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Saturday, 25 August 2012

Top Six Twitter Teaching Tips

Six of the Best

Twitter's everywhere, everyone's got it, but some don't know what to do with it. Or what it really is. Or whether it's genuinely interesting or the biggest waste of time yet invented by man.

In the world of teaching with Twitter the jury's still out but here, inspired by a seminar I attended by Petra Pointner at a Pearson Longman open day, I offer you my Top Six Twitter Teaching Tips. Actually, they're all I've got, but they'll do for the moment. Feel free to add to them in the comments if you wish.

1) International Conference
I loved Petra's idea about getting someone you know - a colleague in another country would be ideal - and having a 'live session' with them using Twitter. You create a #hashtag for the session and chat away. An interview format would work well, asking questions of this exotic stranger. They could even pretend they are someone famous. Or the students could take on famous personas too. In a classroom this would probably have to be done on one central computer projected onto the wall or complete chaos could break out.

2) As Tom Cruise Said To Me...
Famous people tweet, and anyone can read them, this is a fact. So why not choose a popular and prolific tweeter and print out some of their choicest tweets for analysis and other language work in class? And of course it's Twitter we're talking about here, so you can tweet back and who knows, maybe even get an answer! Each member of the class could compose a 140 character response to famous Tweeters' tweets and see who comes up with the funniest.

3) Build Your PLN
The PLN (Personal Learning Network) is a huge buzzword in geeky teachy circles at the moment. I've finally come to the conclusion that it's just a bunch of people you know or have heard of who are interesting to follow or work with from time to time. All well and good. So what about if students created one of these too. Starting with each other and their teacher. They could then start following some interesting Tweeters - those who give instant content such as 'word of the day' posters, for example. Tweets should remain heavily English-focused or again chaos could come a-calling and you end up with a Particularly Loathsome Nuisance, or words to that effect.

4) Follow That Tweet
One of the main things people use Twitter for is to share links to websites. And to discover interesting sites in this way. So it makes sense for students to click on a few links and see where they lead. When they discover a particularly interesting site relating to the English language or not, they write a report about it, post it on the internet somewhere if they are able to do this (like on their personal or class blog), and post a tweet with a link to it for everyone to read and follow for themselves. This would be great for homework, it seems to me.

5) Linguistic Analysis Twitter Bingo
You could get all serious and analyse Tweets on a fast-moving channel for parts of speech: verbs, nouns, prepositions etc. It could be turned into a game of bingo with students having cards and looking out for particular types of words or actual words. You could use categories to look out for such as food, clothes, numbers, colours, animals, actors, politicians and so on. This may or may not work - I haven't tried it yet -  and you may have to carefully construct a list of bloggers whom you know will produce the sort of language you're looking for.

6) Find Poetic Fame & Fortune
Well, no, probably not, but the challenge of writing something meaningful and coherent in 140 characters is considerable. Having said that, the popular haiku form of poetry uses only seventeen syllables and still manages to say something. You know, "Clouds appear and bring - to men a chance to rest from - looking at the moon", that sort of thing. And 17 syllables fit easily into 140 characters so what's holding you back? And of course there are a ton of Tweeting haikuers out there to follow and interpret, although haiku itself is supposed to be extremely easy to understand. It needn't stop (or start) with poetry though. What about short movie or book reviews, for example. Or a diary entry. Or a question. All in best English, naturally. Now, where's that moon gone..?

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© 2012 Sab Will / Hotch Potch EnglishWill Power English : "Top Six Twitter Teaching Tips"
Sab Will is a teacher, teacher trainer, fanatical blogger... and stuff.

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