keep everyone safe as well as respecting everyone’s boundaries.
These questions are easy for me to answer….
1) What is your experience in using Twitter? I would absolutely call myself a twitter novice, or perhaps a tweeter novice. I re engaged with twitter last year because it was encouraged as part of an online post grad course I was in (thanks @chieadachi #eee726). As a student a whole world of information and discussions opened for me – and although ‘tweeter shy’ I am grateful to everyone who shared their professional thoughts, ideas and information. Which brings me to answer discussion q 2… What brings you to this coffee course? What interests you about using Twitter for teaching? Put simply, I’d love to pay it all forward. My experience using twitter for my own learning has been so positive, I am really interested all the ways it can be harnessed in learning and teaching. There are some great examples in the links above.
Hi! I have had Twitter in the beginnings and then gave it up. I currently use it to follow academics and get to know what’s going on with world education.
I am @daniconeja
Greetings from Argentina!
Hi Daniela! Welcome! Great to have you join us. We would love to hear how Twitter is used in teaching in Argentina – looking forward to the conversation!
I am still not on Twitter (a pre-novice?), and am respectfully staying off the platform for the time being. I keep hearing about the advantages of Twitter within academia. However, having avoided a social media presence thus far, I am hesitant to jump in and “expose” myself to the world. I am hoping this Coffee Course will equip me to make better-informed decisions about whether and how to engage with Twitter.
Similar to some others, I am cautious about requiring students to use any third-party platform, especially if a similar experience is available through ANU’s resources. More so than privacy or ethics, I see it as a question of diversity and accessibility.
Hi all. I joined twitter in 2016 and my handle is @ExoBioExplorer. I only really post things of interest to me in my field (astronomy) or to promote my work to others in my field – as twitter is quite popular in the astro community.
I haven’t had any experience with using twitter specifically in teaching, as in my undergrad we used mostly facebook or slack for group projects. I’m interested to see the benefits and pitfalls of twitter in education and how I can add this tool to my teaching collection. 🙂
Hi Sarah, thanks for joining us! We are having a live Twitter chat at 11am Melbourne time, I hope you can join us then! Also keen to hear more from you on the other posts.
I’ve only just joined Twitter recently and I’m looking forward to learning how to use the platform effectively for research and teaching. I am at @AnnabelleDoher2
It’s really fascinating to hear about different peoples’ experiences and perspectives.
Hi, Katie! Here in Argentina twitter is not very used in teaching. In fact, teachers lack a lot of knowledge about technology because they did not have training in this. Progress is being made little by little though. I think that Twitter can be very helpful in teaching but -I don´t know if this happens also in Australia- there are a lot of fake accounts or bots and people tend to be very aggressive so it is something to take into account.
Higher education students are older, though, so it should not be a problem, but sometimes the use of Twitter is blurred because of this and there is also a lot of fake news.