Live Tweeting History

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Library of Congress

Back in 2009, Rankin drew attention for using Twitter in the classroom, finding it an effective method to engage a large number of students in discussion in a lecture-style class.

She's also experimented with other platforms: In one class, students created avatars via Second Life and played out the Cuban Revolution in an historical re-enactment.

Although it's too early to tell exactly what kind of an impact social media plays in attracting new visitors or students, educators are optimistic.

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"We were hoping it would attract people who are just curious," Jones said. "As an educator, I see it as another tool in engaging people. It's so soon that it's hard to tell, but we're very encouraged."

So far, @MNCivilWar has 1,060 followers ... and, Jones points out, January of 1863 was a quiet time during the Civil War.

"There will be a big flurry of tweeting coming up as battles start," Wendy said. "It will be interesting to see how that changes the public's engagement."

Similar projects by history museums include the anniversary of the Titanic sinking @TitanicRealTime by the UK's The History Press, which attracted 75,161 followers, and the ongoing RealTimeWWII, which has 269,532 followers. Recent tweets include "Mussolini now meeting Hitler- he's begging for German army's help in North Africa. Humiliating climbdown for il Duce."

Universities have developed 3D views of the pyramids, like this collaboration between Harvard University and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts; one of the most valuable pieces of social media is the ease of making worldwide connections and collaborations, educators said.

"You can assign students to do something and collaborate with other students in other parts of the country or world ... it makes history less abstract," said Kirsten Winkler, an education 2.0 blogger.

So will there be a rush of eager college students signing up for World History 101?

"I think for many kids it can at least help them sort of get that initial spark, and then of course you need an engaged," Winkler said.

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