Tag Archives: online learning tools

A guide to teaching on Twitter

Image by James Sarmiento

In the next year, Twitter will likely see a huge boom in useful educational content. Users, sick to death of reading RTs (retweets) of motivational quotes and breaking news, will want to follow Tweeps who can deliver unique, interesting, useful information in bite-sized chunks.

In my own quest to learn French, I found myself searching Twitter for a Twitterer who would just teach me random French words. In particular, I wanted to follow a Twitter account which would just give me the information in the tweet, not require me to click a link to a website. I couldn’t find any such thing, so in the end I created one myself – @Frenchmot. I’ve since found a few more dedicated French learning twitter accounts, which I highly recommend French learners follow.

What I learned in this process was that there aren’t that many Twitter accounts out there who dedicate themselves to teaching a particular topic. Or, if they are there, they’re not very good at advertising themselves. It took a chat with my husband for me to realise that perhaps some people just don’t know how easy it is to run an educational Twitter account.

Before setting up @Frenchmot I really thought for a long time about whether it was something I could commit to regularly. Now that I’ve been running it for a while, I’ve realised it’s very, very easy to stick to.

Firstly, it has to be something you are interested in learning or teaching. It’s best if you have a fresh source of information to provide. For me, I am usually trying to read French newspapers and books. Whenever I don’t know the exact meaning of a word I look it up, cross reference and reverse translate. When I’m sure the translation is accurate I write the tweet. This can take a little time, but I’m learning from the process. So, it’s good for me and the people following me. Plus, it feels good to share something just because you can.

Learn, check, tweet.

I’m pretty sure this approach could be used by just about anyone who had to learn multiple small pieces of information by rote. It could be used for all sorts of topics, medical terminology, physics formulae, tips for DIY.. anything. Can you imagine how good it would be to revise for exams with regular tweets (from lots of other students) reminding you of all the little things you need to learn?

So, you’ve got an idea what you can teach people? Here’s how to set your own educational Twitter feed up.

  1. Set up a new dedicated Twitter account for your topic. Don’t use your normal account. You can always tell the followers who you really are in your bio and your Twitter background.
  2. Start an account with Tweetlater so you can schedule your tweets into the future. This will keep you sane. When you’re motivated you can schedule a tweet per day for several days ahead. Then when you go away for the weekend no-one will know. It’s not too hard to nose your way around Tweetlater. Make sure you set your current timezone, then when you Tweet make sure you choose when you want it to be posted.
  3. Make sure you tag your tweets with relevant hashtags so that people searching the topic can find you. Make sure the same keywords are in your bio.
  4. Sign up to some of the Twitter directories, eg. Wefollow or Twellow.
  5. Keep your tweets on topic, interesting, reliably correct and numerous (keep the stories about your lunch to your normal Twitter account).
  6. Try to stagger (using Tweetlater) your Tweets to co-incide with the workdays of all timezones that speak your language, eg. English, American and Australian workday.
  7. In order to find other educational Tweeps, try searching Twitter for hashtags of your topic (or try the user directories).
  8. Occasionally promote similar Twitterers to your followers. It will help your followers to learn more and it might gain you some Twitter karma.

Now you’re ready to share and learn cool things from your fellow Tweeps. Do it now – it’s easy!

PS. I’m @smange on Twitter. Feel free to follow me!

(For more teaching ideas, take a look at Interesting ways to use Twitter in the Classroom)

Image Credit: James Sarmiento