The growth of Twitter and similar sites has influenced many institutions. Many employers, for example, currently value digital literacy and look to hire employees who are skilled in social media. Since corporations increasingly value this type of literacy, researchers such as Greenhow and Gleason (2012) argue that educators need to respond by helping students develop best practices when using social networking and microblogging services.
Many teachers and school districts have started using Twitter for motivating practices, to help students learn and become more media savvy. Precautionary measures can help teachers prevent misuse and allow use of Twitter to create a stimulating environment in which students can communicate and learn.
What Is Microblogging?
Since the creation of Twitter in 2006, microblogging has become extremely popular. Over the past few years, its use among American teenagers has doubled (Greenhow & Gleason, 2012). Microblogging permits users to share updates through real-time and asynchronous communication using very brief texts (Gao, Luo, & Zhang, 2012). Each message posted on Twitter, which is called a "tweet," can be no longer than 140 characters; these short messages differentiate microblogging from traditional blogging.
Twitter allows users to post tweets to "friends" or "followers," to tag or organize tweets, and to forward them. New messages appear to friends and followers continuously, combined with messages from other subscribers, and friends and followers can comment on the updates (Mills & Chandra, 2011). Users can also list their interests, affiliations, and tweet history on their profile page. Students microblog on sites like Twitter to share resources, communicate with peers, inquire about specific materials, and follow experts in a particular subject matter.
Although studies on educational microblogging are few, some researchers are confident this form of communication has strong potential to enhance learning (e.g., Gao et al., 2012). Some instructors have already witnessed the positive outcomes from using Twitter in school, such as improvement in reading, writing, digital literacy, information gathering, and communication with students and parents.
Effective Instruction With Twitter
When encouraged to tweet on various topics, students may improve their literacy skills in several ways. For example, Kurtz (2009) found that tweeting throughout the day improved his students' skills in reading and writing. He engaged his 1st- and 2nd-graders in a process in which...