What is Twitter

Twitter is an online social media and communication platform for posting very short (140 character) messages called tweets. Account holders on Twitter are able to post tweets, which anyone can read. If a user would like to be notified about another user's tweets, they can "follow" that user. Tweets from followed users show in a user’s feed.

A Twitter Glossary

Term Explanation

When you see a Tweet by another user that you’d like to share with others you can ‘retweet’ it to send it out to your own followers. A retweet acknowledges the original author. (See Retweeting another Tweet)

Hashtag  A hashtag—written with a # symbol—is used to index keywords or topics on Twitter. This function was created on Twitter, and allows people to easily follow topics they are interested in. Tweets can be easily searched by hashtags. (see Twitter Hashtags)
Like Liking a tweet is a way to show your appreciation or support for a tweet. Liking a tweet marks the tweet with a little heart. Others can see the tweets you’ve liked on your profile. (See Liking a Tweet)
Trending Topic Twitter is able to track the popularity of topics when a hashtag gets used repeatedly. This is called a trend. For example, #Rio2016 was tweeted so many times during the 2016 Summer Olympics that it became the most popular trend on Twitter that year. (See FAQs about trends on Twitter)
Feed A feed is a timeline displaying the activities of other Twitter users. Your feed displays tweets in chronological order.
Message The message feature is the private side of Twitter. Direct messages can be sent between two or more Twitter users for a private conversation. (See About Private Messages)
Notifications  The notifications tab in Twitter shows a summary of activity on Twitter related to your account. For example, you receive a notification when someone follows you, tweets at you, retweets or likes your tweet, etc. (See Managing your notifications)
List A list is a curated group of Twitter accounts. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. (See Twitter Lists)

What is the purpose of Twitter

Twitter is intended for short communications. Limited to 140 characters, tweets are often snappy and quick statements sharing activities, news, entertainment, emotion, activism, dissent, etc. Twitter is often used to promote ideas, events, charities, and activities. Tweets can be searched Tweets often include hashtags.

How to use Twitter

Twitter is used in university classrooms in a variety of contexts to enhance student engagement (Junco et al., 2010; Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009). Here are some ideas:

  • Create a hashtag for your course (i.e. #uwobio1001) where you and students can tweet thoughts, reflections, ideas. Sometimes instructors will make tweets mandatory while other times it’s presented as a voluntary social activity for the class. Students tend to use this platform for posting news and sharing resources relevant to class, to ask questions, to offer clarification on confusing points for others, and to reflect on readings or teaching (Sample, 2010).
  • Have small groups discuss a course reading then tweet their summary to Twitter marked with a course hashtag. Follow up on what groups are saying by displaying the tweets by identifying and discussing main themes (Bart, 2009).
  • Use Twitter to host class discussion either in-class as a ‘backchannel’ (where conversation can be hosted ‘behind the scenes’ during class activities), outside of class time, or during facilitated discussions
  • Engage students in a Twitter activity to follow leaders in the field
  • Use Twitter for communicating course announcements, schedule changes, reminders, etc.


Bart, M. (2009, June 17). Using Twitter to facilitate classroom discussions. Faculty Focus, [blog post] Retrieved from:

Dunlap, J. C. & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2).

Junco, R. (2010). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 119-132.

Sample, M. (2010, August 25). Practical advice for teaching with Twitter. The Chronicle of Higher Education, [blog post] Retrieved from:

Sample, M. (2010, August 16). A framework for teaching with Twitter. The Chronicle of Higher Education, [blog post] Retrieved from:

Silver, D. (2009, February 25). The difference between thin and thick tweets. Sliver in SF, [blog post] Retrieved from:

Where to find Support

This tool is not centrally supported

Help and Documentation

For help, please refer to the Twitter documentation

Tool Evaluation

Functionality overall rating: 2 starsFunctionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 2 stars


Twitter can scaled to accommodate any size class but lacks flexibility to create smaller sub-groups or communities of practice

Ease of use rating:3 stars

Ease of Use

Twitter has a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and personalize

Tech Support/ Help Availability rating: 2 stars

Tech Support/Help Availability

Technical support and help documentation is available in the form of web pages or videos

Hypermediality rating: 3 stars


Twitter allows users to communicate through different channels (audio, visual, textual) and allows for non-sequential, flexible/adaptive engagement with material

Accessibility overall rating: 2 starsAccessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating: 2 stars

AODA Friendly

Twitter has some limited capacity to be fully accessible for users or for materials to be made AODA-friendly. For example, Alt-text can be added by a user to a visual post. See Twitter Accessibility

User Foused Participation rating: 3 stars

User-focused participation

Twitter is designed to address the needs of diverse users, their various literacies, and capabilities, thereby widening opportunities for participation in learning

Required Equipment rating: 3 stars

Required Equipment

Proper use of Twitter does not require equipment other than a computer and access to the internet

Technical overall rating: 1 starsTechnical

Rating Rationale
OWL Integration rating: 1 stars

OWL Integration

Tweets can be embedded in OWL but they lose their formatting to display plain text.

Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Operating Systems

Users can effectively utilize Twitter with any standard, up-to-date operating system (i.e. Windows 10, Apple OSX, etc.)

Web Browser rating: 3 stars

Web Browser

Users can effectively utilize Twitter with any standard, up-to-date web browser (i.e. Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer 10 etc.)

Additional Tech Requirements rating: 3 stars

Additional Tech Requirements

Users can effectively utilize the tool without any browser extensions or downloaded software

Mobile Design overall rating: 2 star Mobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Mobile Operating Systems

Twitter is fully functional with a range of electronic mobile devices (laptops, tablets, touchscreens, mobile devices, etc.)

Mobile Functionality rating: 3 stars

Mobile Functionality

There is little to no functional difference between the mobile app and Twitter for web

Offline Access rating: 2 star

Offline Access

Twitter’s mobile app can be used offline but tools and content are affected. Twitter saves your feed while you are connected to the internet. When offline you can see all of the saved tweets, but you will not receive new tweets until you are reconnected to the internet. While disconnected, there is some negative effect on content (i.e. videos, gifs). Tweets can be authored and saved while offline; Twitter automatically publishes authored tweets once reconnected.

Usage and account set up overall rating: 2 starsUsage and Account Set Up

Rating Rationale
Sign Up/Sign In rating: 3 stars

Sign Up/Sign In

Depending on how Twitter is used, an account does not need to be created. Non-users can view public activity on Twitter without an account. However, if one wishes to author tweets themselves, an account needs to be created by providing your name and email address.

Cost of Use rating:  3 stars

Cost of Use

All aspects of Twitter can be used free of charge

Archiving Saving and Exporting Data rating: 2 star

Archiving, Saving, and Exporting Data

Through lists, feed, and search capabilities, a record of Twitter activity is maintained, however there are limitations to saving, or importing/exporting content or activity data outside of Twitter.

Data Privacy and Ownership rating: 2 star

Data Privacy and Ownership

Users maintain ownership and copyright of their intellectual property/data; data is shared publicly and cannot be made private

Social Presence overall rating: 2 starsSocial Presence

Rating Rationale
Collaboration rating: 3 stars


Twitter has the capacity to support a community of learning through both asynchronous and synchronous opportunities for communication, interactivity, and transfer of meaning between users

User Accountability rating: 2 stars

User Accountability

Instructors cannot control student anonymity (users can create anonymized accounts) but Twitter provides some solution for holding students accountable for their actions (Tweets can be blocked but cannot be deleted)

Diffusion rating: 3 star


Twitter is widely known and popular, it’s likely that most students are familiar with the tool and have basic technical competence with it

Instructor Presence overall rating: 2 starsInstructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating:2 stars


Twitter has the potential to effectively support an instructor’s ability to be present with students via active management, monitoring, and engagement, given consideration to the frequency and approach to using Twitter for teaching

Customization rating: 3 stars


Given list and hashtag features, Twitter is adaptable to its environment: easily customized to suit the classroom context and targeted learning outcomes

Learning Analytics rating: 2 stars

Learning Analytics

Using lists and hashtags, Instructors can monitor students’ performance on Twitter. Consider a rubric for evaluating the quality of tweets (see the difference between thin and thick tweets)

Cognitive Presence overall rating: 2 starsCognitive Presence

Rating Rationale
Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s) rating: 2 stars

Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s)

Twitter may enable functional improvement to engagement in the targeted cognitive task(s) (given consideration to design, facilitation, and direction from instructor)

Higher Order Thinking rating: 2 stars

Higher Order Thinking

Twitter may engage students in higher order thinking skills (given significant consideration to design, facilitation, and direction from instructor)

Feedback on Learning rating:2 stars

Feedback on Learning

Opportunities for receiving formative feedback on learning are available, but infrequent or limited (i.e. poor opportunities for tracking performance, monitoring improvement, testing knowledge on a regular basis)

Security and Privacy

This tool has not been formally reviewed by Western’s Technology Risk Assessment Committee

Security and Privacy Flags


  • Users are required to create and use a non-Western account. It is highly recommended that users do not use the same username and password that is in use at Western.

Information Collection

  • Application collects information that could identify the user specifically (email address, class schedule, etc..)
  • This application may use profile information and/or provided data for marketing purposes


  • Acceptance of the Application's Terms of Conditions or End User License Agreement may bind the institution to an agreement thereby requiring legal counsel to review the application contract.


  • This application is hosted outside of Canada


  • The default setting of this application is to share user’s content publicly
  • The user does not have control over what, when and how material is made public

Last Updated: January 21, 2020


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