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Tech Tips: What to do with Twitter

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Have you found that email is now passé with your undergraduate students?

After an increasing number of students told me they “didn’t get the message,” I decided to adopt an idea from my colleague, Diana Wakimoto, and try another tack–Twitter.  I began by using this with my credit course and then found that I could use it with students in my liaison areas or in my one-time classes.

I set up a Twitter account strictly for work (I don’t use the same account for personal tweets).  Then I tell students that they can follow me and set up their own Twitter accounts.  If they choose, they can also download Twitter to their mobile phones.  I can then tweet messages that are 140 words or less, e.g.:

Office hours today:  10-12

Room change for English 6001:   LI 2064

Working on the research assignment we discussed?  Don’t forget the MLA International Bibliography

TESOL students, don’t forget these databases:  Communication and Mass Media Complete; Linguistics and Language Behavioral Abstracts.

You get the idea and they get the messages.  I’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of times students “don’t get the message,” which was my original reason for starting this, but I’ve also had feedback that if I’ve timed my message at a likely point of need, they also remember more.

I teach a two-credit course and I also go into a number of individual classes to teach short sessions, maybe only once, maybe a couple of times.  For my credit course, which is now online, I require my students to get a Twitter account and I set up a Twitter widget on my blog so that if they don’t have a mobile phone or don’t want to assume the connect charges, they can view the tweets on the blog (  For my incidental classes, it’s optional.

The word is spreading, though, and I’ve discovered that some students in my liaison areas are signing on to Twitter and following me, even though I don’t happen to go into their particular classes.  They just find some of the reminders helpful, if the reminders deal with general content matter, such as database hints.  So I make sure I tweet at least a couple of times a week and not just about room or class-specific logistics, but about databases, web sites I’ve found, and other points of note.

It gives them one thing to remember at a time and it seems to get closer to their point of need.