This past week, our grade 9 students have been engaged in a cross-curricular task around the issue of malaria. The school Moodle was used to organise the scores of documentation around the task, and to give a space for students to upload the videos and brochures they had made. This worked seamlessly and saved any number of trees! It was an excellent opportunity, however, to try something that I had not tried before. I placed a twitter feed on the Moodle page and set the search query to “malaria”. The twitter feed consequently was filled with any tweets mentioning malaria, with links which students could follow.
Of course the feed was dirtied with a certain amount of irrelevant and sometimes irreverent commentary, but within moments of setting up the feed I was able to use it to access an infographic recently brought out by the Bill Gates Foundation, and a link to an article on the very latest research. In no ways am I suggesting that Twitter should, or could form the only source of search material, but it certainly produced valid links immediately. Twitter is very quick in getting news out, and has great value for anything current, or developing. Even the more mundane tweets were useful in terms of the personal stories they told, from the mouths of malaria sufferers themselves.
Setting up a twitter feed on Moodle is very easy. You can grab the code from Twitter, and select the widget option. Click on Widgets for My Website, select the Search Widget, set your preferences and click on the “grab the code” button. This code can be copied and pasted into a block in your Moodle.
I would not recommend using the school name in a search widget, as this tends to generate more socially oriented teenage traffic, and much of it is derogatory! If you wish to generate clean traffic, I would recommend using an official hashtag which is not being used by teenagers from other schools! Trust me on this one!
This blog uses a widget to grab Twitter feeds, so you could use widgets on your blog in a similar way if you are not using Moodle. Here is a presentation by Mark Rollins on how to go about this.