Here is an interesting addition to any Ning being used for academic purposes: add a Twitter widget so students can tweet about the course. How does it work? First, just pick an appropriate hashtag to use for your course. Mine is #vamplit. Anytime anyone (including non-students) tweets using #vamplit, the tweet will show up twitter search results. You might tweet, for instance, #vamplit Students, please bring your copies of Dracula to class. Check out how this works on my Vamplit Ning.

To put your class tweets on your Ning, create a search widget using Twitter (under goodies–select my website–search widget). Plug your hashtag into the search box, get the code, and embed the code in a text box on your Ning.

The Twitter widget tool also allows for advanced search, so I can some additional search terms to be displayed in my widget. Let’s say that in addition to what MY students are saying about vampire literature (my #vamplit hashtag), I want to get what the entire Twitter community is saying about vampires , vampire literature, and Buffy . I would just plug these terms into my search query (#vamplit OR vampire OR “vampire literature” OR “Buffy”) grab the code, and I suddenly have a very active Twitter feed, right there on my Ning. It looks like this:

And Twitter lets you modify the appearance of your widget, too. Pretty cool way to add real-time tweets to your social network.