Transform Twitter into a Research Tool for Students

Today I went to a great jamboree of school librarians from all levels – university, high, middle, elementary, and a few in between (of course, I was my usual hybrid self).  This was a first step towards more effective communication in order to facilitate college readiness among K-12 students, and there was a lot of sharing and venting and struggling to get on the same page.  Lexiles and DIBELS and critical thinking– oh my!

I promised to share a fun tech tip on the College Readiness group wiki, and I will definitely post a link to this once my membership goes through.  Ready?

How to Research a Current Event Without Breaking a Sweat

1)  Make sure your cell phone plan is set to unlimited texting.

2)  Sign up for TWO Twitter accounts if you do not already have one.  You want a PERSONAL account and a RESEARCH account.  Since you can only have one Twitter account associated with a single email address, you can open that second Twitter account using Gmail (use your Gmailusername+researchprojectname@gmail.com).

2b) FOLLOW the research account with your personal account.

3) Log onto Twitter with your personal account.  Go into Settings and select Mobile.  Verify your cell phone number.  Make sure you follow the instructions on the right side of the screen with the phone icons – the ONLY account you want to have turned ON is your Twitter research account.  (The default for phone following is OFF so this is usually not a problem if you already follow lots of accounts.)

4)  Open a new browser tab.  Go sign up for Twitterfeed.  Give it your Twitter research account info.

5)  Open another tab, and find a news site that has RSS feeds for different topicsNYT or the BBC are good starting points, or you can pick a specialized site like AllAfrica that will have just the right info you need.  (Stymied?  Use the criteria in Consider the Source to select a good online news site.)

6)  Once you have an RSS feed selected, copy and paste it into your Twitterfeed account.  It will test the feed and make sure that the new posts from the RSS feed will now tweet out THROUGH your new Twitter research account.  You have effectively made a custom Twitter news channel!

7) Repeat steps 5 and 6 a few times as needed – don’t get too many, because you don’t want your phone blowing up constantly. (See @readersadvisory and @edunewsus as good/bad examples of custom Twitter news accounts I have created using many RSS feeds.)

8) By now, your phone should be texting you any new stories from the feeds you threaded through your research account.  Not only will these stories be stored in your research Twitter account (and you can Favorite the ones you want to use!), but they will also come to you in real time – reminding you about the project on a regular basis and letting you have immediate access to new information.

It sounds a little complicated (especially if you are not a current Twitter user or RSS feed master).  Yet this is a perfect example of how a typical social media site can be transformed into a powerful automated research tool!  Twitter is not just for sharing with colleagues or chatting with friends – it has the ability to transform your cell phone into a critical support system for schoolwork.

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