Faculty Development & Learning Assessment

Twitter for Faculty

--10/20/2011

Even if you haven’t used Twitter yet, it’s very likely that you have seen or heard reference to the social networking website at some point over the last year. That’s because Twitter is increasing in popularity, especially among educators. According to Twitter in Higher Education: Usage Habits and Trends of Today’s College Faculty, published this year by Faculty Focus, around 30% of the 2000 higher education professionals they interviewed use Twitter either in a personal or professional capacity.

Part of the appeal of Twitter is that it is very easy to use. You can use a cell phone, a smartphone (like the iPhone or Blackberry), or downloadable software to update your Twitter account, in addition to sending messages by logging in to Twitter.com. Your updates, or “tweets,” can then be viewed by your followers and you can also see a stream of recent tweets from the people you follow.

How faculty are using it

According to Faculty Focus, nearly a third of the 2,000 higher education professionals they surveyed use Twitter. Those educators reported that they use the microblogging service in several important ways. Their responses reflect the fact that Tweets must be 140 characters or less, which means that this tool is most useful for quick updates rather than in-depth written analysis.

Networking is a very common reason faculty use Twitter. Faculty members follow colleagues in their field to discover URLs of interest or announcements for events they might be interested in. Educators also use Twitter to arrange meet-ups and participate in the Twitter “back channel” at conferences. You can also follow conferences you are unable to attend. You might also use Twitter to poll your followers for quick input on research questions, job searches, and teaching problems.

Some faculty also use the service to communicate with students. You could use it to take attendance, post reminders about assignments, or offer extra credit assignments. Foreign language instructors have used it as a way to get their students to practice their written language skills.

Concerns

Nearly 13% of the Faculty Focus report respondents said that they tried Twitter but no longer use it, and more than half said they have never used Twitter. Faculty respondents had many reasons for not using Twitter, including doubting its educational relevance, not having time to use it, or simply not knowing how to use it. Others want to learn more about the possible educational applications before forging ahead.

Learn more

The best way to learn more about Twitter is to sign up for an account at http://twitter.com. You can use the site’s search function to look for individuals and organizational representatives to follow, either by name or email address, or you can search for topics to monitor.

In addition to hands-on experience, take a look at the resources below for more information about how faculty are using Twitter:

Tip References

Faculty Focus. (2009). Twitter in higher education: Usage habits and trends of today’s college faculty. Retrieved October 10, 2009, from Faculty Focus website: http://www.FacultyFocus.com

Online Colleges. (2009). 50 ways to use Twitter in the college classroom. Retrieved October 1, 2009, from Online Colleges website: http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2009/06/08/50-ways-to-use-twitter-in-the-college-classroom/