Learning in 140 Characters or Less

Learning in 140 Characters or Less

140 Characters is all that it takes to deliver a message with global consequences. With the potential for such a great impact with so few words, why are we as educators not captivating our students through social media?

Twitter, an interactive ground for communication, a social networking tool distributed across the globe with over 319 million active users, was founded in early 2006. Anyone with an email account can create a Twitter handle and essentially use it as they please. Using the famous “Hashtag,” users connect through quick linking capabilities, and can search for specific hashtags.


How can Twitter be used in higher education? You may be asking yourself that very question. Social media outlets, especially Twitter, are a great way to deliver need-to-know information in a timely matter. Not only can Twitter be used as a rapid communication tool, it can also be used as an educational tool. Graduate students in education have found that with the appropriate leadership from faculty, Twitter can be used to continue academic discussions, communicate with peers and faculty about course content, and explore information of relevance to their learning through social media (Bista, 2015).

Additionally, students in higher education have also found that Twitter can be a great tool collaboration with their peers through learning communities (Maria-Carmen Ricoy, Tiberio Feliz, 2016). Since a great deal of students today have social media outlets, it makes sense to communicate with them in a manner that they are already familiar with and are using on a daily basis. Not only is this a great thing for students, it is also beneficial to faculty and instructors. This two-way street of communication allows for a more casual learning environment, and provides the opportunity for faster response times without using SMS text messaging.

This technology is not without faults in education. While the opportunities for delivering content and communication are seemly endless, what about the users who are not competent in social media technology? This is a concern that has been identified as a weak component of using Twitter for education practices. It has been found that as learner competency in social media technology increases, so does their ability to learn and gain valuable experiences (Maria-Carmen Ricoy, Tiberio Feliz, 2016). While this may be a concern in higher education currently, it is likely that we will see a decline in this issue as our next generation of learners’ stem from a world where they were born into computer technology.

How do you manage it? Classroom management is often topic of interest for educators, even in online environments. As a result, it can be difficult to manage social media outlets when using them in education. It is necessary that the instructor makes extremely clear policies for proper netiquette when using Twitter or other social media outlets, and that there may be consequences for failing to abide by these rules.

Ready to get started? It’s simple! Create your own Twitter handle if you have not done so already. Even if you have, you may need to create a new “professional” account so that you are not exposing yourself to ridicule from your students. Perhaps this is an opportunity to create that “ProfessorLastName” account that you have been thinking about. Then, look at your course number, such as EME6417, and turn this into a hashtag (#EME6417). If other faculty members are using this same course number, simply add your last name to the end of the hashtag. This will allow you and your students to communicate in a clear and easy to find way. Then, inform your students of the proper netiquette, and begin using Twitter to share media, articles, events, and communicate information about assignments. You can even get more adventurous and use Twitter Polls to get rapid feedback from students on your course assignments and activities, informal quizzing, or to have the students get involved in deciding the next path in your course.

How will you use Twitter for your class? We want to hear your thoughts on this topic and the creative uses that you have planned for your instruction. Share your thoughts with us by using the hashtag “#140characterlearning,” and post your Twitter handle in the comments below!


Bista, K. (2015). Is twitter an effective pedagogical tool in higher education? Perspectives of education graduate students. Journal Of The Scholarship Of Teaching And Learning15(2), 83-102.

María-Carmen Ricoy, a., & Tiberio Feliz, a. (2016). Twitter as a learning community in higher education. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, (1), 237.