As I mentioned in this blog post from about a month ago, I really admire and respect Cristina Milos, as she always gets me thinking and critically analyzing the choices that I make. Cristina has me further contemplating the “value of tweeting” in this recent post of hers.
Here are my responses to Cristina’s three main points:
I think that this can depend a lot on the parents and the teacher. Many of my parents follow my tweets, and they like having the opportunity to see the learning happening in real time. In fact, they’ll even reply with tweets to me or encouraging words to their child. This gives them a chance to connect with their child throughout the day, and gives them conversation points to further the learning (and the discussion) at home. I also have a class blog where I make weekly updates about key learning, and I also publish a monthly class newsletter. Tweets though, allow for daily interaction with parents.
I would agree that a loan photograph doesn’t necessarily tell a lot, but the words that accompany this photograph tell more. I also record lots of videos and podcasts, which allow me to capture the learning without writing copious notes (something that I struggle with doing). With a podcast, I can just press “Record,” put the iPad on the table, forget about it, and focus in on the discussion. Then the documentation of learning does not distract from the learning itself.
I’ve also tried to get students involved in this documentation. I’ll hand over my iPad, and let them take a photograph of their work and add a caption or reflection through a tweet. Sometimes, I’ll get students to pick the work for me to photograph at the end of a discussion, and then tell me what to write in my message: allowing for self-reflection and/or synthesizing of learning.
A stream of random messages can be difficult to follow though, so that’s why I love Storify. At the end of each day, I take a few minutes to Storify the tweets, add in text descriptions of key learning outcomes, and provide guiding questions for parental discussions at home. Then these Storify Stories go on our class blog and get emailed out to parents: giving them this daily glimpse into our classroom!
I would agree that just the very practice of sharing learning on Twitter does not make it meaningful. But Twitter can allow students to connect with others, and read, write, and demonstrate math skills in a real world context. This makes learning meaningful!
Yesterday was the perfect example of that in my case. After just finishing our Science unit on the human body, I heard that Sunnybrook Hospital was going to be live tweeting a heart surgery yesterday. For a reading and writing activity yesterday morning, students read the tweets, watched the videos, looked at the photographs, and responded to the comments with statements and questions of their own. They not only applied what they learned through our Science inquiry unit, but furthered their knowledge with the answers to the questions that they received. The story gets better as you can see in this post.
When I started using Twitter with my Grade 1’s, I thought that even just sharing word family words with another class through Twitter made the learning meaningful. It didn’t though. It may have made it more engaging, but it was really still a low-level activity. Asking questions, challenging ideas, learning new information, and synthesizing knowledge helps students learn, and Twitter can be used in this way, but depending on the connections and the conversations.
This is an interesting question because I think that it can depend on the child. I have some students that love to tweet out reflections because of the responses that they get from others. They’ll mention to me later that they need to work on this goal, or find out this information, or go back and re-explore their project because a specific person asked them about it. It’s not as much the reflection in the public space itself that helps, but the response to this reflection that matters.
Some students like it because they can tweet their reflections directly to their parents. They know that their parents check Twitter, and they love receiving immediate feedback from them. There’s also an accountability that comes with this sharing, as students then mention that these goals were discussed at home later.
Could students email these reflections instead? Yes! But not all of them have a device for email access, but they can always borrow one to take a quick photograph of their work and tweet it out to others. An email takes longer to write.
For some of my reluctant writers, a big blank page or a huge blank screen seems overwhelming to them, but 140 characters is small. The idea of writing a short reflection, or even a number of short reflections, seems more doable. Twitter will sometimes help encourage my students to write, and I think that this is valuable as well.
Also, just because some students are reflecting in a public space, doesn’t mean that they all need to. I always give students the choice of sharing their thoughts, reflections, and/or goals on Twitter. Not all students like this public forum, and that’s fine. These students may write them down and bring them home, email or message them to their parents, and/or send them directly to me. I think that there’s a lot of value to “student choice” and “student voice” when it comes to this kind of public sharing: let the students decide.
Thanks Cristina for continuing to push my thinking. How would others reply to these questions? What are some other questions people have about the value of tweeting? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I am very interested in how the tweeting process works with your young students. I am about to trial a social media experiment with 12 year olds to test out their reach whilst researching about sustainability and what their food contains before embarking on a sculpture unit in my art lessons. Sounds complicated?! I would like them to tweet their questions and connect to discover data and information. Do you tweet as a class and do they have free access to the account and password? What parameters do you set? Or do they just follow what is done by the teacher? I would really like them to have some ownership of how it rolls but am nervous of letting them loose on the web! Any advice? I really value how twitter has helped my learn over the last few years and would love to impart this to my students and help them discover the power of the internet. I look forward to your advice!
Nicki (@itsallaboutart on Twitter)
Nicki, these are some great questions! I started tweeting with my Grade 1’s and 2’s a number of years ago, and now I use Twitter with my Grade 5’s. I have two class accounts, and we also use mine. I have signed into all of the accounts (nobody has access to the password). We started with lots of modelled tweets, and we always list the things to consider before tweeting (e.g., proofreading your work, ensuring that it’s appropriate, ensuring that it says what you want it to say). Lessons on digital citizenship definitely help before tweeting as a class.
Now I let the students work together and tweet off of devices. They are often in partners, so that they can support each other when tweeting. I have students add their initials or first names to their tweets, so that others know that the tweets came from students. This system has worked well for me. You could also have students write their questions on paper or a device, take a photograph of it, and tweet that. Then you’re the one doing the tweeting, but the students are the ones connecting through their questions. Would this help?
Thank you so much! It is very helpful- I would love to see their tweets, what is the twitter name? My students are 1:1 laptops, how would you suggest I log in for them?
I think a practice run of actual paper tweets is a great idea- I heard someone posted a literal blog on a classroom wall to test it out, so I could try a similar start.
The idea is to discover what they are eating, where their food comes from, it’s source and how far. I have no idea at this stage if it will work but I think it will be a great experiment and learning tool. At the end of the unit I want them to test the power of making their product, a video, go viral! Should be fun!
I would definitely log in for the students! This will help avoid problems. I also tend to circulate as the students are tweeting to ensure that I see what they’re writing (and then I can help if need be). Even using an application like Tweetchat can help. Have students tweet using a hashtag, and then you can just follow the hashtag, even on a projector. This will allow you to see tweets right away, and go back in to delete or edit them if need be.
Paper tweets could definitely help. I’ve seen lots of paper blogs before that work well. This would let you tweet out photographs once the students have written what they want to say. This would certainly allow you to provide more support (if students are just starting to tweet).
I love the activity idea by the way! I hope you’ll share how it goes.
P.S. My students often tweet from my account. I also have @missdunsiger and @missdunsiger1.
Thank you so much! I am not sure how i will log in to 44 laptops but I’ll let you know when get to that stage! It won’t start until late March so I have time to figure it all out! I have added my COETAIL blog address (or see blog link on recent tweet) if you are interested, as that is where I will be blogging about the unit, along with other things for each weekly post for the course. They are a bit long so sorry about that! I get too many ideas, a typical art teacher head! I’ll check out your students feeds too, thanks again Aviva.
Thank you so much for sharing! I’ll check out the link. I like lots of ideas. 🙂 As for tweeting, what about logging into half of the laptops? Students can share them to tweet. Might make things easier.
Thank you for writing, Aviva.
I admire your energy in juggling so much technology, and I am sure it works for you.
However, I am still unconvinced about the impact on learning – aside from the great connection with the medical team, of course (although it can be argued that a pre-planned Skype session could do the trick as well).
It seems to me that this sense of urgency and moment-to-moment tweeting do not increase the quality of learning per se. I might just be different – for instance, instead of asking the students to reflect in 140 characters, I would rather have them take time to look back, think and write down their reflections. This bite-size type of engagement might not really be the answer.
Thank you – I enjoyed the conversation!
Thanks for the comment, Cristina! I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, and how much you’ve gotten me thinking. I don’t think that Twitter is the answer for everything, and yes, there may be more than one way to do the same thing. I do think that Twitter allows us to connect with others, and for some students, that really matters. For instance, yes my students may share their reflection in 140 characters, but they may also write out a longer one and tweet it out, so that parents, students, or teachers can reply to it and engage in further dialogue. Students enjoy these connections, but they also love how the questions get them thinking in new and different ways. Both of my administrators are on Twitter and will often reply to our tweets with questions of their own. It’s great that they can play such an active part in the teaching and learning process … even when they can’t always be in the classroom. My students have loved this connection and I do too. I think that Twitter allows for some “different” learning that definitely has its benefits.