I use Twitter daily in my personal life. When I heard a friend of mine was Twittering for class, it made me think about how this real-time short messaging service could be used in the online classroom. My immediate thought is that outside of discussion boards and other classroom participation, it is hard to create that sense of community in the asynchronous learning environment.
Twitter: Articles on the Web
The best way to explain how to create a sense of community with Twitter is to refer you to the article "Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense". You may be skeptical on how making posts that are limited to 140 characters can be beneficial, and Clive's article is an answer to that. It as also an explanation of how something as "experiential" as Twitter can be misunderstood at first glance, and I tend to agree.
If you like the idea of using Twitter for connecting with your class, check out "Ways to use Twitter in Academia" on the academHacK blog. The author of this blog entry was skeptical of Twitter at one time, and after reading Clive Thompson's article, decided to give it a try. For comments from other instructors who use (and picked Twitter as one of their Top 10 Tools in 2008), see Top Tools: Twitter from the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies.
As you can see, there is so much out there on the web about using Twitter in education that it makes my head spin. I pulled out a couple of the more helpful articles for you.
As for my review, it will not be long because Twitter is a simple tool and only does a couple of things : You can post messages, follow people and read their messages, and other people can follow you. The possibilities of what you can do with this free service are much larger, however. I see Twitter as very useful for classes that deal with current issues, such as Political Science. Not only can you subscribe to your friends' Twitters, but to news networks and important figures (Barack Obama, for instance).
An example of how you could use Twitter (and it is being used this way by educators) is to post links to articles you find when you are surfing the web that your students might find interesting. You could post reminders, or pose questions, or simply post what you were doing that day. That is a great way to reach out to your students, and for you to learn a bit about them. It is a matter of having to remember to do something else, but if you get your students engaged with Twitter I doubt that would be a problem.
Bottom line: Twitter is available, it is free, highly mobile, and fun. If you want to create a sense of community in your class and have fun getting to know your students, try it out.
I started a new Twitter, and if you'd like to follow me to start trying it out, please do so!