This interesting post from the Prof Hacker blog in the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses how you might use Twitter in your teaching. The assumption is that students will be expected to contribute to an ongoing class discussion, which might not be how you’d want to do things, but for all that it contains useful advice. For example it compares the use of lists versus hashtags, frequency of tweeting, archiving the discussion, and displaying the results.
One idea from the US that I’ve seen in a couple of times now is the award of a part of the grade, say 10-20%, for class participation. Adoption of this idea might be a good way to encourage engagement with you modules. An alternative to using Twitter is the use of FriendFeed as a discussion channel. Alan Cann at Leicester uses this in a first-year course he gives on Personal Learning Environments. He calls it FriendFolios and sells it as a Facebook for uni.