Reading tweets the other day my interest was piqued by Craig Kemp's blog post on using Twitter in the classroom. I'm in my second year of using Twitter in class and swear by its effectiveness as an ICT tool but the scaffolding that Craig used as he introduced his class to Twitter weren't how I had attacked it's introduction. I was impressed by what Craig had done and it made me pause to consider the different introductions I'd used between the first & second years using the @rm1hns account with my year 5 & 6s. My comments here are based on what I did for my second year.
First tweet of the year:
I introduced Twitter on day 1 of the year. Day 1 has so many requirements, I thought that giving the class a chance to "meet" their twitter account was a worthwhile interlude amongst some of the more mundane activities. The class account was put onto the bigscreen and we had a little chat about what they knew of Twitter. A handful of my class had been in @rm2hns so were well versed in Twitter but they were the minority. We talked about the Anatomy of a tweet and then I gave them a paper template to write their first tweet. The template was an excellent way to engage them in writing at the start of the year and knowing that your teacher only expects 140 characters has to be less of a shock than some first-up writing activities. After the usual writing process took place, children had included a twitter handle, experimented with hashtags and begun to grasp how much can be said in 140 characters.
How we use Twitter:
We use Twitter regularly in the classroom. Any brainstorming or mindmapping session across a topic will often involve someone tweeting their ideas or questions. Microblogging what we're up to as a class and using twitter to share work with the teacher or others are both popular uses also. Recently, I connected with a colleague through twitter to have our students communicate around book discussions. This was massive for one of my students who is reading well above level and I need to keep engaged. But our most common use for twitter is Kidsedchatnz.
@rm1hnsis an enthusiastic member of Kidsedchatnz and I'm a coordinator of the programme but my experience with Kidsedchatnz and @rm1hns involvement was such that it could be somewhat confusing for the children due to its fast paced nature. Routinely over 500 tweets can be sent in the 45 - 50 minutes it operates. This is where Tweetdeck becomes almost a necessity to participate in a chat session.
I experimented with using Tweetdeck with my class in our first year of twitter, the kids didn't like the column look and preferred to use Twitter's own platform to follow chats. This year, chat sessions have been even more fast-paced and occassionally difficult to follow. I introduced Tweetdeck by simply having my tweetdeck up on the smartboard, by demonstrating how much easier this makes it follow a chat session many of the kids were eager to give it a go. Tweetdeck is now installed on the desktops in Room 1 and the kids use a column to follow Kidsedchatnz. Because this app is always open, the spur of the moment tweet is easily sent also.
As the students have become better at following the chats and their general ability on Twitter, we've had the odd revision session. Sitting down looking at great tweets and breaking them down has been beneficial for my little tweeps. As year 5 & 6s I don't expect perfection but I do encourage them to always be lifting their standards of communication.
@rm1hns is a BYOD classroom. Many of the BYOD kids, after proving their responsibility, have installed Twitter on their devices and therefore are able to participate in Kidsedchatnz on their own. This allows our class to have up to 10 - 12 devices engaged in Kidsedchatnz. I watched a developing writer send his first tweet independently last Thursday on his own device, he was so proud it made me feel this is the right decision. The children are all happy to act as tweeters on behalf of others or the class as needs determine and several of them prefer to share their work via Twitter rather than emailing it.
I recognise that not all teachers would be comfortable having a class account loaded onto personal devices but I have my reasons. Firstly, I know that some of my students have created their own twitter accounts and I don't want to enable the use of these for class purposes, especially that occasionally there is contact between myself and @rm1hns. Because I know some have @rm1hns loaded on their devices I will intermittently send them a tweet promoting a free app, I wouldn't do this to their personal accounts.
The @rm1hns account is loaded onto all of my devices so I can easily check the activity but to this point it has never been an issue. Come the end of the year I will need to change the password and ensure the students remove it from their devices but that is not difficult.
Where to next:
I don't claim to have my students using Twitter perfectly, but I do know that as you introduce it into your class the second time you'll definitely do things differently. Craig's post made me reflect on how I'd changed the way I went about things in my second year of Twitter in the classroom. I'll be changing things next year too no doubt. I can see an earlier introduction to Tweetdeck, more emphasis on positive responses and a session where children can just have a chat session amongst themselves would be incredibly beneficial prior to taking part in Kidsedchatnz.
I haven't made the most of tools for curating social media, a couple of my students have been introduced to Storify. I would like to make more use of it as it has lots of creative uses in the classroom especially around the structure and sequencing of writing.
The use of Twitter is constantly involving and I loved the suggestion of a colleague recently about her students creating a book club using twitter. Maybe that book club is in my students future also...