Tag Archives: twitter

4 ways twitter bots can help save the world

The Good, the Bad, and the Bot

What does it look like when twitter bots work towards improving our world?

Bots have a rightly deserved rap for being used nefariously, but much less attention is paid to when they’re used in ways that enhance the world. And you may have students for whom the exercise of writing a bot can unleash their specific creativity and introduce them to the idea that writing code can be used to effect positive change.

twitter bots

Let’s take a look at four functions for twitter bots that can actually improve the world.

Wait, slow down. What’s a bot?

Great question. A bot is an account you create on twitter that tweets automatically. You can set it to tweet when:

  • a specific set of conditions are met;
  • or when the value of a variable changes;
  • or to just tweet out a specific string of text at intervals.

Bots exist on other social media platforms, like Facebook, but today we’re going to be looking at the ones on twitter.

But aren’t bots a bad thing?

Like almost everything else online, they sure can be. A few years ago, social media platforms including twitter had much more relaxed rules about bots, which led to some people creating many bots that were designed to impersonate real people, with the aim of influencing political elections. There’s evidence this may be ongoing.

But this form of coding — creating a small tool that can do repetitive action indefinitely or quickly parse large data sets — shows no sign of going away. It’s a coding exercise that shows no sign of wanting to return to Pandora’s Box, so it’s up to us squishy, breakable humans to figure out how to use it to make things better.

1. twitter bots performing radical self-care

One of the most pernicious aspects of social media is how it can be a massive time-suck. This can be good (waiting at the doctor’s office) and bad (um, any other time). Sometimes you just need a responsible bot to step in and remind you of the world outside your screen.

Meet @tinycarebot and @Yayfrens.


The two bots have a very simple, paradoxical purpose: to make twitter a more human place.

Additionally, most of their tweets encourage the user to work towards a healthy online-offline balance; that’s right, they exist online to help users remember to get offline.

Self-care bots you and your students could build:

  • A basic compliments bot;
  • A specifically class- or school-based compliments bot.

But what about a twitter bot that fights bullying? You can build a bot that’s set to search for certain terms and take actions based on them. So, for example, a bot keyed to search for the term “meanie”, could simply respond to each instance with “Hey, that’s not okay. We’re all here trying to be nice.”

Can someone build this for us, like, yesterday? Tia, you beautiful people, you.

2. twitter bots supporting civic engagement

One of the things twitter bots are best at is monitoring a data set and taking action when it changes. How does this make them good at civic engagement?

Angelina Bethoney wrote the twitter bot @LawsMass, which monitors which legislation is currently being worked on in Massachusetts. She made the code open-source, and encourages other people to write legislative bots for their own states. A good and easy way to keep paying attention to what’s going on in government.

twitter bots

Vermont does not currently have an Open States twitter bot. Hint, hint.

Another type of civic engagement bot is the popular “_edits” bot. Popularized by @NYPDedits and @congressedits, these bots simply make note of when the encyclopedic powerhouse wikipedia is edited. And by whom. As wikipedia continues to allow anonymous edits, bots like these that track edits to a range of IP addresses (such as those assigned to the NYPD, or Congress) provide valuable information.

What kinds of civic engagement bots could your students create?

  • How about partnering with your local school board in creating a bot that tweets out meeting agendas, guests and changes?


3. twitter bots creating art

Even though everything’s terrible, it’s still okay to make tiny, beautiful things. Maybe even because everything’s terrible. And you can make twitter bots that create and share tiny arts.

Meet the @BowieLyricsBot, and @grow_slow.

@BowieLyricsBot does what it says on the tin: shares a lyric from a random David Bowie song at one-hour intervals.

twitter bots

(Synchronicity: when two bot tweets appearing together in the timeline add up to a larger whole. Now all we need is a Police lyrics bot.)


@grow_slow, on the other hand, shares a daily photo of one plant, growing slowly.

@MuseumBot is a bot that tweets a photo of one item from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection each day, along with accompanying details.

They’re small, powerful acts of tiny art that interrupt the unending flow of misery current news cycle on a user’s feed with the reminder that things can still be beautiful.

What kind of tiny art could your students share with the world?

  • A photo of a classroom bulletin board each morning;
  • A collection of student art that’s added to at regular intervals;
  • A photo of a random place around the school paired with a motivational quote.
  • In partnership with a local museum or historical society, artifacts from their collections.

Bots like these are relatively simple: they pull one piece of data from a larger data set and send it out into the world at regular intervals. The biggest challenge with these will be with assembling a data set in a uniform format to pull from.

4. twitter bots monitoring remotely

Need to know when a specific condition changes? Think of a door being opened, then closed. A light turning on and off. A cat going in and out. Wait, wha–

@PepitoTheCat is a bot whose sole purpose is to record when Pépito, who is a cat, goes out at night, and when he comes back home. That’s it. It’s brilliantly simple and powerful. It performs two valuable operations. One, it records data based on these conditional events. And two, it’s creating a new record with all this data that can be examined later.

Think about how your students could implement something like this as part of a science experiment:

  • How often does the temperature drop below a given value in the turtle tank?
  • How often does the heat lamp turn on or off in the chicken coop?
  • Overnight, how fast does water evaporate?
  • How much snow did we get today?

These are super fun. They work by connecting with tiny science-y (yes it’s a word) sensors and recording data from them. So, in Pépito’s case, there’s a sensor on the door flap that registers every time the door is opened. This, in turn, triggers a camera to take a photo. The photo is then tweeted out with its timestamp.

Folks who are looking for next stage arduino projects, projects that actually do something? Right over here.

But remember, these type of bots are also collecting data while they tweet. They’re doing the work of building a data set for your students to later analyze. Remember @grow_slow?

Wait, this is starting to sound complicated.

A twitter bot like Pépito’s certainly needs some additional parts and a little more thought than one that simply cranks out quotes from your favorite Agatha Christie novels.

What kind of bot could your students create? What problems do they want to use it to solve?




Data shows #vted leads nation in educators on Twitter

Vermont’s new leading role online

educators on twitterIn today’s podcast, Mark Olofson talks with Joshua Rosenberg and Spencer Greenhalgh, education researchers from Michigan State University. Their research focuses on the state-level twitter conversations among educators: who is doing it, and what they’re getting out of it.

And, spoiler alert, when they looked around the country, Vermont emerged as a pretty special place.

Continue reading Data shows #vted leads nation in educators on Twitter

twitter etiquette

Modeling twitter interactions as an educator and parent

digital citizenship and twitter etiquetteWith twitter’s explosive growth in popularity with educators, it can get a little confusing as to what the new rules of social media look like. Hint: they’re a lot like the old rules. Kindness, empathy and listening rule the day.

Let’s look at how one educator and parent models twitter etiquette.

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4 ways to keep social media manageable

Be strategic with your time

4 ways to keep social media manageableSocial media gives you a number of different ways to meet great innovative educators, willing to share what they’re doing in their classroom, but it can quickly eat up your valuable free time. Plus it’s just so shiny that you only ever mean to sit down and give it a quick look, then BAM! You rub your aching eyes and it’s ten o’clock on a Sunday night again.

So how do you make the most of social media for professional development without letting it eat your life? Here’s 4 ways to keep social media manageable.

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Making the most of twitter in your classroom

making the most of twitter in your classroomTwitter’s not just a great way to build your PLN as an educator, it’s also a powerful tool to connect students with the world around them in very unique ways. But how can you make those connections authentic learning experiences?

Let’s look at making the most of twitter in your classroom.

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Making the most of twitter as an educator

Part 1: Grow your PLN and get help from those who’ve been there

Making the most of twitter as an educatorTwitter is an invaluable resource for educators looking to share their successes and challenges in an asynchronous, on-demand way. It’s a low-stress entry into social media where you only have to post a little at a time to connect with educators both around the world and on the next block — sometimes as close as the next classroom away! Here’s some tips on making the most of twitter as an educator.

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The power of transmedia storytelling

The power of transmedia storytellingaka The Bear Trap Story

When was the last time you saw your district superintendent leap over a bear trap?

No, school board meetings don’t count; that’s standard and part of the price of admission. But last week, 3rd grade students at Richmond Elementary School got to see Chittenden East Supervisory Union superintendent John Alberghini (that’s him over there in the tweet to the left), along with his sisters Debbie and Gina, brave an old and rusty bear trap left in the woods.

Now, I wasn’t there for the storytelling, but thanks to Tonya Darby’s tweet, I was alerted to what I think we can all agree were some epic shenanigans in the name of learning.

Then came the podcast.

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