“Tweaching” with Twitter

Yes.  That’s right.  It’s not a misspelling. “Tweaching” is on the rise.  A term coined by our very own Brian Salerno, “tweaching” refers to the use of Twitter for instruction in both online and on ground settings.  According to the Faculty Focus Report (2009) on Twitter in Higher Education, up to 71.8% of college faculty expect that their use of Twitter will increase in the coming school year.  Will you be “tweaching” with them?

Twitter , a free microblogging service that allows for text-based messages of 140 characters or less, can be categorized as both an asynchronous and synchronous communication tool.  Depending on how you use Twitter will indicate where it falls on the synchronicity scale.  “Tweets”, or the messages that people send and receive, cover a wide spectrum of content such as:

  • opinions or reactions
  • posing a question
  • sharing a resource
  • polling
  • real time news developments
  • conference back channeling
  • networking
  • safety alerts
Tom Barrett, 2008

As educators, we all strive to create teachable moments for our student population.  But what about “tweachable moments”?  Can Twitter really be used effectively to improve instruction and foster learner engagement?  Here are a few examples of how instructors have used Twitter:

Back Channeling to Equalize the Discussion Platform
Monica Rankin, History Professor at the University of Texas-Dallas conducted The Twitter Experiment in her on ground history course during class time.  She projected a class Twitter account on a screen and asked students to tweet about the topics being discussed during the class time.  The result was that Twitter equalized the discussion platform, allowing for more students to contribute in written form.

Improving Student to Instructor Communication
David Parry, Professor of Emerging Media and Communication at the University of Texas-Dallas, utilizes Twitter outside the classroom with his graduate students.  He finds that communication has improved with his class and he has a better sense of student progress as a result of following his students’ tweets.   Listen to David Parry’s interview.

Collaborative Problem-Solving
Dan Cohen, Associate Professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University, conducted a crowdsourcing experiment that simulated the traditional “author’s query” where “a scholar ask readers of a journal for assistance with a research project (Cohen, 2009).”   His employment of Twitter illustrates how such tools can be utilized to problem solve collaboratively.

Building Community

Finally, Enza Antenos-Conforti , Associate Professor of Italian at Monclair State University, conducted a twenty-two participant Twitter study with her Intermediate Italian I class.  Data from her study revealed that using Twitter was “relevant to real-life language use and that it fostered a strong sense of community in which they (the students) were willing to participate” (Antenos-Conforti, 2009).  To learn more about Enza’s Twitter research, visit her blog, An Academic at Work.

Are you ready to give Twitter a try?  Stay tuned for Tweaching: Part II where I will show you how to build your own Personal Learning Network (PLN) in preparation for using Twitter with your students.  In the meantime, check out these articles about Twitter in academia:

100 Top Twitter Tips for Academics
Twitter Goes to College
Educause: 7 Things You Should Know about Twitter
Twitter: A Teaching and Learning Tool, Tom Barrett
100 Top Twitter Tips for Academics
Learning in 140 – Character Bites


Antenos-Conforti, E. ( 2009). Microblogging on Twitter: Social Networking in Intermediate Italian Classes. The Next Generation: Social Networking and Online Collaboration in Foreign Language Learning. CALICO Monograph Series (8): 59-86.

Cohen, D. (2009). The Spider and the Web: Results.

Faculty Focus Special Report: Twitter in Higher Education: Usage Habits and Trends of Today’s College Faculty, (2009). Magna Publications: Madison, WI

Photo Credit: Top 75 College Education Tweets, Distance Education.org

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