Twitter’s not just a great way to build your PLN as an educator, it’s also a powerful tool to connect students with the world around them in very unique ways. But how can you make those connections authentic learning experiences?
Let’s look at making the most of twitter in your classroom.
1. Connect your students with the larger learning community
One of the most powerful aspects of twitter for students is that it’s currently a very visible and dominant platform in social media. According to the Associated Press, 26% of teens use twitter in their out-of-school lives, which gives it an authenticity that can be tapped into to create powerful learning experiences. Williston Central School math educator Jared Bailey‘s class maintains a twitter account, @SterlingHouseVT, through which they not only share the math problems they’re working on, but participate in the #mathchat twitter chat.
You can also use twitter to connect your students with experts who can help round out knowledge related to assignments. Ryan Becker, a science educator at Woodstock Union Middle School (and who we profiled earlier in The Great Twitter Science Teacher Hunt) brought one of his students’ physics questions to twitter and got additional information (with examples!) from science educator and graduate research fellow Mark Olofson:
2. Connect your classroom with other classrooms
Teachers in Chicago Public Schools use twitter between multiple classrooms for twitter Tuesdays, where each school enters into a conversation about appropriate twitter use, with teachers and students alike hopping online and tackling a prompt together. The first twitter Tuesday topic was “What do you like about being a student here?” and other twitter chats have involved the 1st and 8th grade classes tweeting back and forth about the progress of their respective hermit crab experiments.
At Edmunds Middle School, the @NiaLearns twitter account faithfully chronicles the adventures of educator Laura Botte’s 6th grade class, while across the hall, Botte’s teaching partner chronicles the other class of 6th graders at @JourneyLearns:
Tweets sharing classroom activities, field trips and reflections provides students with a glimpse “across the hall” as well as sharing out their adventures with families and the community.
Incidentally, we curate a list of Vermont schools and classrooms on twitter, in case you’d like to get your students digitally connected with their peers.
3. Get students thinking about public storytelling
At Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington DC, educator Kyle M. live-tweets historical events such as the State of the Union address with his students. Silas B., at the Chatham Charter School in North Carolina conducts “Twisters” with his students, challenging them to write a 140-character story.
Educator Vivian Finch is challenging her students to write Twitter fiction to be considered in Nanoism, the online journal of twitter fiction (which is actually a thing and not just made up for this blogpost. Check it out.) Finch teaches German, so her take on twitter fiction is to challenge her students to not just tweet in their second language, but to work collaboratively on telling a coherent story together, fleshing out the characters and plot as a group.
4. Model digital citizenship for students
Back to the Chicago Public Schools to hear about how they addressed digital citizenship with their students as part of the twitter Tuesdays rollout:
Over the course of the spring, what began as an experiment became a tradition that students looked forward to each week. Older students began to reflect on their position as role models in our pre-K to 8th grade school. Our younger students began to feel they had a voice in the school, a way to share their learning and ideas. We frequently heard students saying, “Should we tweet this out?” when they made a discovery.
Students also learned about the responsibilities that come with having an online presence—starting in the kindergarten classroom. Teachers facilitated discussions about how the norms for treating one another that they have established in the classroom were also connected to Twitter interactions. Students learned other basics about social media interactions: the importance of using initials to protect their identity and that is not necessarily a good idea to follow someone just because they are following you.
As Erin Emmanuel, one of our first grade teachers, put it: “If students are learning how Twitter works alongside us, we can help them understand what making good choices means with this tool.”
–Carrie Kamm, Getting started with Twitter in the classroom
And in Woodstock, Ryan Becker tweets with and to his students about assignments and events, effectively carrying the educator’s mentor role onto twitter:
And in case these examples aren’t enough, check out this graphic by Richard Byrne that maps twitter activities to Bloom’s taxonomy: