These tools offer free functionality that extend and enhance the possibilities for instructional uses of Twitter.
Twitter is playing a role in more classrooms every day. Articles like “6 Examples of Using Twitter in the Classroom” and “100 Ways To Teach With Twitter” have drawn tens of thousands of readers, a clear testament to the high level of academic interest in this wildly popular microblogging platform.
Teachers are finding new ways to use Twitter to engage their students, build stronger academic and professional relationships, and to share information in a richer learning environment, and they are using tools like these to bring more fun and functionality to the process.
It's easy to get started with these applications. Users can sign up using their Twitter accounts (although GroupTweet does get a little more involved). Each of these tools has the benefit of being web based – you don't have download anything to your computer to use them, and you can access them from anywhere via a web browser. Lastly, they all have free versions that provide robust functionality.
Twitpic allows users to upload photos or videos and share them directly to Twitter, creating an array of possibilities for sharing information. You can get started in seconds, signing in with your Twitter credentials.
Teachers and educators can use Twitpic to post visual content related to classes or coursework, keep classroom pen pals connected, develop class projects that call for students to assemble photos with specific subjects or themes, and so on.
(Of course, it's always important to keep privacy considerations in mind when posting pictures of video materials … sharing personal photos of other people without their consent is never recommended.)
Polling and survey tools provide teachers so many capabilities. Poll students about their thoughts on class materials and subjects, use a poll as a quiz, allow the poll itself to be an educational tool about voting and democracy, or reach out to colleagues and put new ideas through a peer-reviewed test phase before investing time and energy into implementing them in the classroom. The possibilities are endless.
The polls or surveys people create on Twtpoll can be shared with Twitter followers, Facebook friends or email contacts, giving the tool more dynamic reach than if it relied on Twitter responses alone. Twtpoll comes with four different pricing options – a free version with plenty of power, and three paid options that provide increasing functionality.
GroupTweet enables teachers to create a classroom Twitter group, where anyone who is authorized and has a Twitter account can contribute. This can be a great way to tie class related tweeting together and create a course-specific presence on Twitter.
Check out the GroupTweet Examples Page to get a sense of how the tool works and what it lets you do, or dig into the FAQs for further details. A GroupTweet classroom account can be focused specifically on students, or it could be used to help to keep the conversation and the lines of communication open between educators, students and parents. The tool is easy to set up and use, and can be kept private by allowing only members of the group to tweet and see tweets.
FollowerWonk is the ultimate Twitter Follower data tool, allowing for analysis of Twitter users and follower trends. The free functionality in FollowWonk provides summary information for any Twitter user's followers (except for yourself – you have to pay for that), and it lets you compare information about different Twitter users. There are a variety of paid plans that provide additional analytics capabilities.
Educators can collect all sorts of useful data from the Twitter analytics tool about what’s trending among their peers in specific locations, across age or student groups, by topic or even by a “cloud” search of similar terms found in bios – like ‘teacher’ or ‘education.’
This is a powerful tool that allows teachers to compare what is being learned and what is being taught within the entire Twitter community, which had 200 million registered accounts as of January 2011!
All of these Twitter tools can enhance teachers and students ability to communicate and share ideas. Used together, they create a new, dynamic set of learning and information sharing tools.
Do you use these tools, or have other favorite Twitter companion products that you use in an instructional role? Drop a comment and tell us about it…
This article was written collaboratively with Chuck Sipe, Executive Editor at Teacher Certification Degrees, a teaching career site with information on an Educational Technology Degree.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Inspiring Learning Outcomes with Twitter in the Kindergarten Classroom
7 Reasons To Leverage Social Networking Tools in the Classroom