Terrific Tales of Teachers and Twitter in the Classroom
Let’s have an honest discussion about Twitter and teachers. What makes Twitter a tool that teachers would want to use? How have teachers already used Twitter? What’s the honest feedback?
There’s no better place to look than at examples of success with Twitter’s practical applications in the modern classroom. Let us pay tribute to those who have bravely blazed the trail before us. First, why would teachers use Twitter?
We found Laura Wheeler chiming in about why she uses Twitter.
“It took a couple of years before I really understood how to use Twitter to get what I wanted out of it.”
Wheeler uses the social networking site mostly outside the classroom, not involving her students. Her reasons are:
- To get ideas for lessons and activities
- To expand her Professional Learning Network (PLN)
- To wax philosophical on the bigger ideas in education
- To engage in conversations with like-minded professionals
- To be linked into opportunities for professional development
Here also is Laura Knight:
“Twitter is a very simple tool that allows me to connect with an amazingly clever, resourceful and innovative bunch of people who never fail to inspire and motivate me. “
She touts Twitter’s penchant for gathering great minds and ideas together in an itty bitty living space.
- Professional/Personal Support: “Twitter can be like a virtual staffroom for me, which I can step into when it suits me: in the queue at the supermarket or waiting for for the kettle to boil.”
- Global expanse: “It’s now possible for me to actively compare what’s happening in schools in my county with others on different continents. “
- Self reflection: “Reading about other educators’ experiences has made me question my own practice on a number of occasions..”
- Ideas and Critiques: “You can gather a range of opinions and constructive criticism within minutes.”
- News and innovation: “Twitter users can stay right at the bleeding edge of innovation and creativity, and literally be among the first to know when a new product is launched, article is published or opinion is voiced.”
- Professional development: “Twitter is also a source of healthy debate, and I have learned that if I am going to make a point I can’t be halfhearted about it.”
- Trusting your sources: “Twitter searching provides information about time-linked trending topics that Google cannot.”
- Communication: “Expressing yourself in 140 characters is a great discipline.”
- Keeping tech skills current: “We need to be able to speak the same language and inhabit the same communities (both real and virtual) as our students in order to motivate them and relate to them.”
So that’s how using Twitter looks outside the classroom. In a nutshell, it’s a great avenue for expanding your professional learning network.
What about Twitter in the classroom?
Can one use Twitter consistently with their students, allowing the platform to take on a life of its own, other than just using it as a one-time project? Can Twitter become a mainstay of the learner’s experience as a way to engage in the world around them?
The answers to these questions lie in the very purpose of Twitter: a microblogging platform to get small bits of relevant information from around the world quickly.
There are tons of great ideas on using Twitter out there. We’ll list a few below, and then we’ll highlight a few educators who’ve been willing to blog about their experiences. It’s our hope that you’ll get in on the conversation and share your own experiences with us.
Here is a list of those ideas using Twitter with students. Among these are:
- Tweet about upcoming due dates or assignments
- Provide the class with a running news feed
- Use Twitter in the classroom to create a career list
- Connect with the community
- Write a story or poem
- Ask questions
- Role play
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Create a character
- Create a progressive poem
Here is a list of great tips on managing Twitter usage with your students.
- Don’t require that students follow your account
- Commit to posting at regular intervals
- Vary the time of day of the posts.
- Post links to content that is user-friendly
- Know your audience’s interests
- Don’t just retweet; generate original links
- Suggest people, organizations or magazines to follow
- Be personal …
- … but avoid the overly personal comments
And now, more educators …
When searching for first-hand accounts of using Twitter with students, we found Natascha Chtena on the web. While Twitter is a great tool in her mind, she delivered some useful pointers and honest cautions that she encountered in a higher-level ed class (still relevant or more so when concerning lower ed students).
Here is her list of 7 things she learned when using Twitter with her college students:
- “How to use Twitter in the Classroom” guides are largely missing the point.
- Not everyone’s a “digital native.”
- Sometimes you just have to use incentives.
- Participation is one thing, engagement is another.
- Consistency will influence student output.
- If you’re aiming at student interaction, offering concrete tasks is key.
- Think about what Twitter really brings to the table.
Here’s a real life example of Twitter in the classroom:
In this example the students were assigned to compose their thoughts first on paper using 140 characters or less, sharing “smile moments” from within and outside of the classroom. They then Tweeted to a hashtag created uniquely for their classroom. Using Storify, they brought all their tweets together into one story.
“There really are no limits to this as long as we’re being safe about it,” says Principal Hutchinson. “Tweets also should remain purposeful.”
Finally, here are some Twitter gurus to connect with, their websites and their Twitter ID’s:
- Cybrary Man (Jerry Blumengarten): a list of all things Twitter education-related, from hashtags, chats, and other contacts.
- Eric Johnson
- Lisa Nielsen
- web20classroom (Steven Anderson)
- Alice Keeler
While using Twitter as a PLN enhancement is definitely a must (and many teachers do so already), we would like a lot more success stories on how teachers have successfully used—and continually use—Twitter in the classroom. We invite you to the conversation. Tell us how you use Twitter with your students!