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Learning in the Classroom via the Twitter iPad App

Educators are discovering the power of learning via Twitter. Through Twitter for iPad, teachers can share news, opinions, and important information about education, especially on best ways to use an iPad to enhance learning in a classroom setting.

Tweets are messages of up to 140 characters that Twitter subscribers post on their accounts When you have an account, you follow people who talk about topics you find interesting. The latest messages from those users show up on your home page for you to read.

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Twitter users include a hashtag symbol (#) before a relevant keyword or phrase in their tweets to categorize them and make them easy to find in a search. For example, users will include the hashtag #edtech to indicate that a tweet is about educational technology.

If you click or tap the hashtagged keyword, you’ll get the latest list of tweets from all users who have used that keyword. It’s a great way to find relevant information and additional people to follow.

On the Settings page, you can set your Twitter account to be private or public. If you select private, other users will need to request your permission to view your tweets. Access Twitter Settings through your web browser.

Set up Twitter on classroom iPads

The following steps get you started with an account and using it to find and learn from other users:

  1. Open any web browser, and go to the Twitter webpage.

  2. Tap or click the link to sign up for an account.

  3. Look for people you know, news sources you read, and so on, so that you can follow them.

    You’ll get information from Twitter users whom you follow. You follow them by finding their accounts and tapping or clicking a Follow button on their pages.

    Don’t follow too many people at first. You can see the people they follow and get information from people whose tweets they retweet — repost information that someone else posted in a Twitter account.

  4. Follow hashtags for topics that interest you.

    As you begin to use Twitter, you’ll run into common hashtags that represent your areas of interest. For example, #iPadEd is often used for messages about using iPads in education, #mlearning for mobile learning, and so on.

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  5. Post a message with a link to an interesting article or your opinion about an important topic, and add a relevant hashtag, if you know it.

    Get involved. Remember that sharing works best when it flows in both directions.

  6. Go to the App Store, and download a Twitter app for your iPad.

    You can also add your Twitter account information in the Settings app in iOS 6 (scan the left column for the Twitter menu item), and the Twitter app is automatically installed with your account.

    There are Twitter apps for your iPhone, iPad, and most other mobile devices, so you can connect and access your Twitter account and feeds whenever needed.

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Educate using Twitter on classroom iPads

You wouldn’t believe how easy it can sometimes be to connect with someone through Twitter. Here’s one example: suppose you're an English teacher whose class is reading a book by a contemporary British novelist.

A quick search on Twitter reveals that he has an account, so you send a message inviting him to videoconference with the class and discuss the book with the students. The next thing you know, the author is speaking to your students via Skype. They experience and relate to the novel from a completely new perspective — all through the magic of social networking and Twitter!

Twitter, a great tool for personal and professional development, can be used effectively in other ways in a classroom setting. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking, including some hashtags you might use.

These examples use a unique identifier (ms6) to represent a fictitious sixth-grade class in Venice Middle School.

  • Create a special hashtag phrase for your class, and use Twitter as a classroom discussion forum for communication after school hours (#discuss-vms6). You can review the hashtag discussions the following morning or at any other time.

    Always check that any hashtag you want to use isn’t already being used for some other purpose. You can use Twitter’s search function to check whether any existing tweets already reference the hashtag you’d like to use

  • Use Twitter as an easy way for students to post questions and comments during lectures and field trips (#comments-vms6).

  • Have students adopt the character in a historical event or book, and get them to tweet as that character with other students/characters. Don’t forget to use a hashtag to group the tweets into an easy-to-follow discussion (#civilwar-vms6).

  • Post a question of the day that requires your students to practice their information literacy skills and search for the answer online (infolit-vms6).

  • Ask children to read something and summarize it in a string of 140-character Twitter posts. The skill of condensing issues to their essential core is important to all forms of communication (#novel-vms6).

  • Teach vocabulary by having students submit a sentence a day (#vocab-vms6).

Twitter is such a popular service that it has spawned an entire industry of Twitter add-on services. One such app that can be great for educational or recreational use is Twitterfall. Use a standard desktop browser to access the Twitterfall website, and get a current stream of all tweets on anything you search.

For example, say that you’re debating the politics and issues regarding gun control. You can use phrases such as gun control and nra as searches, and Twitterfall will give you a stream of tweets as they are being published on the web. It’s amazing to see the stream flowing down on your screen.

You can even look at the difference in opinions within different geographic areas by using the geolocation option and only displaying tweets within a specific geographic area.

A word of warning about using Twitterfall, and for that matter, any public Twitter search: The tweets coming to you through these tools are not filtered. That said, you may run across all forms of profanity and objectionable opinions. Exercise some reasonable amount of caution when using these tools, especially when you are using them with your students.

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