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!