After almost two years of trying to figure out just how we might use it in the classroom, my Digital Archiving class is finally using Twitter as a regular part of our classroom routine. We started using Twitter last week and I'm pleased to say that it's been a big hit with the students. Right now we're using the service for three main things:
- Students use Twitter to mark themselves present
- Students and teacher use Twitter to send each other direct messages
- Students use twitter to list what they accomplished in class that day
In the next few weeks I see us using the service to do other things like back-channeling during class, sharing important web sites across the classroom and school, expanding our personal learning networks and sending and receiving audio tweets with Dial2Do. This week I used Dial2Do to post several tweets onto my Twitter page and onto my Google Calendar. It worked perfectly. Dial2Do is an amazing tool. It's convenient, compatible and the ultimate real-time application.
To get things started, I created a classroom Twitter account and asked all the students to follow my tweets. I post the day's classwork on Twitter before class starts so when the students arrive the classwork is waiting for them inside their Twitter gadget. I post class news, announcements and project updates on the network during the course of the class period. Since I am following all of my students I can see immediately when they post information on Twitter. I can also recognize those students who do not make their daily posts.
It only took the class a few minutes to realize that in addition to following me, that they could follow each other on Twitter. When they discovered that they could follow each other and send direct messages across the classroom, the language, and seriousness of the young network went from schooly to silly. I explained to the students that our classroom Twitter network was for scholastic purposes only, but if they wanted to create a network of friends, separate from the classroom network, that they could do so. I told them to just keep the language and content clean at all times. My advice to them was don't post anything you would not want your mothers or grandmothers to read.
Last week the students were instructed to follow President Obama on Twitter. This week they added two local news feeds, cbs3 and phillydotcom. Yesterday they started following noted blogger and podcaster Wesley Fryer. Tomorrow I plan for the students to follow the local public television station here in Philadelphia, WHYY as well as the Associated Press. As media followers the students get the latest local, national and international news delivered right to their desktops. And because the tweets are 140 characters or less the content is very easy to digest. Following the media on Twitter is similar to subscribing to feeds in Netvibes, iGoogle and Pageflakes. The main difference is that with Twitter the feeds are short, 140 character blurbs.
I've been pretty frank with the students about using profanity and inappropriate language while on Twitter. The same holds true for MySpace, FaceBook, Tagged, and other social networking sites. It is so easy to post rude and offensive tweets, especially when you are alone and behind closed doors. But many digital natives and many digital immigrants fail to realize that their footprint in cyberspace is much larger than their footprint in the physical world. What a student posts on Twitter, MySpace, FaceBook, et al becomes public record, so think before you post. You can never be too sure just who is watching and following you.
Overall I am very excited about the way the students have embraced and welcomed Twitter into our classroom business. There is an awful lot of work that still needs to be done, but I think it's gonna be alright.
I've compiled a handful of Twitter pages and related articles in Google Notebook. I plan to add more links to this page over the next few weeks. Feel free to share it with others. Leave a comment if you have suggestions or recommendations. This is a very exciting time to be a teacher and an even more exciting time to be a student.