How to use Twitter
Twitter is one of a growing number of important social-networking sites. Others include Facebook and the venerable MySpace. These sites allow users from all over the world to interact with one another and share content across the web. They are perhaps the most important contribution of the so-called Web 2.0 revolution. Part of my motivation to use Twitter in this class to make sure that students here at UND are familiar with various social networking sites that are becoming the most important forces on the internet.
Twitter is very user friendly, but it will take a bit of time to become familiar with its features. Basically, Twitter is an easy way to broadcast, short (<140 word) messages on the internet. It is public, so anyone who goes to your Twitter page can see your updates (although it is possible to lock them), so be careful what you say! It's a great way to broadcast short links to web pages, quick thoughts and questions, or anything else in less than 140 words. The best Twitterers are people who can express themselves in a clear and concise way.
To interact via Twitter however, you must get a Twitter account (http://twitter.com/). It is free. You can make up whatever funny account name that you want (I recommend that you keep it rated PG!), but if you want to get credit for your contributions to the class via Twitter, you’ll need to let me know so that I can relate your Twitter name to your real name. I’ll circulate a sheet in class that will serve as a concordance for me between your Twitter name and real name. More on this later…
Then you can follow my tweets by following my Twitter account. You do this by typing the name of my feed (History101SP10) into the search box on the right side of the Twitter page or by logging into Twitter and going to this page: http://twitter.com/History101SP10.
When you chose to follow me, I’ll follow you in return. This will let us see each other’s updates.
Each week will have a designated hashtag; this is just a way to mark a tweet as being relevant to a particular discussion. Hashtags are included in the tweet, typically at the end. For example, all the tweets relevant to week 1 will have this hashtag: #H101W1. For week 2, I’ll use #H101W2. It is important that you include a hashtag with every tweet that you make. This will allow both me and your fellow students to see your tweet and associate it with a particular classroom topic. I will follow the Twitter feed daily. The Twitter feed will be a great place to ask questions, comment on the podcasts, or answer bonus questions that I post in Twitter for bonus points.
My T.A. and I will also monitor the Twitter feed during class. Since it is possible to post a Twitter feed from a mobile phone using its SMS feature, we can create a live back channel during my in-class lectures. This means that you can send a text message, with a hashtag, to your Twitter account during class and I will see it as I lecture. You can do this by going to the Twitter “Settings” page:
Then go to the mobile page and follow the directions there. If your mobile phone service charges per text message, then you’ll get charged for messages sent to Twitter!
Generally, I will stop a few times a class to look at the various questions or comments on the Twitter feed and respond to them. This kind of back channel conversations are becoming a common way to talk about a lecture or event as it is taking place. Back channel tweets to basic questions like “I don’t understand the Athenian Assembly #H101W3” and “Where is Ur again? #H101W2” to more complicated comments like “Does the Roman Republic count as a democracy? #H101W4”. Don’t get so caught up tweeting in class that you stop paying attention to the lecture!!
Good luck this semester and keep an eye on the Twitter feed over the course of the week!