twitter.pngby Kate Abbott & Matt Ferrinda

Definition
Twitter is a service that allows friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent updates. These “Tweets” can only be 140 characters at a time which means that you must post very short, direct-to-the-point messages. In joining Twitter you become a “Twitterer” and post numerous updates each day (Twitter, 2008).

Brief History
Twitter emerged out of several other Internet companies however its founders are Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey. Williams created Blogger, a popular Web journal service a few years before Twitter was born. Google purchased Blogger, and Williams began working directly for Google. after a while, Williams and another Google employee, Stone, left the Internet giant and formed a new company called Odeo. It was Stone who gave Twitter its name, comparing the short spurts of information exchange to the chirping of birds (Strickland, 2008).

Twitter became an ever increasing element of Odeo so Williams and Stone formed a new company with Twitter as the main product. Williams bought out both Odeo and Twitter from investors and formed a new venture called Obvious Corporation. This is when Jack Dorsey joined the team and he began to further develop Twitter and its many applications. In March 2006, Twitter split off from Obvious to become its own company, Twitter Incorporated (Strickland, 2008).

Today Twitter is used in countries all over the world and as of July 2008, over 2,200,000 accounts were registered.

Key Features
Twitter itself is quite simple. You post updates letting people know what you are doing, send replies or questions to people or send direct messages to those in your network. The powerpoint below shows you how each of these is done.


Educational Value
There is much debate for and against Twitter and its place in the classroom. From our research we asked teachers around the world via a blog post whether they would use Twitter in the classroom with their students or if they were already. The responses were collated into a Power Point with the advantages circled in green and the disadvantages in red.


Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that children largely direct their own development. They do this by energetically exploring objects, acquire increasingly sophisticated ways of thinking, tinker with ideas, talk things over with other people and combine various actions and procedures into complex forms of problem solving (McDevitt and Ormrod, 2004).

For people of all ages Twitter provides the opportunity to explore a new tool, and a new technology. It challenges us to step out of our comfort zone to connect with others and therefore increases our level of thinking. Through Twitter we can explore ideas by seeking feedback and suggestions from a network created by ourselves. This allows us to solve problems with the help from a range of different people. These social interactions help to develop us socially at any age. However, if Twitter were to be used with young children in the classroom, the teacher would have to guide the lesson perhaps only having Twitter set up on one computer but still allowing the children to be a part of asking the network questions, making comments or posting updates.

The following article discusses some of the implications for learning and teaching for Twitter:


The basis of Twitter can be seen as a constructivist approach. The interaction between people via twitter creates situation in which people can learn from one another. Skamp (2004, p.9) states “constructivist learning has a social and cultural aspect.” The international power of twitter allows for users to interact with people of all ages, ethnicity, sex and educational backgrounds. This allows for greater understanding and appreciation of other cultures and their beliefs. Twitter has a strong connection to the values that are found in the Curriculum Framework (1998), this is an important aspect as it essential that students in West Australian schools build upon these values. One of the values that Twitter encourages is value “4.2 Community: Interpersonal cooperation and social responsibility are encouraged” (Curriculum Council, 1998). Students can build a sense of ‘community’ with the use of twitter when used in the correct way.

Future Learning

Twitter is a free and accessible tool from anywhere with an internet connection. Attached below are two Power Point Presentations which are tutorials for creating a Twitter account and personalising your Twitter account. The second presentation is adding Twitter to your iGoogle page using BeTwittered.


For more great tips on tweaking your Twitter page please visit My Quick Start Tips for New Twitters by Sue Waters. This is a valuable post that has the essentials in starting out with Twitter.

There are hundreds of different applications that have been created for Twitter to make using it easier. They can be found here:
http://twitter.pbwiki.com/Apps

Two suggested applications to download are Twhirl and TwitterFox. Twhirl is similar to an instant messaging program such as MSN Messenger, it automatically updates incoming tweets from all in which you are following. The simplicity of the program makes it easy to quick reply to others tweets by using @ replies or d (direct message). This program also includes a feature that allows you to shorten URL’s using any of the three sites that they provide all inbuilt into Twhirl. Twhirl can be found and downloaded at http://www.twhirl.org/

The second suggested application is for users of Firefox browser. TwitterFox is an inbuilt add-on that runs in the bottom right hand corner of the browser underneath the scroll bar. TwitterFox just like Twhirl runs in a similar way. The advantage of TwitterFox is that you are able to browse the web and have Twitter running simultaneously without any inconvenience. Twitter benefits users who do not wish to install software onto their computer and enjoy quick flexible tweeting. It can be installed by doing the following in the Firefox browser:
Tools > Add-ons > Get Add-ons > Search: twitter > Add TwitterFox: Install as per instructions.
Alternatively by visitng https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/5081

Twitter in Plain English
- Video

Future Teaching
The following blog written by Tom Barret provides some excellent examples of ways that Twitter can be used in the classroom.
Twitter - A Teaching and Learning Tool
The article below describes how Twitter can be used as an introduction to Google Earth.
GeoTweets - Inviting your network into the classroom
Twitter in the Classroom


References

Curriculum Council. (1998). Curriculum framework for kindergarten to year 12 education in Western Australia. Osborne Park: WA

McDevitt, T. & Ormrod, J. (2004) Child Development: educating and working with children and adolescents. New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Mozilla, (2008).
TwitterFox 1.7. Retrieved September 13, 2008, from: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/5081

Skamp, K. (2004). Teaching primary science constructively. (2nd edition). Melbourne: Thomson


Strickland, J. (2008) How twitter works. Retrieved September 10, 2008, from http://computer.howstuffworks.com/twitter.htm

Twitter, (2008). What is twitter? Retrieved September 1, 2008, from: http://twitter.com/

Twhirl, (2008). The social software client. Retrieved September 19, 2008, from: http://www.twhirl.org/

Waters, S. (2008). My quick start tips for new twitters. Retrieved September 14, 2008, from:
http://aquaculturepda.edublogs.org/2008/09/14/my-quick-start-tips-for-new-twitters/