TESOL 2014 Highlights: Using Twitter

On the final day of the convention, I sought to learn even more about the uses of technology. I wasn’t disappointed. I found several sessions offered by the CALLIS and VDMIS groups. The one on using Twitter was well attended.

Abby Porter of University of Illinois and Nathan Soelberg of University of Oregon correctly assumed that most teachers know of Twitter, and they also correctly assumed that although we know about tweeting, we may not know how to do it or how it can be used in language learning.

The presenters started with a discussion of the benefits. Among them is the fact that Twitter makes text retrievable. Students and teachers can easily go back and read earlier tweets. Also, people can become connected by topic. Connections can occur in and out of the classroom. Finally, through a humorous anecdote of his own language learning experience in Korea, Nathan explained how subtle things in speech, such as a small word or structure, might be missed in conversation, but through the process of reading text those small differences are more easily perceived.

A dozen or more possible uses of Twitter were generously shared. Here were some of my favorites:

  • Classroom management. Students can be asked to tweet individual answers to questions. The teacher, sitting at his or her desk, can then provide individual feedback as the tweets are received.
  • Peer feedback. Twitter handles can remain anonymous, which might make students feel more comfortable when giving feedback to peers.
  • Dictations. Students can tweet their dictations to the teacher and hopefully through the process realize the importance of accuracy (over speed).
  • Screencasts of lessons. Teachers can tweet screencasts for students to review parts of lessons.
  • Important documents. Teachers can take photos of worksheets or other important lesson materials and make necessary notes for students directly on the images. Abby and Nathan mentioned apps like ShowMe, which is free.

The presenters recommended getting Twitter started early with new groups of students and having experienced users tutor a partner and explain the basics.

Thank you very much to Abby and Nathan for a useful session and for kindly allowing me to repost some of their ideas here! Please note that Abby will make the full presentation available on her website.

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