Twitter isn’t just a place for news or idle chatter. In fact, a new study reveals the microblogging service could be a powerful tool for educators, too.

Southern Cross University in Australia allowed its students to anonymously tweet to their professors during classroom time, and those missives appeared on the professors’ laptops via PowerPoint. What the teachers found is that students who were normally too shy to speak up in class with comments or questions were willing to do so when they didn’t have to endure the stares of their peers.

“Twitter is another exciting teaching aide that is highly underutilized by lecturers and teachers in the education sector,” said business lecturer Jeremy Novak. “Hopefully it … [will] allow those students who are less likely to engage with teachers, for social or cultural reasons, to participate.”

Of course, the privilege could always be abused if students pull the comic-book-inside-a-textbook stunt and pretend to be tweeting to teachers when they’re instead talking to friends.

“Teachers would have to be savvy with the technology, but if those things were overcome there is no reason this could not be used to augment teaching methods,” Novak said, adding, “We don’t see Twitter replacing actual class participation or interaction, but it could be a very valuable tool to add to the teacher’s toolbox.”

[Courier Mail]