I created my first Twitter account in 2007 – back when the social media giant was just beginning to take off. Over the next seven years, I’ll be honest with you – I’ve fallen in and out of love with both twitter and Facebook, and there have been long periods where my digital footprint has grown dusty from disuse.
However, something that I haven’t tried for a long time is using Social Media in the classroom in any organised way – and that’s something that I’m going to remedy this semester. I know a lot of teachers and administrators are hesitant about things like twitter and Facebook – and rightly so – because it has been linked to all kinds of unsavoury events. But I don’t think a blanket ban is the way to go about solving this problem. After all, no one is proposing we ban all books just because some are inappropriate for young readers, are they? Admittedly, the comparison is not exact, but I think that there is great potential in the use of Social Media – and specifically twitter – to make educational content much more alive and engaging for students.
Let me give you an example. Recently, KQED started a project called Do Now. This is a chance for young people around the world (although it is mainly located in North America at this stage) to use Twitter to talk about local and global issues. What happens is this: KQED put together some informational materials from a range of sources. This can often include a video, some fact sheets and a general introduction. Students read these materials and then they share their ideas using the hashtag #DoNow and the topic. For example, the most recent topic was Ebola, so the hashtag was #DoNowEbola. Students from around the world can then share their thoughts – but even more importantly – they can make connections and debate issues by following the hashtags and replying to other students.
At once, the school debate has gone from a small classroom-based affair to a global opportunity for critical thinking and considered argument. Talk about powerful!
If you’re interested in finding out more about the project, you can see here:
And if you think that you might be interested in using twitter in your classroom, I’ve put together five rules that I think are invaluable:
- Be a good digital citizen, but even more so, be a good citizen.
Be nice. Don’t tease or bully people. If someone does this to you, block them. Don’t give out personal information.
- Don’t engage with trolls.
There are some people on the internet who only seek to make others feel bad. Don’t try to reason with them. Block them and move on.
- Use hashtags and mentions
It’s important for other people to be able to find you – and reply to you. So use hashtags and mentions to speak to people.
- Follow the teacher.
Get your students to follow you – and then follow them back. This means that you can see what they are doing – and you can model good behaviour.
- Keep public and private separate
Students might have their own twitter account already. Make a new one just for the purpose of school. This way, students can keep their personal lives on one account, and their public ones on the other.