5 Unique Uses of Twitter in the Classroom

Educators are finding creative ways to bring the microblogging platform into their lesson plans.

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Social media has found a prominent place in the college classroom.

In fact, nearly 80 percent of faculty members are using social media in some way, according to a recent survey of nearly 2,000 college faculty by the Babson Survey Research Group published in April.

While some platforms, such as YouTube, have been widely accepted in the classroom, Twitter has been slower to catch on as a teaching tool. In the same survey, only 2 percent of professors reported using the microblogging site—which limits posts to 140 characters—in class.

[Read about Twitter in the college classroom.]

Jim Newman, a Ph.D. student and instructor at Northern Illinois University, says that he uses Twitter not as a news source for his class but as a bulletin board.

"[Twitter] is not something I'm going to be using to chat [with students]," Newman says. "I use it as an additional way to let students know if there's some last-minute news, like class being cancelled."

Where some college instructors use the platform to update students on classroom logistics, it offers others an opportunity for community learning. "The growth of knowledge is a very social process," says Patrick J. Murphy, an associate professor of management at DePaul University's Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. "It's always involved someone giving knowledge or information to someone else. I believe [Twitter] has the potential to transcend the boundaries of the classroom and socialize knowledge."

While some professors may see the appeal Twitter can bring to a classroom, they should put some thought into how the platform should be utilized, says Chris Machielse, a rising junior at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor.

"I think [Twitter in the classroom] would be well received if it were used in a good way," Machielse says. "I think if [professors] are using it just for the sake of using technology, students are going to complain about it."

[Discover five social media tools for college students.]

Some professors are using Twitter in innovative—and effective—ways that benefit students. Here are five unique ways Twitter is enhancing education:

1. Creating a personal brand. A motivation for going to college is to prepare for a future in the workplace. But good grades without a strong personal brand may not lead to immediate employment, says Alyssa Hammond, associate director of undergraduate career services and adjunct professor at Bentley University.

To help her students, Hammond created a social media course that focuses on building a personal brand through social media. "Students need to know how to use Twitter for their own personal branding because people are using it and really gaining a lot of notoriety," Hammond says. "The goal of this class is to give them a good education into what these various systems do from a branding perspective."

In the course, students were required to build a personal brand on Twitter, deciding what type of voice and content they would produce for their online community. They also created a professional brand in which they were a "social evangelist," or cheerleader, for an existing company or corporation, Hammond notes.

"We were able to understand how it could benefit our own lives through branding on the web but also how social media can help companies to brand themselves," says Puja Shah, a recent graduate from Bentley. "I know [this class] will be helpful to me as I enter the real world."

[Learn how job seekers can build their online brand.]

2. Learning to be concise. Although writing lengthy essays about the Declaration of Independence or the Federalist Papers involves heavy research and labor, exacting a response to these materials in 140 characters or fewer can also require deep thought.

Daniel Klinghard, an assistant professor at the College of the Holy Cross, uses Twitter to debunk the fact that these new technologies are destroying the English language. In his political science courses, Klinghard uses a Twitter-inspired project that requires students to summarize major political text without going over the Twitter-imposed character limit.