Just a reminder, this blog post is a continuation of the previous one entitled: “Using Twitter in the Classroom – Outlining the Issue: Part 1.”
I am currently completing my Masters in Secondary Teaching and will be posting my current assignment to this blog in order to demonstrate how 21st century technology can be used in the classroom. This is the second part of my assessment task, where I will attempt to justify the use of Twitter, drawing on how it can be used in the learning. I created my own hashtag for each post relating to this assessment task (#MTeachWWIIyr10) on my own personal Twitter account. The link for this thread is as follows: https://mobile.twitter.com/search?q=MTeachWWIIyr10&s=typd or by typing in the hashtag into the search button.
So the question to be addressed here is why a teacher might choose to use Twitter. It is a way for students to:
- Link their learning in the virtual world for easy reference at a later date;
- Collaborate with each other remotely and with their teacher;
- Gain access to a wide range of resources;
- Share their resources efficiently with their peers through re-tweeting and sharing posts;
- Link with professionals and the wider community with knowledge and skills in that field of expertise; and
- Generate their own peer discussion (Miller; GDC Team, 2014);
This is by no means an exhaustive list. In the comments section of this blog, I invite you to include any other ways you think Twitter might be useful in a classroom context.
There is an excellent article by Samantha Miller setting out 50 ways Twitter can be used on the classroom. You can access this article at this address: http://www.teachhub.com/50-ways-use-twitter-classroom. I actually shared this article on my Twitter feed with the hashtag #MTeachWWIIyr10. Miller begins by using a couple of classroom housekeeping examples like tweeting about upcoming assignment due dates or providing a running news feed to show how Twitter can be useful in the classroom. Some of the other examples she uses are particularly novel and innovative like having English students attempt to write a poem in 140-character format or teaching probability. Miller’s article has a wealth of inspiration which really highlights that the application of Twitter is really only limited by the teacher’s imagination. It particularly lends itself to the Humanities area because it has so many applications like tracking weather patterns or connecting with Google Earth (both examples are from Miller’s blog post). I particularly liked her idea of having the students summarize each lesson in a 140-character tweet. This encourages the students to individually process the teaching and learning and engage in higher order thinking to summarize the content. The students would need to stick to the 140-character format unique to Twitter, which in itself is a challenge.
Another interesting article on using Twitter in the classroom is found on the Global Digital Citizen Foundation’s website at https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/60-inspiring-examples-of-twitter-in-the-classroom, which I also shared under the #MTeachWWIIyr10 hashtag. There are some fantastic Easter Eggs here. I liked the suggestion about allowing students who have trouble with ‘disruptive blurting’ to tweet their impromptu comments instead. This is a way of managing a particular behavior in a non-threatening way.
I have also shared two other resources about how to use Twitter on my feed. Dailygenius suggests using Twitter to hold a discussion with the class for 30 minutes outside of school hours at http://dailygenius.com/use-twitter-in-the-classroom/. This might be a great way to keep the class focused and connected on school holidays. If used effectively, it could even foster a virtual community for the classroom. Virtual communities or networks are second nature to the digital native student. However, by incorporating this virtual community into the classroom, the teaching and learning will not feel outdated and irrelevant to the students. This is particularly helpful when the individual student is taking a required subject without any personal interest in the teaching and learning.
Pamela DeLoatch suggests publicly acknowledging a student’s good behavior on Twitter at http://www.edudemic.com/the-30-newest-ways-to-use-twitter-in-the-classroom/. This could be a useful tool for managing behavior, specifically encouraging positive behaviors. Of course, a teacher should never publicly name and shame a student for inappropriate behavior on Twitter. Most of my examples in my hashtag feed are limited to posting a question, which my here-to-fore non-existent students would answer. Much of the suggestions contained in these blogs are difficult to demonstrate without a live class of students to participate. However, there is no question that these suggestions are innovative and completely in step with educating the Neo-millennial learner or digital native (Prensky, 2001). Through most of these examples, students become active participants in the learning. Activating the students as participants is important in developing their neural network (Foreman, 2003) as well as for student engagement.
A point that I failed to consider when I started posting under the hashtag #MTeachWWIIyr10 is whether all tweets should contain correct spelling and grammar. I alternated between using the correctly spelled “you” and the twitter favorite “u.” Other abbreviations crept in, especially when I was attempting to re-tweet an interesting tweet with my #MTeachWWIIyr10 hashtag. In the future, I would carefully consider whether correct spelling is important for the class. Perhaps I could even invite the students to contribute their own opinions on this. I think a teacher’s tweets should probably meet the correct spelling and grammar requirements, although you will notice that mine do not. Whether or not the students should be required as well, might need to be decided by consensus with the whole class contributing to the discussion and casting their vote.
Choosing to present this assessment task through the microblogging site Twitter has presented some difficulties. For instance, I cannot post this entire blog post in one post on Twitter due to the 140-character format. However, the functionality of Twitter makes it a good one-stop-shop for accessing information. I can post this task elsewhere and then share the link via my twitter account. It works the same if I wanted to upload a screenshot of the homework I had set for the class. I would be able to share the screenshot via Twitter under the hashtag for the class. I could ask the students to perform a Twitter search and find a Twitter user with knowledge about our topic and their own website. The class could perform a search on the Second World War and begin following users like @RealTimeWWII, @OZatwar or @WWIImuseum. They might be asked to present what they learned about the teaching and learning from accessing this site in the next class. The students could be encouraged to put these users in a list so that they can access their tweets in a single feed. These users post regularly about World War II and their tweets would help bring history to life for the students. This in itself will facilitate student engagement for subjects like History that has a reputation of being dry for students.
Another potential downside to implementing the use of Twitter in the classroom is the additional work required for the teacher. If the teacher is not completely comfortable with using the site, the requirement to keep up with it will become more onerous than intended. If each student in the class engages with Twitter at once, that is between 25 and 30 posts that the teacher needs to have at least read and checked so that he or she can be sure that it does not contain anything inappropriate. In addition to this, if each student tweets questions to the teacher, they may expect instant responses, resulting in next-to-no down time for the teacher. The concept of set contact hours could potentially address this issue. The contact hours could be set at the beginning of the year or they could be set at the beginning of each week for the class. The teacher would therefore monitor all tweets at a time to be determined at his or her discretion but would only be required to be on-hand for direct answers during set times. This needs to be carefully considered by the teacher and assessed critically against the already present constraints on their time. Alternatively, rather than using Twitter for the whole year, the teacher could set it up for Term 1 only and decide whether to continue with it for the rest of the year at the conclusion of the Term 1. Students might be allowed to expect to access their teacher outside of school hours in today’s digital age but this expectation needs to be managed so that the teacher does not end up becoming burnt out.
Despite the potential problems raised herein, I remain excited about the applications of Twitter in the classroom. It is obvious from the type of posts that I put under the #MTeachWWIIyr10 hashtag that I enjoy the idea that students and teachers alike can share pictures of historical events. The teacher can also invite students to undertake their own research into questions and share the link to the information that they find. These examples provide opportunities for the students to engage both with the teaching and learning but also with current events. This can be invaluable in stimulating discussion, analysis and exploration of the teaching and learning. Inferential thinking needs to be prompted but remains invaluable for a student’s grasp of the material (Lamb, 2006). When used effectively and within set parameters, Twitter can be an invaluable 21st century tool in combatting student engagement.
- (2014). “25 Top Ways Teachers Use Twitter in the Classroom.” Retrieved on September 17, 2015 at http://dailygenius.com/use-twitter-in-the-classroom/.
- DeLoatch, P. (2015). “30 Innovative Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom.” Edudemic. Retrieved on September 17, 2015 from http://www.edudemic.com/the-30-newest-ways-to-use-twitter-in-the-classroom/.
- GDC Team. (2014). “60 Inspiring Examples of Twitter in the classroom.” Global Digital Citizen Foundation. Retrieved on September 17, 2015 from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/60-inspiring-examples-of-twitter-in-the-classroom.
- Miller, S. ‘50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom.’ Teach Hub. Retrieved on September 17, 2015 from http://www.teachhub.com/50-ways-use-twitter-classroom.
- Prensky, M. (2001). “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1.” On the Horizon. 9(5): 1-6.