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Day 2: Exploring Twitter use in teaching

In today’s post, we’ll expand on some of the pedagogical approaches that can be supported by using social media platforms like Twitter. We’ll present several case studies demonstrating how you might incorporate Twitter into a course, and invite you to consider the challenges or benefits for applying these to your teaching practice.

Before we get started, please check out the ongoing conversation on Twitter from the previous post, where participants shared great stories about how they have used Twitter. Join us by visiting #TWTCoffeeCourse.

Creating a professional identity and network

Gif of Captain America saying Because Twitter is an open platform which is contributed to by experts from across diverse fields, it can be used to create a Personal (or professional) Learning Network or PLN. A PLN is a “shared space of learning and collaboration that supports the exchange of ideas and resources” (Trust 2012 cited in Colwell and Hutchison, 2018). You can encourage your students to create a PLN by following and connecting with experts in your discipline as a central or supplementary activity as part of their Twitter use.

Engaging with professionals in a discipline publicly on Twitter can help scaffold students into future careers and provide them with peer support in a professional context. These discussions often happen around hashtags, such as #AussieED (for Australian teachers), #highered (for higher education), or #edtech (for those interested in educational technology).

Case study: Tweeting as a pre-service teacher

Narelle Lemon (@rellypops) at Swinburne University of Technology has been using Twitter with students in a teaching degree to support them to build networks, learn from peers and mentors, and share resources online. Using Twitter gives the students a chance to practice their professional etiquette and networking skills, as well as get feedback and support from other students in the course and current teachers. This fosters a sense of reciprocity among the cohort: “Through supported scaffolding including pedagogical decisions that carefully consider how Twitter can be integrated into the higher education class, pre-service teachers were provided with the opportunity to build their digital professional profiles, networks, and skills.” (Lemon 2016: 22-23). Read more.

question markDiscussion

Questions for Narelle about this? Please feel free to tag her on Twitter by tweeting @rellypops and she has kindly volunteered to participate in our discussions.


Fostering discussions and active learning

If used effectively, Twitter can help to emphasize student voices and participation and foster a sense of learner agency. This is particularly helpful for large classes, or those where students are separated by distance (such as different campuses or studying online). It can function as an open platform for facilitating real-time discussion and conducting in-class polls. On Twitter you have the added bonus of continuing that discussion outside of class time, as well as including people external to your physical class. Encouraging students to live-tweet during a lecture to ask questions or share comments allows teachers to see instant feedback and get a sense of how students are doing.

question markDiscussion

Live-tweeting during lectures has been referred to as, “The instructional equivalent of jumping a motorcycle over a row of flaming barrels” by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Would you consider trying it? What concerns or challenges do you foresee and what might you do to address them?

Reflective learning and writing

Gif from the movie Zoolander, with Zoolander saying Twitter can support reflective thinking and writing, by inviting students to respond to the course content and engage in active discussion about it. “Taking a microblogging approach fosters students to develop their thoughts and to immediately document them.” (Luo, Shah, and Crompton 2019) Using a social media platform like Twitter supports fast and easy interactions, unlike traditional forums in an LMS. This “microblogging” approach also forces students to write in a clear and concise manner, and tweets can be linked together into a thread of multiple tweets. This approach is often combined with traditional blogging for longer-form reflective writing.

Case study: Bachelor of Communication and Media at the University of Wollongong

This program has embedded the use of Twitter across the degree program, where students tweet for each course. It is scaffolded into the degree from first year, and combined with blogging to help students build professional identities and profiles online. Students live-tweet their classes, tweet about assignments, ask questions, and share ideas, resources, and photos. Tweeting helps to develop a sense of community and friendship in large classes, and across the entire cohort. Students also use Twitter to share and develop their assignments and reflect on the material introduced in face-to-face classes and via the LMS.

According to the convenors of these courses, “Twitter activity reveals glimpses into the types of learning that are usually hidden.” (Turnbull and Moore, 2017) We have been invited to engage with the students and teaching staff in these courses during our look at Twitter. This semester, the following course codes are actively using Twitter: #BCM114 #BCM206 #BCM215 #BCM313 #BCM302 and you can get in touch with the convenors and authors of the linked paper by tagging Chris Moore (@CL_Moore) and Sue Turnbull (@SueTinThirroul). Take a look and share your thoughts using our hashtag, #TWTCoffeeCourse.

A few other ideas

  • As a strategy for blending current events and news into your curriculum

As Twitter is a crowd-sourced social media platform, it can be an excellent way to a) introduce concepts of media literacy, and b) ask your students to make connections between concepts introduced in the curriculum to real-time news and current affairs.

  • As a tool to curate and annotate resources and content

By contributing to a class hashtag throughout the semester, students will have access (over time) to a co-created repository of resources and links. You can also encourage your students to subscribe to relevant hashtags in order to source additional resources, links and perspectives.

question markDiscussion

Which of these examples might work for your context, or do you have another idea for how to integrate Twitter not listed here? What goals might you have for the use of Twitter in your course? What questions do you have around these different uses of Twitter? Please share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #TWTCoffeeCourse. You are welcome to tag any of the accounts listed here in your posts.

Special event

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.


Jamie Colwell & Amy C. Hutchison (2018) Considering a Twitter-Based Professional Learning Network in Literacy Education, Literacy Research and Instruction, 57:1, 5-25, DOI: 10.1080/19388071.2017.1370749

Narelle Lemon (2016) Tweeting as a pre-service teacher: Learning to use Twitter for professional use, Fusion Journal, no. 8; available:

Tian Luo, Smruti J Shah, & Helen Crompton (2019) Using Twitter to Support Reflective Learning in an Asynchronous Online Course, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 35:3, doi:

Sue Turnbull & Christopher Moore (2017) Teaching with Twitter: A case study in the practice of audiencing, in Studying Digital Media Audiences: Perspectives from Australasia, eds Craig Hight & Ramaswami Harindranath, pp 173-192. Available:

15 thoughts on “Day 2: Exploring Twitter use in teaching

  1. While the University of Wollongong method of embedding tweeting into courses would have been great for me as a student, I do wonder whether it’s fair to expect all students to use the platform. Twitter is public, after all (even if you can make your profile restricted), and it can be really polarising as a tool. As much as I love it, I wouldn’t force anyone to use it.

    1. Hi Gemma! This is a very important point. I think in the context of that UOW example it is used as part of the students’ professional practice towards being media and communications professionals, such as journalists. Their use of Twitter embedded across the curriculum wouldn’t necessary be suitable for all disciplinary contexts though. If you’d like, I’d encourage you to ask some of the BCM convenors on Twitter about how they manage this issue, such as @CL_Moore and others!

      1. I do agree with this…While it is really important for students studying some courses to be able to use these platforms, I can think of plenty of study areas where twitter is simply a great resource for anyone to tap into if they want. Reading the development of student tweets and threads in Narelle Lemon’s article is a delight! Inviting and encouraging students to use twitter looks to have been done with sensitivity.

    2. Gemma, there may also be a gender issue here. I enrolled in an education course where we were encouraged to provide details of ourselves. I noticed the mostly female class was comfortable with this, whereas the few males were reluctant to do so, and did it clumsily.

  2. I consider lectures the instructional equivalent of aiming a motorcycle into a row of flaming barrels. There is no reason to add Twitter to this wreckage. 😉

    In a classroom with several hundred students it is difficult to present, and also monitor text contributions. You really need someone dedicated to that task. One thing which can help is to have software which produces a word cloud to summarize the Tweets.

    An alternative my honors student is looking at is to use Twitter style text chat with a video recording.

    Classes are not public, whereas Twitter is. Asking students to answer via Twitter places them at increased risk, as they may forget that it is public. I would address that risk by using a text chat system limited to students in the class, and not use Twitter.

    1. Well said Tom. I’m in complete agreement. Although I see the value of using Twitter in your teaching, my biggest worry is it that this engagement requires some serious multitasking not only on the students’ part but on the teacher as well. Just how much time is invested in this? Academic workload is an explosive topic.

    2. It is an excellent point Tom, Twitter is indeed not appropriate for all contexts. There are a few considerations, class size and diversity being one of them. Another being subject matter – some topics lend themselves to public and open engagement, whereas others may put students at potential risk: which is something we certainly wouldn’t advocate for.

  3. I agree with you Gemma. I too feel that the public nature of the platform might prevent honest appraisals and comments that students are expected to provide on the weekly reading materials.
    The other concern is that some students’ voices might become too dominant on Twitter to drown out others. Those who are better at technology might marginalise some others.
    Is there a way to create small, twitter-like groups within the student cohort?

    1. Hi Kuntala and Gemma, this are absolutely important points to consider when looking at what platforms to use. Taking the other side of the argument for a sec, are there conversations or interactions where students might benefit from having their conversations in public, where others from outside the course could contribute?

      For example, in languages, asking students to participate in the language they are studying on social media might help improve their informal speaking and writing skills, and create authentic interactions with native speakers? Just wanting to consider some options where public discussions might be beneficial.

  4. One of the things about embedding twitter in a degree by design, versus our adhoc pockets of content commitments (eg the 24 wattle forums that students have for 12 weeks of a semester then are kicked out of like some sydney nightclub at 10pm), is that you’re establishing a community of practice for the alumni-in-waiting, and then, hopefully, these connections continue past Week 12.

    That said, adhoc and fragmented use of the platform, or students seeing twitter as “That thing I did for semester 2, class 4, and stopped when the marks stopped” is the challenge of encouraging less transactional world views overall.

    And yeah, workload models don’t count anything other than time in the class, so you’d have to budget this as a preparation and/or marking requirement. Then again, coffee courses don’t count to workload models either, yet here we are…

    1. Haha I love the nightclub reference – very apt! Creating spaces for continued and ongoing conversations, especially those that continue even after the degree is finished, is a significant benefit of using public, non-university platforms. My experiences teaching into programs that used Twitter was that while many students did stop tweeting as soon as it was no longer assessed, a significant number have really taken to Twitter and continued to use it well after their degrees are over.

      Referring to workload models – I think this is a really serious barrier to many teaching staff considering something new. How can you readily be innovative when you don’t have time and don’t receive appropriate recognition for your teaching efforts? This is obviously a structural issue for higher education as a whole. If this is of interest to read more about, this article from Gregory (2015) explores how workload models impede innovative use of technology:

  5. I intuitively feel that encouraging students to live-tweet during lectures is encouraging students to not pay attention. Most people can only process 1 set of language at a time. They are either listening, writing notes, or talking/tweeting. When composing a tweet, and then checking for responses, I suspect live-tweeters stop giving the lecture their full attention.

    If the purpose of live-tweeting is to encourage student interaction and engagement, then there are several non-technological and native technology avenues that can fulfil the same task.

  6. The concerns voiced here seem valid to me but it also seems that these would all be great conversations to have with students, whether or not you’re using Twitter in your teaching. Questions of digital citizenship, how to converse civilly online (and in person!), how to manage your privacy, and how to be attentive to your surroundings in the real world when you’re using technology are important for students in any field. We’re all figuring these things out as we go, why not include students in the discussion and see where they stand?

  7. I think it’s interesting how Narelle makes it more of an exercise for the students to learn how to use the resource after uni in their professional development. Previously, I’ve been thinking of how you would use twitter as a resource to make the tasks we already assign to the students easier, or more interesting/engaging, which doesn’t always work and can result in misuse. However, I can see how it could be a useful tool by instead adding an authentic assessment task that is adapted specifically for twitter.

    From my perspective, it’s quite tough as while the typical course material in my discipline (math/physics/astro) doesn’t really lead itself to Twitter, on the other hand, it is a commonly used resource in academic and outreach spheres, particularly in astronomy. So I can see how it would be really beneficial for the students to start slowly building their digital profile throughout their undergrad, rather than having to do it on the fly like I did. Many useful academic connections can be made or reinforced by twitter usage (e.g. meet people at conference, follow on twitter, keep in touch, collaborate…) and I think it would be interesting to somehow incorporate this into the course work, but maybe it would have to be more of a voluntary additional project for students to select?

    I would definitely be pretty hesitant to include live-tweeting in lectures. How do I monitor the comments when I’m actively teaching the class? I wouldn’t be able to delete irrelevant posts until everything was done. Also, will the students be paying attention to me or will they just be focusing on tweeting? Additionally, I’d want to make sure that I had everything (polls, questions, comments, etc.) set up and scheduled before I started so that the lecture could continue to run smoothly, rather than having to continually stop and start, but I feel that this could require substantial work from me to set everything up, for not much payback for the students for my particular discipline.

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