After two articles in the irish papers and radio and tv interviews (links below), where I was asked about how I use twitter in my classroom, I decided to detail what exactly I do, so that it’s a little clearer.
Before I begin though we have to talk about fear. There’s so much fear about the educational value of twitter from teachers, managers, parents and students that some might be worried about entering that lion’s den. My answer to these fears is simple: the internet is where kids are, schools have to go there. It was video for an earlier generation and tv before that. It was probably radio once and I’m sure some Greeks were worried about writing things down rather than learning them by heart. Students will always be ahead of us, so why not meet them there, rather than dismiss them as fad-followers or time-wasters?
So. I began introducing twitter by talking to the principal first and then to the whole staff at our first meeting of the school year, back in mid-August. I told them what I wanted to do, using phones first to access the web, and they kindly allowed a rule change so girls could carry switched off phones about the school. I wrote a standard letter to parents explaining what I would do and telling them anything the students generated would be accessible. (If you want to copy the letter it’s at the bottom of this post.)
I set up a twitter account for my English classes (twitter.com/ScoilMEng) and one for my History classes (twitter.com/ScoilMHist). I knew I could project the timeline from my laptop onto the whiteboard so any tweets they sent would be easy to see. The next task was to find genuine and practical educational reasons to use twitter in my room. I found some suggested themselves, People In History questions for Junior Certificate were perfect where Significant Relevant Statements are what are required and tweets were perfect. So were headlines from History. In English I started with short character studies and haikus before I moved on to sending tweets from the courtroom in To Kill A Mockingbird. And all the time there are three simple rules: Include the hashtag (we agree this in advance), initial the tweet, if it’s from a group everyone signs it, and spell it correctly. This causes consternation, but it promotes accuracy and attention to detail.
And here’s the great part: the girls love it. They get cross when I delete their inaccurate tweets, but stuff stays in their heads longer and faster. They can type because they spend so much time on Facebook, and they seem to be able to separate school from home, very few ever try following me on twitter, I’m just not interesting (outside class obviously!). I could get evangelical about prezi too, but that’s a different post (here).
I’m not a tech whizz, I’m a generation too old really to be introducing this stuff, but if it helps the kids learn (can we please use our phones today sir?), and it keeps me on my toes then it’s worth it.
This is where they are and we have to go there.
Article from Irish Independent: http://is.gd/SFF0dU
Article from Irish Times: http://is.gd/llwArA
Link for letter to parents on social media: http://is.gd/zMZpBf
I’ve started to use tweetdoc to archive the tweets my students send. It’s always bothered me that the tweets they sent were getting lost but tweetdoc solved it.
Here are two of the PDFs.
Reformation in England and Ireland
Here’s a podcast of a Dublin City FM broadcast I contributed to about twitter (from 14 mins).