Twitter is a method of quickly publishing text, pictures, and video to the Internet. Many educators avoid using Twitter and other social media because of high-profile embarrassments that are reported on a regular basis. Those embarrassments are largely the result of the ease with which one can post information to the Internet. It takes only a few taps to get images, video, and text from one’s phone or other device on to the Internet.
Before continuing, there is some advice I give to educators when it comes to using Twitter in their classrooms. Users can have multiple Twitter accounts and those can be connected to one’s mobile device. No matter how careful one tries to be, it is inevitable that users with multiple accounts on a single device will post using the wrong account. (Students in my spreadsheet applications course have seen Tweets I posted regarding educational research that were intended for my professional account, and followers of my professional account have seen announcements meant for my students.) If you are active on Twitter and you do not want your activity to potentially become known to your students, then it is best to not even start using this platform with your students.
Creating an Account
To begin using Twitter, point your web browser to https://twitter.com and follow the steps to sign up. As part of the process, you are required to enter either a telephone number or an email address. Twitter send a verification code to that phone number or email address and it must be entered to complete the sign up process.
Several steps in the sign-up process can be skipped; those options can be set up later by editing one’s profile and following other Twitter users.
Twitter automatically creates your Twitter handle (the names at begins with @). If you do not like the one it created for you, you can change it by clicking “Settings and privacy” under the “Profile and settings” menu. Twitter will allow you to enter any handle that is not already taken.
Once your account is created you can begin Tweeting.
Connecting Your Mobile Device
A Twitter app is available for Android and iOS devices. This allows one to Tweet from that device. For educators this can be particularly useful as pictures and video of classroom activities can be posted. This can be especially useful when in the lab, field, clinic, or studio.
Once you have installed the app on you mobile device, you can sign in on the app or you can add an existing account to the app. Once you have multiple accounts connected to the app, you can quickly change between them. Whichever one is active (as indicated by the green checkmark) is the account from which you are Tweeting.
What to Tweet
Before deciding what to Tweet, it is important for educators to consider privacy and ownership of work. It is best to ask permission before Tweeting anyone’s work or their image; backs of heads and hands are my choices if I people are in the images I Tweet. Further, once an image or video or text is tweeted, it is in the public. Before tweeting others’ works (solutions to problems, drawings, or other intellectual property, educators must secure permission).
Tweets are limited to 280 characters of text; this limit includes URL’s of web sites you add to Tweets. By clicking the image icon when composing a Tweet and then allowing the app access to the camera and also the photos on the device, one can Tweet images from a mobile device. When a Twitter user allows the app access to the photos on his or her mobile device, there is the potential that any images on the device may be accidently posted. With access to the camera and photos, users can also tweet video content form those sources.
A Brief Introduction to Hashtags
Hashtags are terms added to tweets that follow a # sign. These can be used to indicate the subject of a Tweet, so that different users can contribute to a topic; users can follow hashtags, search hashtags, and embed timelines of all the tweets that were marked by a particular hashtag.
There are no “official” hashtags, they are created by individuals and some become very popular very quickly. Many conference organizers will announce a hashtag and print it on programs and other materials so they can collect and share tweets about the conference. Instructors can even create their own hashtag for their course. By using this hashtag, students who have Twitter accounts will be able to contribute to the timeline as well as faculty. Of course, there is no way to control who uses a hashtag, so your timeline based on a hashtag may display unwanted tweets.
Embedding Twitter in a Moodle Course
While students can follow your Twitter handle and see content you tweet on their own timelines, faculty can also embed their Twitter timeline in a Moodle course. When this is done, any content (text, links, images, or video) that is tweeted will immediately be posted in the Moodle classroom. “Immediately” is an approximate term in this case; depending on the quality of one’s network connection and other factors, it may take a few minutes for tweeted content to appear in a Moodle course.
Most faculty want to embed either the timeline for their handle that has been created for the course or they want to embed a timeline that displays a hashtag. Either of these can be accomplished by pointing a web browser to https://publish.twitter.com and create the desired code. The code is then copied to and pasted into a page in the Moodle classroom.
To embed a Twitter timeline in you Moodle classroom:
- Begin with two tabs open, one with your Moodle classroom and the other with https://publish.twitter.com open
- On publish.twitter.com enter the handle (including the @) or hashtag (including the #) that you want to embed
- Click the arrow
- Choose timeline
- Click the blue button to “Copy Code”
- In your course, turn editing on with the gear menu
- Click to “Add an activity or resource”
- Choose “Page,” click “Add”
- Give it a meaningful description
- In the text editor, open the “HTML” editor
- Paste the code copied from publish.twitter.com
Students can now click the link to see the Twitter timeline. These steps work for any item for which the text editor is used to create content. For example, a Twitter timeline can be added to a discussion, assignment, or any other item.