Twitter in the Classroom

twitter

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about social media in the classroom and have been meaning to follow it up with a post about Twitter in the classroom. Summer is to blame! Between going away on vacation, catching up with family and friends,working on my dissertation (Twitter in the math classroom!), and instructing an online course, my blogging has fallen to the wayside.

So here it is; a follow up to my last post about social media in the classroom. As I mentioned in that post, we often talk about bringing the real world into the classroom and what better way than Twitter? I have used Twitter successfully in my classroom and have found the majority of my students have been engaged and motivated to share their learning, interact with each other outside of the classroom as well as interacting with professionals from various disciplines. Twitter is a great tool to connect with others from around the world; whether your class is interacting with other classes globally or communicating with professionals in the field of math, science, geography, or music, there are many ways in which Twitter can be used to learn and engage students.

Twitter is not only a great tool for reinforcing course content and communicating but it is a great way to teach life skills, including digital citizenship. Many schools and districts ban such sites and this is such a disservice to both students and teachers. Filtering such sites doesn’t allow students to practice how to effectively navigate social media platforms nor does it allow them to distinguish, observe, and become familiar with proper online etiquette and behaviour. I’ve told my students numerous times that employers look at their online presence or digital footprint when making hiring decisions. One great strategy is to have a company or organization to come speak to your students about the importance of digital citizenship.

Twitter guidelines dictate that students must be 13 years old to create their own Twitter account, hence students in grade 8 and higher can create their own for academic purposes. They can also create a separate ‘private’ account but they need to realize that nothing is private because Twitter is a public domain. They can still held accountable for any negative or disparaging remarks they make towards others including other students, teachers, and to anyone else they may follow. If you are a primary/junior teacher, creating a classroom account is the best way to go. There are still many ways you can use Twitter to engage and motivate students even though they don’t have their own account.

One thing I do recommend is to send a letter home to parents outlining your inclusion of Twitter into your teaching practice. My letter included information about Twitter in terms of what it is and how it works; I also included reasons for integrating Twitter into my classroom and explicit examples of how it will be used. At the bottom, I had a tear off portion, which parents signed and returned, giving permission for their child to create an account and use Twitter for school purposes (grade 8). I would still recommend having this tear off portion for primary and junior students as keeping parents informed about technology use in the classroom is critical especially in terms of social media use. I also included a “Twitter 101” brochure for parents, which provided information about Twitter in terms of creating their own account and how to use its many features. Having parents follow your classroom on Twitter is a fantastic way to keep them informed, engaged, and involved in their child’s learning.

Below, in no particular order, I outline ways in which you can use Twitter in your classroom, which I have used successfully with my students.

General      

  • create own classroom hashtag
  • organize tweets by hashtags as well (subject specific, reminders, field trips, etc)
  • post announcements and homework
  • post important dates such as tests, projects, and other assignments
  • post pictures and summary of field trips
  • post summary of learning for the day
  • post pictures and videos of learning for the day
  • post links to articles and videos pertaining to course content
  • Trivia Tuesdays or Trivia Thursdays
  • retweet articles from newspaper and TV news outlets
  • retweet tweets from professionals in subject-specific areas
  • students post questions about the homework and difficulties they might encounter
  • post a poll question (favourite for “yes” and retweet for “no”)
  • connect with classrooms across the country and around the world and host monthly twitter chats about a pre-determined topic or issue
  • connect with classrooms across the country and around the world to learn concepts and content together
  • follow industry professionals in all subject areas (searching by hashtag is one way to find them!)
  • follow government organizations and discuss current issues
  • follow newspaper, TV, and other media outlets to discuss global issues
  • find and connect with local organizations for sponsors and class visits!
  • post quote of the day
  • post fact of the day
  • in a primary/junior classroom have students use their initials as a hashtag to sign off their posts (a great way to assess; periodically you can do a hashtag search and assess that particular student’s tweets)
  • have students conduct research by using hashtags (for example, if students are researching “cells”, have them try the hashtags “cells” or “cellbiology”)
  • post inspirational quotes and have students post them too!
  • scavenger hunt (post clues and have students tweet their journey)
  • have students tweet a muddy point (something they learned which they still are not clear about)
  • exit (and entry) slips

Language

  • tweet main idea of a story, poem, chapter in a novel
  • compose a poem in a 140 characters
  • compose a short story in a 140 characters (keep it interesting; how about a mystery or horror story in 140 characters?)
  • fix the tweets of celebrities and athletes in terms of grammar and spelling (with the 140 character limit, what would a proper tweet look like?)
  • in terms of the 140 character limit, discuss the importance of being grammatically correct vs. sharing an idea; which one is more important and why?)
  • students creating questions based on a short story, poem, novel, or magazine article and posting it for a classmate to answer in a 140 characters
  • build vocabulary: students compose a sentence on a particular word and then have them compose another one with a synonym and/or antonym
  • word games: word jumbles, word association, list as many synonyms/antonyms as you can, crossword puzzle clues, guess the definition, etc
  • review grammar by having students compose examples of run-on sentences, past tense, future tense, present tense sentences, compound sentences, and sentences with mistakes in them (other students have to find and correct the mistakes)
  • tweet as character from a novel as you read the book (thoughts? feelings? predictions?)
  • have students take on personal of novels from a character and have them engage in a twitter conversation (what would the conversation look like between Hermione and Ron?)
  • class newspaper: use paper.li (or another similar platform) and have students contribute 1-2 articles they wrote individually or collaboratively or have them share an article they found on another site
  • in their novel study groups, students participate in a twitter chat about the book (an online book club!); have students generate the questions for the chat using Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Q-chart
  • write a movie review
  • compose a book review
  • if the book you’re reading was made into a movie, who would you cast and why (unless of course it already is a movie or you could ask them to recast)

History

  • tweet as a historical figure (what would Tecumseh’s Twitter feed look like? Sir Isaac Brock’s? Napoleon’s?)
  • students have a Twitter conversation as historical figures (what would a conversation between Brock and Tecumseh look like?)
  • What if an event never happened?
  • what if an event ended differently? What would have happened?
  • post critical thinking questions (Who really lost the War of 1812?)
  • “This Day in History” factoid

Geography

  • connect/use Google Earth
  • post of picture of a mystery place and have students guess the place
  • trivia questions (flags, capital cities, major landforms)
  • post information and pictures of their travels
  • tweet about hypothetical natural disasters (tsunami, hurricane, tornado, etc)
  • create a disaster relief plan
  • tweet their opinions about geographical issues (have a twitter chat)
  • where is one place in the world they want to go and why?
  • take measurements and collect data to map out later
  • compare and contrast the geography of your country with that of the a classroom you might be working with in another country

Science

  • post questions for students to answer around the scientific method (for example, post a scenario and ask question such as, “what is the independent variable? dependent variable? What is a placebo?)
  • post pictures of lab work with steps and results
  • post pictures of science examples in nature
  • host a twitter chat with an environmentalist, doctor, physicist, etc
  • monthly twitter chats about scientific advancements and issues (stem cell research, cloning, global warming, etc)
  • post opinions on these issues
  • science trivia questions
  • “This Day in Science History…”
  • Guess the Scientist (post a picture of a scientist and have students guess who it is)
  • read articles and analyze articles for fact vs opinion
  • create PSAs and post link for others to see
  • research science related topics using hashtags (#biology, #biodiversity, #cells, etc)
  • science jokes

French

  • follow accounts in French (people, organizations, news/media outlets)
  • pen pal program with another class (in a different province/state and/or country)
  • students translate tweets into French
  • students tweet in French (comprehension questions for example)
  • play vocabulary games
  • question of the week for students to respond to (What is your favourite dessert? Where would you like to travel, etc)
  • compose and post sentences in the past, present, and future tenses

Math

  • use Twitter to gather data and statistics on a topic
  • follow major sports team (and athletes) and use data to create a question, answer a question, or “I wonder” question
  • estimation skills (e.g., post a picture of a room and ask students to estimate its size)
  • post pictures of sales in the shopping mall or real estate information and pose a question (encourage students to do the same)
  • post pictures of math mistakes you find and ask students to identify the problem and fix it
  • problem of the week
  • students post pictures of them solving a problem and the steps they took to solve it
  • tweet out solution to a sudoku puzzle
  • post a question and challenges students to solve it in multiple ways
  • students create problems and another student has to solve it
  • post pictures of math they see when out and about
  • post pictures (you or the students) and hashtag it with #whereisthemath ?
  • post photo challenges; students have to find an example and tweet out the related picture (e.g., post a picture of an item/object that has right angles)
  • 140 character journal response

As you can see there are many ways to use Twitter in your classroom and students are excited and engaged when they realize their tweets and thoughts can be seen by others from around the world. I highly encourage you to connect with teacher around the world to share your learning, learn content together, and participate in monthly Twitter chats. It’s amazing how many people will see you tweets and be interested in what is happening in your classroom. I once had an environmentalist follow our class because of the tweets she was seeing coming out of our classroom and we ended up having an awesome twitter chat with her. Student asked her questions about the environment and our climate and it was a great hour of connecting and learning. Because of that chat, I found my students became even more engaged on Twitter and started sharing articles and stories about current event and global issues.

I also held “study chats” on a regular basis. If there was a test coming up, the night before I had a twitter chat with my students, where I provided sample questions and gave them the opportunity to answer them for practice. This was also a great chance for them to ask any questions they had about the content and skills they were being tested on; and yes, some questions I posed on Twitter were on the test 🙂 (I always sent a letter home to parents letting them know we would be online in the evening reviewing for a test). 

  • One thing to remember is to NEVER engage in any personal conversations online. If during a chat, a student asks you a personal question, DO NOT respond! Do not even respond by saying, “this is an inappropriate question” or “you really shouldn’t be asking me this.”  Ignore it completely as if it were never tweeted and speak to that student face to face the next day about this issue. *

I know many of you will ask about the issue of privacy. That is up to you. You can make your classroom account private and accept followers at their request, just like Facebook or you can keep it public and block individuals who are inappropriate. If you teach grade 8 and above, I highly suggest you ensure students create private accounts and accept and reject people based on their accounts (see, digital citizenship rears its head again!). See my previous blog post about guidelines in terms of students creating their own account and staying safe.

I am sure I will be updating this blog post five minutes after it’s posted because I remembered more ways in which I used this great social media platform! There are just so many ideas for Twitter in the classroom!

Have fun and stay safe online!

Next Week: Part 1 of Inquiry Based Learning

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5 thoughts on “Twitter in the Classroom

  1. Great post. I am doing a 3-part webinar this fall for ESL teachers on using Twitter. Part 3 will focus on using Twitter in the classroom with adult ESL learners. Mind if I refer participants to this blog, Shelly?

  2. How do you typically enable students to Tweet from a class Twitter account? We’ve built GroupTweet specifically with teachers in mind. It allows any age students to Tweet from a class Twitter account (no need for them to have a personal twitter account). With built in moderation functionality and other features designed for teachers, we would love your feedback.

    We even have free (ad-sponsored) and discounted plans for schools & teachers, along with a free 30 day trial.

    I’d love to answer any questions! ryan@grouptweet.com

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