How to Engage Students Online With Twitter Polls

twitter polls

This week, Twitter added a polling option that anyone with a Twitter account can use to gather opinions on a topic of their choice. Facebook has had polls for a while, but this is still a welcome addition to Twitter. Polls are quick and easy to set up and they could have some useful benefits for teachers who use social media in the classroom. Here’s how they works.

The new polling option can be found when you go to compose a new tweet at or on the mobile apps. Simply type the question or comment that you want people to vote on, and then tap (or click) on the Poll button to add choices. You can have up to 20 characters for each option, and this will not count towards the 140 characters that you can use in the main body of the tweet.

twitter polls screenshot

If you see a poll you want to vote on, all you have to do is tap (or click) on the choice you want to cast your vote. All Twitter polls are anonymous. The person who created the poll will not know how you voted or even who voted, and neither will the other people who participate in the poll. You can only vote once, per account.

Once a poll has been posted, it will remain open for 24 hours. When that time has expired, voting will be closed automatically and the person who initiated the poll will receive a notification that it has now ended, as well as a breakdown of the final results. The winning choice will be highlighted in bold text for everyone to see.

As of today, you can only have two choices for people to vote on, so you will have to be creative with your question or focused with the data you want to collect. You also can’t include any media with a Twitter poll, which is a shame because it might be nice to be able to vote on an image or ask a question about a video.

In the classroom, this might be a useful tool for a quick exit ticket. You could post the question on Twitter with your class hashtag and get students to vote on the answer they think best answers the question. You won’t know who answered what, but you will know how many voted as well as how well your students understood the content that day. You could also use it to help introduce more student voice and choice in your classroom by having students vote on the topics or activities they would most like to cover in class. Student groups like athletic teams, robotic clubs, or student journalists could poll their peers on topics that matter to them.

Schools could use Twitter polls to help engage the community in some of the lighter decisions that administrators have to make on a daily basis. It could also be used as part of a professional development session in the place of something like Poll Everywhere and as a way to encourage your teachers to be involved and on Twitter.

Outside of the classroom, I can see businesses and media outlets taking advantage of this in a number of ways. So, look for The Voice, Dancing With the Stars, America’s Got Talent, and others to be adding Twitter polls in the near future.

Here is a short video from Richard Byrne on how to create a Twitter poll.

Learn more: Twitter Help

Hyper: Inspiring Videos for the Classroom

hyper ipad app

Educator’s looking for great examples of digital storytelling, journalism, and video production should take a look at a brand new app called Hyper: Best Daily Videos. It’s one of my favorite new apps for the iPad and I am going to take a few minutes to tell you why, as well as share some of the videos you can expect to see with this new video app.

I am currently taking some graduate classes as part of a Master’s degree. One of these classes is focused on filmmaking and digital storytelling: skills which I believe are important for students to be exposed to. The class has really opened my eyes to all that goes in to the creation of a great video in terms of the time and effort that is required to tell a really good story.

In essence, this is the goal of Hyper. It is a daily video magazine that consists of 6-12 videos that are hand-picked by real people. Each one is chosen for its quality, production values, visual appeal, journalistic integrity or storytelling prowess. Many are educational and are designed to make you think. For instance, did you know the internet is under water and covered in Vaseline? The video below explains why.

Looking for examples of great stories? Vimeo has always been a great place to find them. The Staff Picks often contain great stories worth sharing, but there are plenty of other amazing videos on Vimeo that don’t always get the attention they might. The film that is embedded below is from Alex Aimard. It has some amazing shots of a world champion skydiver. It is also less than three minutes long. Can your students tell a great story in three minutes or less? It would be fun to watch them try.

Green screen is all the rage, right? Whenever I show teachers how to use green screens, I like to put it in perspective. I show some of the real world examples that we see today in film and television. The video below is from WIRED and is a behind the scenes look at The Martian, starring Matt Damon. It shows exactly how and why green screen effects were needed to make this movie as authentic as it could be.

Need some interesting talking points for Social Studies? How about this next video. It exposes the true cost of the vast amounts of food that we waste on a daily basis. Is there a way to avoid this? What can governments do to discourage or redistribute the surplus? Your students could help decide.

All of these videos, and many more, are videos that I have watched in the Hyper app for iPad over the last week or so. The app is slick and well-designed. It refreshes with a new set of videos once a day, and if you miss a day, you can go back a few days to catch up on the ones you missed. You can also take advantage of the Weekend Recap which rounds up the best videos of the week.

Not every video is going to be one that you are going to use for in your classroom. In fact, not every video is going to be appropriate for your classroom. Hyper is rated 12+ so you will occasionally find videos that skirt the line between acceptable and unacceptable. That said, the vast majority of the videos that I have seen are just great examples of modern filmmaking. They are inspiring for videographers young and old. In my opinion, that makes Hyper a perfect discovery tool for educators who are looking to teach students the finer points of film making. Try it out for yourself and see what you think.

How to Use Text to Speech on the iPad

text to speech ipad

The iPad is a great device for assistive technology and text to speech is one of the most often used accessibility feature by teachers in special education and general education classrooms. Many teachers are not aware that it exists, but it does, and it has evolved to become a very usable solution with lots of valuable options to customize it to meet your needs. Here’s what you need to know to get started with text to speech functionality on your iPad.

How to Enable Text to Speech on the iPad

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech and turn on Speak Selection and Speak Screen by sliding the toggle switch to the right.
  2. Next, adjust the speed of the speech by sliding the speaking rate slider to the right (or the left) until the voice reads at an acceptable pace for your needs.
  3. Turn on Highlight Content. This option highlights words on the screen as they are read aloud by the iPad. It is a great feature that is a real boon for students and is proven to help improve reading skills.

Note: As much as I like the option to highlight words as they are spoken, I do not always have the best of luck getting this to work reliably. Your mileage may vary, especially on certain apps/websites, but it is still worth turning on.

iPad Text to Speech Settings

How to Use Speak Selection on the iPad

  1. Speak selection will read selected text aloud. To try it out, open a website and press and hold on a word and then release to select some text.
  2. Next, move the blue bars on either side of the word to make a larger selection.
  3. Tap Speak to start the text to speech and stop it at any time by tapping Pause.

Speak Selection iPad

How to Use Speak Screen on the iPad

  1. Speak screen reads everything on your screen without the need to select any text. To try it out, open a website and swipe down from the top bezel on the iPad with two fingers.
  2. The iPad will begin reading all the text it finds on the screen, but you can control the narration with the on-screen media controls.
  3. The media controls will auto-hide after a few seconds, but you can bring them back or hide them yourself by tapping the left arrow on the side of the controls.

Speak Screen on the iPad

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