What is Twitter?
Twitter is a form of microblogging, in which users post short messages that are constrained to 140 characters. The only people who get to see a user's message (or "tweet") are those who have chosen to "follow" them. Each user's on-screen profile includes a "Follow" button, and clicking this enables other users to see the messages they post.
What do people use Twitter for?
Although Twitter can be used to post trivia, it can also be used in a more meaningful way. Because this site is concerned with education, readers are likely to be interested in the more meaningful uses, but let's not discount the trivial - Twitter is a social media application that simply allows people to be in touch with each other, so many people are happy to post about what they happen to be doing at that moment. However, even short messages can contain interesting items of news. Furthermore, web addresses (URLs) can be included in tweets, thus allowing readers to follow links to longer items. Lengthy web addresses can be shortened for the purpose of tweeting, by using simple applications such as TinyUrl.
Organisations that publish online material, such as the BBC, The New Scientist, Scientific American (just to name a few) frequently include "sharing" options by the side of their articles, enabling readers to forward material to interested friends and colleagues. A light blue "t" by the side of the article allows you, by clicking, to post the article's link to your Twitter followers.
Teachers and lecturers are still finding their way with Twitter, as with other social media, but a search of the web will turn up various ways in which some people have used Twitter in their teaching. At the very simplest level, educators can post reminders to students about coursework and deadlines; but some educators have used Twitter to engage their students in discussions, thus engaging students in thinking about course material. The two following videos demonstrate Twitter and show how it has been used in an educational context.
Here is another video of Twitter being used in education: