It makes my heart happy to see so many teachers creating class Twitter accounts. Having a one has created some wonderful learning opportunities for my students over the past two years. I’ve learned a few things (sometimes the hard way) so thought I’d share some things in the hope that it can help others.
One of the first things to you need to do is create a Twitter handle – I chose @Millgrove4H. I would probably use something different now because I’ve learned to
- pick a name that will last
- keep it short
- make it memorable
When selecting a name, try to choose something suitable that will continue through the years. As teachers, we often change grades and even schools. (As well, we discovered that using a school name can make your site simple to find during a Mystery Skype). It’s a good idea to try to keep the name as short as possible, as it takes up less space in the 140 characters allowed. It can be a lot of fun coming up with a name. Probably my favorite is Victoria Olson’s @EduMinions! Handles can be changed later on.
When do we Tweet? What’s worked well for us is to set a time each day. Last year we called it Twitter Time, and it coincided with our morning snack. Students got their snack and brought it to our Smartboard carpet while I brought up our Twitter account on the SMARTBoard. Each day we would check our feed and notifications. Some days, that’s enough. At other times, if we are involved in a project such as the #mathphotoaday, or have special activities or events we will send out related tweets throughout the day. We bring the class iPad to assemblies, or use it during class presentations. Since I have our class account on the class iPad and my iPhone, we can use whatever device is most appropriate. On days with lots of activity, the buzz of my phone is a signal for everyone to check out the latest exciting tweet!
Where do we Tweet? Everywhere! Having our Twitter account on multiple devices means we can use whichever one is most convenient. The class iPad works well with individual or small groups of students to use. We use it within the classroom and school. It’s great for taking pictures and tweeting during special events like our school Olympics or assemblies. When we leave the school for field trips it is usually easiest to use my phone. Making predictions about what’s in store for us is a great way to spend a bus ride!
Who Tweets? Who do we Tweet with? Everyone! During Twitter Time, usually students suggest ideas, the group finetunes them and I type. Once the class is familiar with formats and ideas, individual and small groups can also tweet. (All students are aware that since it is a class account that I am responsible for, all tweets need to be checked by me or another responsible adult before being sent out.)
For example, while growing our amaryllis, each day my Guided Math group would tweet out the new data. If we’ve initiated a Twitter activity like #whatdoesyourspringlooklike, 2 or 3 students will take the iPad and tweet our followers to ask for feedback. When we’ve had lots of feedback on a question, such as when we asked what people had for breakfast, and got replies from around the world, I ask a couple of skilled students to tweet individualized thank you messages. They enjoy the challenge and opportunity to put their writing skills to work.
One of my favorite ways to use Twitter is during assemblies and class presentations by giving the iPad to a student who might have difficulty focusing on the speaker. Being the class tweeter is very motivating. Students love summarizing the learning, stay engaged, and love the positive attention their tweets get. It’s a real win/win situation!
We’ve had lots of great group discussions about important elements of digital citizenship regarding who we tweet with. For example, the class decided that as a rule we would only follow other classes. As they pointed out, sometimes adults (even teachers) use their Twitter accounts for adult conversations that aren’t always appropriate for students. Also, our account was for our class and therefore learning focused. Of course, we did make a few exceptions such as for Olympian Neville Wright who came to visit our school. I loved the spirited discussions that revolved around each exception, and the students’ critical thought about the importance of digital citizenship. It’s interesting to note that they asked me to check out his Twitter feed and report back to them about how appropriate his tweets were before their final decision.
What do we Tweet? Most importantly, all our tweets reflect our understanding of digital citizenship. At the beginning of the year, we spent a lot of time talking about the importance of digital citizenship, and thinking carefully about what we wanted to say. I loved that my kids decided that two simple questions were all that we needed:
- Is it appropriate?
- Does it make sense?
Is it appropriate? was what we used to ensure that we were being polite, courteous, and ensuring we thought about any consequences the tweet might have. For example when tweeting photos we needed to be sure that we had permission to use the images, and that anyone involved knew what we were doing with them. Students know that any photos we tweet will not show student faces. This has inspired many creative moments as they come up with ideas that relate to the tweet, but do not include faces.
Does it make sense? usually relates to editing. Often what we want to include goes over the 140 character limit, so we have many opportunities to practice revising and removing any extraneous information.
We literally ask these two questions every time before ever hitting the Tweet button. As the class grew more comfortable, they began giving two thumbs up showing their approval (which sped up the process).
Of course, we tweet about everything! Our tweets reflect our learning topics or activities, thanks to people and groups who’ve impacted us, or asking questions of experts.
A special favorite is tweeting authors while reading or finishing their books. During the Olympics some of the athletes were really good about reaching out to students. It’s incredibly exciting when they tweet us back!
Hashtags provide great tweeting experiences too and are a fun way to invite others to join in. I love that Dana Ariss uses #ourawesome as an opportunity for students to reflect and think about gratitude. I will definitely be using it this year with my class. Hashtags also provide a quick and easy way to organize tweets. When we have a presentation the class tweeter will begin each tweet with the speaker’s name (eg. #tanyasays). At the end of the day using a tool such as Storify makes it easy to gather them all together for everyone to see.
I’d love to hear more ideas and comments about using class Twitter accounts. Feel free to tweet us at @Millgrove4H!