Using Twitter inside (and out of) the Classroom: Rotation Curation Accounts

The first post I wrote for Blogging Beyond the Classroom was an introduction to using Twitter in the classroom. Katy Pickersgill has also written an excellent post on using Twitter and Facebook to promote blog posts, so this time I’d like to focus on one particular way of using Twitter as a learning tool: rotation curation Twitter accounts.

What are rotation curation accounts?

Playground roundabout, rotation curationThe concept is quite simple: different individuals take over a social media account at different times, tweeting their take on a common cause. You’re probably familiar with different people blogging under the same name or for the same account, but you may not have seen it for social media accounts. It allows tweeters to reach a new audience, creates varied content for the followers and shows off the diverse ways of approaching a subject.

The idea originated with @Sweden in 2011, and one look at their account will show you that it’s catching. With 77,500 followers, the account is still going three years later – fulfilling its aim of showing what Sweden has to offer through the eyes of its people. Since it began, the idea has spread to accounts like @RealScientists, celebrating the work done by those working on any aspects of the sciences, and @WetheHumanities which will be celebrating its one-year anniversary in February but has already done great work in demonstrating what the humanities can achieve and the resonances of the work that’s being done. There’s even an account for educators, although sadly it’s only Australia-based. 

How can I apply this in the classroom?

Projects like Prison Voices, a blog whose content is created by second-year undergraduates in English at Liverpool John Moores University, help students to find a voice through blogging, giving them a platform to begin to express their research ideas without the need for each student to set their own blog up individually. The site itself is filled with diverse content, but the pressure on each individual student is lessened by them working together. Rotation curation accounts can function in a similar way, introducing students to social media in an academic context but meaning it is not just one individual trying to keep the content going. Allowing a team of students to contribute to one account gives them a new way to engage with the digital world – and the tutor is still able to oversee the process. Tying this to blogging is also an excellent way of bringing different kinds of social media and public engagement together.

Obviously there are a few administrative things that need to be sorted to make this concept work: passwords, who will tweet, what kind of content your students should be looking for, and what role you will play as the tutor. Often tutors use hashtags for modules in order to engage students online without prescribing their involvement, but with a little preparation a rotation curation account can be a great way of bringing the work of a module together – and stimulating discussion among your students based on what they find.

Deciding who should tweet, and when

This could be a different student every week, or something that students can do as and when they like with a shared password. The latter could mean the account gets neglected, so it might be worth asking students to tweet for a week each (having two or three students per week, if the class is on the bigger side), and then providing an overview of what they’ve been doing in the next week’s seminar. Make sure the students are clear on when they should be tweeting, and what kinds of things they should be saying. One of the great things about a rotation curation account is that you can go in and pick accounts to follow, finding sources for your students to look at, before letting them loose to find their own material. Rotation curation accounts like this provide a safe space for students to try out their own ideas, and the account can be used with future modules, or future classes on the same module, allowing you to build up your (and their) audience. It’s an excellent way of encouraging students to find digital materials to incorporate into their work, think about their academic voice, and get used to engaging with social media.

Let us know if you’ve tried a class rotation curation account, we’d be very interested to hear how it went and any tips you have! There are also suggestions for curating content here, and a post on dos and don’ts for using Twitter.

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