Teaching in the 21st Century

Traci GardnerTraci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.

Twitter and Paper.li: Getting Better All the Time

posted: 6.8.11 by Traci Gardner

5785247377_32dbf7917d_mBack in April, I wrote about how to use Paper.li, a Web site that can make an online newspaper (like the one shown here) out of Twitter updates, and I suggested some classroom activities that used the tool. If I piqued your interest, there’s good news. Paper.li recently released new features and functionality that will make the tool even better for teachers and students.

If I didn’t know better, in fact, I’d think the developers read my list of cons in my first post on the tool as a to-do list for development. First, I complained about the lack of control over the interface or layout of the stories on the page, and the first improvement fixes that issue. When you hover your mouse over a story in your Paper.li edition, three icons appear in the lower right corner:

  • an up arrow to set the story as a featured article
  • a down arrow to move the story lower on the page
  • an X to delete the story entirely

With these simple buttons, you now have complete control over the stories. You can shift around the links students share in an edition to highlight those on which you want to spend the most time during discussion. I also lamented that the paper can only be as smart as the Twitter search you use, and included a screenshot that showed some gibberish as a demonstration of the problem. Now that there is an option to delete a story entirely, that kind of random issue with a story can be easily fixed with a mouse click.

The addition of these editorial controls alone makes Paper.li an great choice for sharing links in the classroom and with colleagues. Even better, in the comments, a Paper.li developer indicates that the ability to edit the stories will eventually be available in a Preview mode, so you can shape your edition as you like it before the automated e-mail message is sent out to subscribers.

The improvements don’t stop there. You can now include more sources for a paper, where before there were specific limits. You can also combine searches, hashtags, and more. The search algorithms have been improved, videos are no longer autoplaying when you load a paper, and each Paper.li edition includes links to a wider network of people who influenced the stories. Finally, you can tweak the appearance slightly by adding a custom background image. Take a look at the The Esvee Group Daily to see an example background using a word cloud. You can read over the full details on all of the updates to Paper.li on the company’s blog.

Some Additional Twitter Resources

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few stories on Twitter that have been published in the last few weeks. Be sure to take a look at them if you’re still unsure about the value of using Twitter in the classroom or with colleagues:

So are you ready to Tweet? I’d love to hear about how you use Twitter to connect with students or colleagues. Leave me a comment with stories or questions!

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Categories: Teaching Advice, Teaching with Technology
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