All a-Twitter II: the kids

My reservations notwithstanding, it appears irrefutable that Twitter offers powerful opportunities for learning, as well as applications in the classroom.

In his blog, The principle of change, George Couros recommends some ideas of how to use Twitter hashtags in the classroom, as well as some steps to doing it right. He also suggests some advantages of using the strategy with students.

Because I teach high school, my students comply with the minimum age restriction by Twitter (13 years). I love the idea of opening up to my students, via the Twitter universe. To me, this strategy of using Twitter in the classroom would combine the Web 2.0 social media aspect of Twitter with the basic need for access to information about high school courses. This provides a valuable framework for the tool.

I share my email address and cell phone number with my students, and have had many email or text me with questions about assignments or course content. With Twitter, students would have access to my tweets around the clock, and I would be alerted of their questions or concerns on a regular basis. Furthermore, this would reach beyond the student with the initial question. All students who signed up or used the hashtag would be privy to, and able to participate in, the discussions that ensued.

Couros makes some pertinent observations about the use of Twitter hashtags as a communication tool with students. He believes that the use of hashtags, “…helps to create community learning” (2011), and “…tap[s] into the wisdom of your entire class. Students will publish their questions and comments, and participate actively in the Twitter discussions.

Moreover, learning is shared beyond the classroom. Because Twitter is public forum, parents may see what their children are learning, and others may also chime in.

Couros also explains that by using Twitter, teachers are”…helping kids create a positive digital footprint”. In this digital age, it is encouraging for students to value the educational value of new technologies.

I am thinking of incorporating a hashtag in my creative writing class next semester. This should be a manageable way to try out this new learning, while still exploiting its power in a meaningful way that is conducive to learning.

Kate Messner is a teacher who brought Twitter into her classroom, and utilized it in many ways. In School Library Journal (2009), Messner speaks of her own use of Twitter in her professional life. This experience led her to ask, ” What if my students could draw on the expertise of authors and others as they’re learning the craft of writing? What if they could pose questions to a [Professional Learning Network]?” She set about bringing Twitter into her classroom. Messner describes one valuable Twitter experience, during which her students were following an author as she explained her writing routine. Messner writes, “‘Hey wait!’ says Kiah, one of my students. ‘Can we talk to them, too?’ I nod. ‘We’re logged in under our classroom Twitter account… What do you want to know?’ And just like that, my classroom has grown. No longer just 15 kids and a teacher. It’s all of us, plus a children’s author in Virginia, a book editor at her desk in SoHo, and another half dozen children’s writers from around the country…”

What a powerful way to use Web 2.0 to bring authentic learning to students. I am nervous. I am unsure. But I am inspired to try harder.

In case I needed more proof, the video below explains how Dr. Monica Rankin has used Twitter to enhance student learning at the University of Texas at Dallas. although this depicts Twitter’s success at the post-secondary level, much of the rationale has a place in a high school setting as well.

References

Couros, G. (2011). Twitter hashtags in the classroom. In The Principal of Change: Stories of learning and leading. Retrieved from http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/260

Ferenstein, G. (2010). The Twitter experiment: Twitter in the classroom. In How Twitter in the classroom is boosting student engagement. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/03/01/twitter-classroom/

Messner, K. Pleased to tweet you: Making a case for Twitter in the classroom. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6708199.html

All a-Twitter!

If there’s one Web 2.0 tool I feel I have not adequately exploited, it’s Twitter. I’m not sure why Twitter intimidates me as a tool, but it does.

As a tweet-ee:

I enjoy following Twitter feeds, but I do find daunting the number of tweets I miss if I fail to check in regularly enough. And I’m only following a handful of Tweeters so far! This overwhelmed feeling reminds me of how I felt about Facebook before I started using the app on my iPad. On my computer, I checked the site much less frequently. If I didn’t check in for a few days, I dreaded pouring through the off-putting number of updates, wall posts and messages I had missed. Similarly, with Twitter, I feel guilt for not taking the time to check in every day, and am discouraged by the time that it could take to go through what I have missed. I know that there will be meaningful content there, and do not want to miss out.

As a tweeter:

It might be that it is so public, so “out there” a broadcast method, that I am excruciatingly aware of how public everything is that I tweet. Instead of feeling happy to have new followers, I feel a feeling of onus, that now I must find fascinating and original things to post, in order to entertain and inform my audience. I realize that this is not the point of Twitter, nor is there the expectation from tweet-ees to be regaled with wondrous information every minute of the day. The public nature of this means of communication, however, has definitely kept me from sharing as much as I would like.

In a CCN Go interview regarding her film, Twittermentary, director Tan Siok Siok stated, “…Twitter can be a catalyst for reinventing one’s life. But it can just as easily lead to narcissism and delusion” (2011). Perhaps that egocentricity of tweeting is partly what holds me back. I don’t particularly want people hanging on my every word, or tuning in to hear every inane thing I have to say. I’d rather not have the attention!  When blogging, there is a specific purpose to each post. I write, edit and rewrite, and I know that if the reader doesn’t feel like tuning in to my post, he won’t. When I post a silly status update on Facebook, I know it will only be my “friends” who read it. There is a sense of privacy there. When tweeting, however, I am excruciatingly aware that my fleeting thoughts are being broadcast to all who have foolishly signed up to partake of my wisdom.

Another concern is the hidden intricacies associated with innocent-seeming tweets. There is much more involved in my simple little tweet about, say, a recipe for shortbread, than meets the eye.  Raffi Krikorian, technical leader with Twitter (2011), produced the following map of a Twitter status object, depicting the many fields associated with a simple tweet. Simon Fodden says that, even though there’s nothing too alarming in the metadata displayed, “…it’s sensible for those of us who are privacy conscious to be reminded from time to time that what seems to us to be a very minimal exposure to the unblinking glare of the internet carries with it a large amount of ‘body language,’ so to speak” (2011).

Not that Twitter lacks value – far from it! I have learned much from my subscriptions to various tweeters, such as Joanne DeGroot, Jenn Branch, Joyce Valenza and Dean Shareski, to name but a few. I do find, however, that much of the useful content I find in tweets is limited to links and quick blurbs. I find I often have to sift through personal conversations without context, for example, “I’m watching reruns of Barney Miller. I win”. (Shareski, 2011), and threads to which I don’t know the origin, like, “Only midnite @ Amsterdams in Whistler. To bed – 2am at home! RT when do you sleep? These are my hours not yours”. (John Gormley Live, 2011). Huh??

I’m sure that as I continue to familiarize myself with Twitter, it will seem less daunting. I suppose the key is to find the twits you find most effective, and check in with them most habitually. I consistently find valuable information on Joanne DeGroot’s and Buffy Hamilton’s tweets, and will check in with them more regularly.

As far as tweeting goes, I am a work in progress. I think I need to find a platform – a purpose – that works for me. I may just have been inspired… For more on this, read “All a-Twitter II: the kids”.

References:

Fang, C. (2011). Tan Siok Siok: ‘Twitter can lead to narcissism and delusion’. In Life. Retrieved from http://www.cnngo.com/singapore/life/tan-siok-siok-using-twitter-make-film-439021

Fodden, S. (2011). The anatomy of a tweet: metadata on Twitter. In Slaw.ca. Retrieved from http://www.slaw.ca/2011/11/17/the-anatomy-of-a-tweet-metadata-on-twitter/

For legal aid press 1. For tech support, press 2. [Cartoon image]. In Social Signal. Retrieved from http://www.socialsignal.com/image/for-legal-aid-press-1-for-tech-support-press-2

John Gormley Live. (2011, December 1, 2011). [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/#!/JohnGormleyLive

Krikorian, R. (2011). Map of a Twitter status object. In Mehack: raffi krikorian’s hacking, tinkering, and writing. Retrieved from http://mehack.com/map-of-a-twitter-status-object.

Shareski, Dean. (2011, December 2). [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/#!/shareski