How ‘microblogging’ sites such as Twitter can be used in education


This week we’re going to be looking at three tools. I’ve labelled them ‘microblogging’ tools, but that’s something of a misnomer as they’re all much more powerful than that. If you do actually just want something to quickly and easily get content onto the Internet, try Tumblr or Posterous.

With that disclaimer out of the way, the three tools we’re going to look at are:

They all have slightly different uses and focuses, but I believe that they can all be used successfully within educational environments. I’ll discuss each in turn, looking at the features specifically relevant to educators.

Twitter logo

Obstensibly, Twitter is a micro social networking utility designed to answer the question ‘What are you doing?’ In practice, it’s used for a multitude of other things, from news reporting to marriage proposals(!).

Educators have been using Twitter ever since it was launched to connect to one another and share ideas, resource and links. There’s an element of social networking in it, inevitably, but it’s very professionally-focused and a wonderfully powerful thing to tap into.

Just launching yourself into Twitter will leave you baffled and confused. The Twitter experience is only as good as your network, consisting of those who you ‘follow’ (track updates of) and those who ‘follow’ you. The best way to do this is organically. By that, I mean:

  1. Find someone you want to follow on Twitter (@dajbelshaw is a good start…)
  2. Check out that user’s network and read the mini-biographies.
  3. Follow the users who look like they are related to something you’re interested in!

In terms of interaction, there’s 3 basic ways of interacting on Twitter:

  • Sending a ‘normal’ message that goes out ‘as-is’ to your network.
  • Replying to someone (or bringing something to their attention) by including their username preceded by an @ sign – e.g. @dajbelshaw then message. This can still be viewed by everyone who’s following you.
  • Sending a direct message by entering d <username> – e.g. d dajbelshaw then message. This can only be seen by the person to whom you sent the message and they will receive an email informing them of what you have sent.

If you want some ideas for how to use Twitter in an educational setting, you could do a lot worse than checking out Laura Walker’s post entitled Nine great reasons why teachers should use Twitter. Although I’ve tried using it with students, it’s not something I’d recommend for the faint-hearted. Use one of the other tools below for that. I see Twitter as being like a giant, worldwide staff room or café. It’s great! 😀

Edmodo logo

Edmodo‘s just been upgraded to v2.0 and is an amazingly useful tool. The only reason I haven’t used it a lot more extensively is that it effectively replicates – for free – a lot of the features of very expensive, commercial Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). For example, some of the features:

  • Set assignments for students (and attach files)
  • Manage classes
  • Share a calendar with fellow teachers and students
  • Interact in a safe and closed environment with students without sharing email addresses
  • Securely share learning resources
  • Grade students’ work

In their own words:

Edmodo provides a way for teachers and students to share notes, links, and files. Teachers have the ability to send alerts, events, and assignments to students. Edmodo also has a public component which allows teachers to post any privately shared item to a public timeline and RSS feed.

Although I haven’t used this with students yet, I know people who swear by it* and I’ve explored the features using test accounts. Certainly, if your school VLE isn’t up to scratch – or if you haven’t got one – you should definitely be checking out Edmodo!

* José Picardo has discussed Edmodo on a couple of occasions in Edmodo: microblogging for the classroom and Edmodo: What students think – both well worth a read! 🙂

Shout'Em logo

Shout’Em describes itself as a kind of roll-your-own micro social network:

Shout’Em is platform on which you can easily start co-branded microbloging social networking service. Something simple as Twitter or with more features like Pownce. It is up to you 🙂

Networks on Shout’Em are “lightweight social networks”. They have small set of features: microblogging, links and photo sharing, geo location sharing and mobile browser support.

I think Shout’Em is probably best suited for those who want something a bit more engaging than a forum for their students, but not anything as full-blown as Edmodo. Shout’Em enables you to have a private community, like Edmodo, and they’ve even entitled a blog post on their official blog The 15-Minute Guide to Microblogging in Education!

Check out their video to find out more:

ShoutEm Demo from vikot on Vimeo.

Do any of these ‘microblogging’ services fill a need? Have you tried any of them? What did you think?


Add yours →

  1. Hey hey,

    Glad you like Shout’Em. As you said, we might not be as specialized as Edmoto, but you can do use it for many different things. Not sure if you know, but through the Twitter API we support such tools as Twhirl,, etc. 🙂 Thanks for the mention!

    Ivan (Shout’Em)

  2. Hi,

    I enjoyed your post, very good insights about these 3 platforms.

    Please find some ideas in the article Can we use Twitter for educational activities? – .

    Also we have developed the microblogging platform for education: online courses, courses enhancement, knowledge management; embeding multimedia objects, private and public groups, feeds monitoring – presentations .

    Thanks, your feedback is welcome,

  3. Why not use a Free Software / Open Source Software like and roll your own? Best of both worlds, no?

    Disclosure: I work for Control Yourself, responsible for Laconica, and – the latter will let you have your own network, too. I wouldn't work there if I didn't think it was a great idea :)

  4. I just set up my page, but as a junior high teacher, my students won't have e-mail addresses. Is that the only way for people to login?

  5. Thanks for the article. It was exactly what I've been looking for over the past week to try and get a feel for using such tools in teaching. I've started using Edmodo with a class of 10 year olds and quite successfully!

  6. Doug,
    Thanks for the clear reviews and links. I’m going to play with edmodo this summer. It looks useful.

    I like the site. I used the unstandard theme for a while and think it is one of the best there is. The colours are pleasing as well, a bit flickr-ish,

  7. @ Eric. Ask your students. I'm sure they all have email addresses!

  8. Hi there

    I've scoured your blog and can find no references at all to the author or authors beyond the footnote referring to a José Picardo (who I could assume was the author but that would be unsubstantiated…). I need to reference this post in a paper I'm writing and can't do that without knowing the name of the author. Please help!


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