Twitter can be used for much more than publishing to the world what you are having for dinner. There’s a metaphor gifted to me from a former professor that goes like this: writing floats on a sea of conversation. Twitter is often about conversation. It’s great for making professional connections, accessing information published by people from all over the world, and participating in discussions including the last presidential election, a major sporting or entertainment event, or finding those who care about what you care about. Just last semester, students used Twitter to find gas for their cars after hurricane Sandy, located potential internships, and exchanged tweets from professionals in their area of major from all over the world. Like Facebook and other forms of social media, Twitter can give you a voice heard by businesses and government organizations.
We’ll begin using Twitter as a way to establish community in our course, access information beyond our classroom community, and perhaps build connections with people who care about the same issues we do. Follow the directions below to set up your account.
- Consider if you’d like for people to know who you are on Twitter. I’m “BillTorg” and that’s pretty obviously me. If I’m “EightiesDude,” then maybe it’s harder to figure out who I am.
- If you already have a Twitter account, you are welcome to use it. The personality and content of your Tweets will depend on the public identity you wish to create. This might be the time to use your St. John’s University email account to start a new approach.
- Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters. The longer your Twitter name, the less room you and others have to exchange messages. So “BillTorg” works better for me than “WilliamJosephTorgerson.”
- You will be asked to write a short bio for yourself. Think about what it will say. Some people write a silly one. My sister’s is, “What’s on the what what?” Mine explains my job and what I do. I often find myself revising mine.
- You can link to your Twitter account to another site. Perhaps your blog?
- Go to Twitter.com
- Fill out the “New to Twitter” box. Complete the steps. Let me know if there’s additional directions I should have listed here. Help me to revise this document so it can better serve the needs of those new to Twitter.
- When you finish setting up your account, you are going to tweet to me. You should see a white box that has this inside: Compose new Tweet…
- Click inside the box. First write this: @BillTorg
- The “@billtorg” is my Twitter name. Put whatever you want after that, something like, “I set up my Twitter account!” If you want to write something more creative than that, go ahead!
- When you tweet to me, I’ll write you back. Do you see that “@ Connect” button at the top of the screen? If you click on that, you’ll see everyone who has tweeted directly to you. That will be how you know I received your tweet. I don’t usually follow students and you shouldn’t feel obligated to follow me. We’ll set up a system to see each other’s tweets related to class.
- There’s a lot more you can do with finding tweets and customizing your background. Experiment by reading and clicking around on the Twitter pages. Two great places to start are the “view my profile page” and “#discover.” On the profile page, click on the large “edit” tab in the upper right hand corner. On the “#discover” tab, look all over the page and click around. Be sure to click on the following words and phrases: activity, who to follow, find friends, and browse categories.
- More instructions, guidelines, and assignments will follow.
Write to me with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you know about hash tags (more on that later) we will use this one: #torgchat
I use a metaphor gifted to me by a former professor to think about my professional life. It goes, Writing Floats on a Sea of Conversation. In the fifteen years I’ve been in writing classrooms, I’ve come to believe it’s important for me to help students navigate all of the conversations they are having in digital spaces. Much of the reading and writing my students do is on the screens of their devices. There is a lot of power up for grabs in these spaces: votes will be garnered and lost, money will change bank accounts, and voices will be heard and suppressed. I originally introduced Twitter into our classroom because I thought it might help with student engagement during class discussions. That didn’t go so well. Students seemed to become lost in the worlds of their screens and the classroom fell silent. I’d been leaning toward scrapping my use of Twitter until something happened during a conference with a student. Our conversation caused us to enter the student’s major–speech pathology–into the Twitter search box. What we found was a tweet from a speech pathologist about a job opening. For the student, who had always characterized herself as a reluctant user of technology, this was a moment where Twitter was transformed from just one more messaging system she needed to keep up with to a powerful tool that might impact her future. For the next semester, I decided that I’d have students try and find professionals within their field who tweeted. What has happened since then, is that I’ve come to see possibilities for students related to research, gathering news, and building a sense of community in the writing classroom. I see Twitter as one place students can experience a tangible example of how they might situate themselves within a conversation relevant to their lives. As someone who values that sort of conversation for my own professional growth, I hope you’ll take the time to connect to say hello, note an observation, or ask a question. I’m including some notes below relevant to my experience with Twitter so far. Thanks for reading!
Some thoughts related to Twitter in the writing classroom:
- Students can decide to what degree they want to be known on Twitter. If I’m “Writer89,” and my profile picture is an apple, I don’t have to be easily identifiable. Teachers should at least keep a private record of what student is connected to which Twitter account.
- What might students tweet? golden lines from readings or classmates’ writing, questions, notes of encouragement, reflections, or highlights from group work.
- You can lose the attention of students to their gadgets. I find myself asking students to open their laptops or get out their phones and then asking them to put those devices away. You might use Twitter as a place for work outside of class time.
- I’ve had students write digital literacy narratives. This has worked well.
- Twitter has become one more way for students to engage with the classroom community. Some students speak up in class, some do well in small groups, some write emails, and some tweet. Students send tweets to me and each other.
- Twitter can be a place for student research as they identify people who tweet articles and links related to conversations that are important to them.
Here’s an excerpt from a student blog that highlights what I think is possible for student research and professional connections through the use of Twitter:
After reading about nuclear pharmacy jobs on @Pharmacy_Job, I decided to search on Twitter more specifically on nuclear pharmacy jobs and I found a page @NuclearPharmacy. According to the description provided, nuclear pharmacy jobs consist of nuclear Pharmacist, radiochemist, health physicists, chemists, pharmacy technicians, and radiopharmacist…I can definitely see myself using this Twitter page! Some interesting articles that I have found on this page include topics concerning diabetes, heroin drug use, and updates from the FDA. Searching in Twitter has made me realize that the most popular jobs are still in retail and in hospitals. However, other fields and roles are slowly becoming more and more popular as well. These pages will certainly help me find a job when I graduate!
Here are some examples of the sorts of tweets my students publish:
- I have no clue what to do my documentary film on…
- Prof. Torg, you’re right when you say that college is a place for trying new things. An example of one of those things is this tweet.
- Going vegetarian all this week as an experiment for my latest documentary #wishmeluck
- I found a twitter page titled New York Internships which can help me get an internship in my major
- social media will soon over take media outlets as time goes on we are beginning to rely more on each other than a third party
- “The exemplary DJ is a model of rhetorical excellence, and even the everyday DJ is a model of rhetorical agility” Digital Griots
- my summary of the article i read for hw: the internet is not only changing the way we read, its changing the way we THINK#wow
- wat do lebron james and professor torg have in common? Hairline.
I hope you’ll take the time to say hello, offer an observation, or ask a question!
Tweet to me @BillTorg or write me an email here: William.Torgerson@gmail.com