Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 34 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

The Twitter Treasure Hunt

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 34 seconds

Reading Time: 4 minutes

How would you go about trying to get your students anyone to understand twitter if you only have an hour to do it? (There is a good “why” for the rush*, but i won’t go into it now). Please help me improve my ideas below

What has not worked at all
In the past, I’ve explained twitter to my adult student-teachers (and also my colleagues at the Center, and faculty at my university) by showing them a visual, a video, and describing stuff, then showing it to them, showing myself doing it, letting them do a couple of small tasks, and posting further resources. Ugh, doesn’t work. I still remember wincing at the way my students conceived of searching for hashtags as if they were googling something. And the way they kept forgetting their twitter usernames (no, really!). I remember how faculty wanted to use twitter to send something to all their class (hello? Thats what those darn LMS’s do well). Also my colleague who got upset when I followed her from our departmental account. Ummm

So I decided the only way to show em how to do it, is to get em to do it. Make it fun. Treasure hunt?

In recent discussions with several of my social media friends, we’ve been talking about how people who are not “connected” don’t really understand what we’re all excited about: they don’t get twitter (most ppl get facebook now, all our parents are on it); they don’t get cMOOCs. One of the reasons, I think, is that you can’t really describe it very well, or describing it does not do it justice.

I was a pretty well-connected person before I ever did a cMOOC, and I totally did not “get it” until I tried it fully in #rhizo14 (I kinda got it in #edcmooc, but was not on facebook or blogging at the time, so incomplete experience). I definitely didn’t get #tvsz til I tried it.

Twitter is just one of those things you don’t get until you use it well. IMHO

So I think next semester, to prepare my students for a twitter game, I will give a twitter orientation via a twitter scavenger hunt (I am not too clear on diff betw this and a treasure hunt btw). The idea is not totally new to me, it’s not mine: a journalism prof here has done it, so I am taking inspiration from her.

So the idea is to get students to do certain tasks, and that those tasks help them improve their twitter literacy.

Some basic tasks that need to be in there are:
1. Create an account (obviously). added later: Andrea Rhen on twitter suggested we discuss use of real name vs pseudonym. This could be an interesting one, particularly that many ppl in Egypt have similar names and might HAVE to get creative. It is also interesting how many ppl use twitter professionally but with fun pseudonyms.

2. Start following some people. Now twitter asks you to do that anyway; I may ask them to follow certain people, have part of the “hunt” be to find certain people

Treasure Hunt ideas
3. I am thinking of asking them to try and get at least 15 followers, or if they’re already on twitter, to get 15 more followers, at the end of a certain time period. Easiest is to follow each other in the class. And yes, I am keeping this on my blog, maybe they’ll find it 🙂

4. Take a photo of something (what? not sure; could be a creative thing where they find a spot they like or they photograph something from a weird distance…. oh and maybe others need to guess what it is by replying to the tweet… see next step) on campus, and tweet it with the class hashtag (this requires them having smartphones or tablets, so maybe I can pair them to make sure at least one of them has that option)

5. Respond to another person in class, guessing what their photo is of, or where it was taken or something?

6. If they work in pairs, they can split the “tasks” but need to tag each other on tweets

7. send me a private message on twitter if they have questions about the assignment (this requires that they follow me and I them, but they don’t know that yet)

8. tweet a useful twitter tidbit they find as they’re learning to use it, tweet it with the hashtag #edtech or something…

9. find something useful on twitter (what? Not sure yet) and retweet it

10. find a piece of news that was tweeted at a certain minute of the day (hmmm) and retweet it

11. (I also want them to explore tweetdeck or hootsuite or such but not sure how to approach this)

12. Bonus points to the first three students who respond to tweets I post during the treasure hunt time (could play with these questions so that they also improve twitter literacy maybe)

I still kinda feel like they won’t “get” everything I want them to know about twitter, but it is a start. Just thinking of how much scaffolding they’ll need before the hunt itself. Will prob just ask them to google twitter how-to guides or something and their first tweet would maybe be a link to the how-to guide. I should probably get them to change their ‘egg’ profile pic and write sthg in their profile but I don’t want them rushing it. Maybe the photo they take on campus could be their profile pic. Maybe they do selfies. I don’t know

I also need to figure out how to handle things if some of the students are already on twitter. It would be cool, maybe I could have them do something different, like be mentors for others as well via DM or something.
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As further reading, I may give them this: I was recently reading Howard Rheingold on Twitter in his book Net Smart, then found this great link that summarizes that part of the book, so that’ll be easy to share with my students. It also links to these resources, but since my students are freshmen of diff majors, I do not want to have a journalism focus.

Possible handouts (thanks to Pete Rorabaugh for sharing):
Jesse Stommel’s
Pete Rorabaugh’s

[Added later: also thanks to Vanessa & Rhonda for sharing this really brief but really good Alec Couros video about twitter for educators]

* I want them to play a twitter game in November but I don’t meet them til later in the semester as my module starts the last third of the semester. I can meet them once earlier than our official start date, so i wanna use the class time for this twitter orientation.

7 Comments

  1. I second you for the importance of teaching others how to use twitter especially for professional development. I totally agree that the best way to teach twitter is to make your students practice using it. Asking them to perform different tasks on twitter is just what they need. I like your ideas and I think that they will work well. I just would like to point out that one of the challenges that people face when they newly use twitter is how to re-tweet and write a new message with hash-tags (especially if they created a group for their class) , so I believe they need to practice it in class.

    There was that word that captured my thinking while reading through the post and triggered my imagination for ideas about using twitter …. ” a creative thing” … I am thinking that you can ask your students to take a photo of something they saw in their lives, search the internet for a pic., a video or an info-graph that is unrelated to education ( or their major – I am just mentioning education here as the example), create a link between that thing and education, and post it on twitter with a sentence describing how they find this thing related to education. It can be related to a solution for the problems of education, a deep reflection on teaching, the subject they teach, a student in their classroom, or an incident that changed their lives. I don’t know … they can even compete against each others to guess the relation of others’ posts to education before posting their sentences. They will help them use their higher-level thinking skills.

    Another idea that crossed my mind is assigning students to re-tweet articles they liked with incomplete sentences describing it and the rest of students should read the article to reply with the best words completing these sentence.

    Just a couple of ideas that I wanted to share …. hope you find them inspiring.

    • I loooove your ideas, Sally! Every single one of them! Thanks for contributing 🙂

    • Hi again, Sally, I was in a hurry responding to you last time. I love the idea of taking photos of things and relating them to something… This kind of reminds me of a class activity i did last semester with in-service teachers, we did two such connections. “Education is like food/dieting” and “education is like flowers”. I blogged about them, don’t know if you’d seen that one.
      I also like the one about finding articles and tweeting parts. I hadn’t initially thought to ask them to read (it’s this core curriculum creativity class, and i am teaching them educational games, so i don’t ask them to do much reading…) but now i think this might be a fun way to get them to find resources and share them. Hmmm… Will check out a good hashtag for that!

      • Actually, I didn’t see that post … may be it was a little bit old. They say “great minds think alike” … interesting 🙂
        I was inspired by a similar assignment that I gave to my students last year ( that one was a bit modified). Your post brought that back to my mind … and I am glad it did as I am planning to implement it in next year’s curriculum. 🙂

  2. Absolutely IMHO the right strategy, learn by doing. I would even start by saying at the outset that it will not make sense to them or seem useful at first (and maybe won’t at all) but one has to form their own opinion based on experience. I made up something called the “Twitter LifeCycle” that was pretty much my path in 2007- my first reaction was “this is the dumbest thing I have ever seen”

    http://cogdoghouse.wikispaces.com/TwitterCycle

    I might add something related to having them learn to follow a hash tag. Maybe you can ask them as a group to come up with their own one (after searching to make sure it is not in use), and see how much activity they can generate around this.

    For getting started, I would also have them make sure they select an icon for their account, and fill in their profile.

    It’s useful for them to (maybe) when choosing someone to follow, to sift through their tweets and think about “is this person worth following?” I even suggest looking at other people in a stream a person regularly corresponds with. This is a way of doing a rhizomish thing 😉

    The important effect is to have them see what happens when people they do not know respond or interact. This is where you can use your own twitter network to invite people to respond to your students tweets.

    The photo exercise is great; I like the closeup where you have to guess what it is, as it invites response. Another activity I have seen a colleague do in teaching ds106 is ask students to create an interesting photo of a shadow. It’s open ended enough to interpret, it gets them looking for interesting shapes and light, but also is a less invasive way of posting photos of themselves without it being of their faces.

    Good stuff!

    • Hey Alan, thanks for all those ideas, very valuable! I’ll definitely take you up on some of those, esp. Getting ppl in my network to interact. It worked really great last year when I had rhizo14 folks respond to my students’ blogs. They were all starry-eyed over it (well, the ones who wrote good blogs and got good responses :))
      The closeup photo thing – I am pretty sure the general idea of that came from #clmooc – i really like the shadow idea, too, though. Maybe since they’re working in pairs, I could ask each to do one of the photos… And maybe folks from my social network could respond with guesses as well 🙂

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