To Tweet, or Not to Tweet With Students, That Is the Question

With a new school year fast approaching, I have found myself going back and forth about whether to tackle tweeting with my students.

http://goo.gl/GtNO1 twitter bird; http://goo.gl/TbYIM twitter bird dead; http://goo.gl/I3Ia8 scales

On one hand, I have learned more connecting with dynamic educators online via Twitter than at all of my school’s staff development days over the last 9 years! I’ve built a powerful PLN that inspires me, challenges me, and teaches me. If I have a question, I throw it out on Twitter and I never fail to have multiple responses within minutes. Twitter has shown me how powerful an online community can be.

On the other hand, I know parents may have negative connotations about tweeting or the value of tweeting in an academic context. Most may have only heard of Twitter as a result of celebrities tweeting and that is not helping my cause any. Using Twitter with students also opens the virtual doors of the classroom creating concerns about privacy and safety. 

So, here in lies my dilemma. I’d love to use Twitter to have students:

  1. Build their own PLNs. I want my students to become lifelong learners who feel confident seeking out knowledge. Twitter is a wonderful tool for meeting people who share your interests and passions. 
  2. Reach out to experts and individuals beyond the four walls of our classroom to deepen their learning and show them the relevance of the work we are doing. 
  3. Develop a positive digital footprint and web presence. 
  4. Increase communication with my students. There are kids that will text or tweet but would never sit down and write me an email. 
  5. Create class community and foster relationship building among students by connecting them informally outside of class.
  6. Host “Class Chats” about literature, current events, projects (in progress) and topics related to our class.
  7. Discuss assignments as they work creating a support network of peers to lean on and learn from. 
  8. Cut down on the number of kids who come to class with the “I wasn’t sure what to do” excuse.
  9. Cultivate stronger communication skills. Be kind and concise. 
  10. Get creative with storytelling in 140 characters. 

Despite this compelling list of positives, I have a feeling I will encounter push back. I believe I could counter parental concern and administrative pressure by articulating clear objectives as well as clear expectations for engagement. 

TodaysMeet, which I love, is an ingeniously simple backchannel tool that could serve as a possible alternative or gateway technology. Now that I can add a hash tag when I create a room using TodaysMeet, it will automatically pull in Tweets tagged with this hash tag. I could teach twittiquette to students using TodaysMeet then transition them into Twitter  once they’ve had some practice engaging with their peers using a backchannel. 

So much to consider. I’d love to hear how other educators tackled Twitter in the classroom.

  • How did you introduce it to your students, parents, and/or administration? 
  • What support did your students need to be successful? 
  • What obstacles and/or successes did you experience? 
  • What is one piece of advice you would give a teacher thinking of using Twitter in the classroom?
  • What is the coolest thing you did with Twitter in your classroom?

Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts on this. I’m hoping other educators can help me decide how to proceed!

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10 Responses to To Tweet, or Not to Tweet With Students, That Is the Question

  1. Colleen Lee says:

    I faced a similar dilemma. My concern was asking students to sign up for a service “Twitter” that also allowed people in the greater world to access. Its the parent concerns that their child could be exposed to the worst of the web as part of a requirement for class that made me pause. Several teachers steered me to Edmodo instead. It won’t help with backchannel and realtime tweeting during class but it allows for discussion, interaction with others etc. Also kids used the discussion forums because they could access them on their mobile. For now it is my solution to the social media dilemma. I’ll be watching for your ‘decision’ and any comments that you can pass along!

    • Catlin says:

      Hi Colleen,

      I already use Collaborize Classroom to engage students in dynamic discussions online. Our Collaborize Classroom site is password protected and secure. Unlike Edmodo, which is a learning management system, Collaborize is entirely focused on discussions. I have not had long term success with the threaded discussions and discussion boards offered in many LMSs because students get bored and participation tends to wane over time. Collaborize offers different question types to structure different types of group discussions, debates, and collaborative assignments. I can embed media into the discussion topics and publish the results to see visual outcomes of conversations. I love it! In fact, my success with Collaborize and teaching students how to communicate in a respectful, supportive and substantive way is part of the reason I thought it might be worthwhile to branch out and include Twitter, which is a very different type of communication. Unlike our online discussions, Twitter is public. That is both the beauty and the challenge with using it.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this. I think it is a dilemma many of us in education have wrestled with. We see the value but we also appreciate parent concerns about privacy.

      Catlin

  2. Joy Kirr says:

    This will be my first year using Twitter with students. I have set up a class account (@KirrClass) and am going to ask them to tweet out what we are doing each day. How this will work, I’m not sure. We will also be following other classes around the globe, so hopefully we can learn from them! If anyone knows of any more classroom twitter accounts out there, let us know!
    Good luck, with whatever you decide to do!
    Sincerely,
    @JoyKirr

    • Catlin says:

      I wish you luck, Joy. I’d love to hear how it goes. Do you blog? This would be an experiment I would love to follow.

      Have you crafted a letter explaining how and why you are using Twitter? I”m thinking that these early steps to communicate might make a big difference to students and parents.

      I absolutely love the idea of following other classes around the globe. What a fun way to connect students and give them more of a global perspective on topics.

      Thanks for sharing your ideas!

      Catlin

  3. Kevin Aycock says:

    Catlin, great post. I do not know if you have heard of http://www.twiducate.com/. It’s a twitter platform designed for schools. It allows you to create individual classes for students to join. It may not offer the audience of twitter,but it does address the potential privacy and content concerns you expressed. Hope it helps.

    • Catlin says:

      Thank you, Keven!

      I have not heard of Twiducate, but I will definitely check it out. Sounds like it might be a nice compromise.

      Catlin

  4. Stacy says:

    Catlin,

    I started using Twitter in the classroom last year. I haven’t done everything I want to do with it yet, but I can answer some of your questions.

    How did you introduce it to your students, parents, and/or administration?

    My administration was supportive as long as I didn’t make signing up for a Twitter account a requirement for the class. To assist those who couldn’t sign up, I put the RSS feed directly into a widget on my class website so all students had to do was visit the Home page and they would see the last four tweets from me. Also, students with cell phones but no Twitter account can follow from their phones (as long as they can receive text messages). See below:

    **Send Follow [username] 40404 and you will start receiving Tweets from that user on your device.
    Example: sending follow Twitter to 40404 would mean I’d start getting SMS updates whenever @Twitter posts a Tweet.

    I show my parents the class website and explain Twitter to them at Back to School Night. They have all been supportive and actually appreciate that I am using their child’s obsession in a meaningful manner. All have shown enthusiasm for the fact that I can send homework and quiz reminders as well as any extra credit opportunities at any time of day. They like the idea that someone else is nagging their kids 🙂

    What support did your students need to be successful?

    Most of my students love Twitter, are on it constantly, so I didn’t have many requests for support. The only ones who had any questions were those who had to sign up via SMS. Once we got that settled, all was good.

    What obstacles and/or successes did you experience?

    It takes awhile for them to realize that following me or checking the RSS feed will pay off. Once they decide they want to be part of the conversation, it really takes off. They love to send me messages and retweet my good ones. It has helped me build relationships with them. And I have gotten some teaching feedback via Twitter also. They have shown appreciation for some of my lessons as well as sent some ideas for things they want to do. Big success there!

    My school actually started using Twitter also for ASB updates and other school news. This helped other teachers buy into it, which helped spread the Twitter mentality around campus. I must say, it really has helped me connect with students outside the classroom. They can send a quick tweet with questions or concerns and I can shoot back a quick answer. I can hop on my phone and remind them about homework, tests, projects, or events whenever I think about it. Talk about convenient! They loved when I would tweet things like extra credit opportunities or inspirational quotes. As long as you don’t bombard them, they like having that connection to their teachers. And they think it’s supercool that we are taking them on in “their” media zone. (Little do they know teachers have their own PLNs on Twitter! Maybe even personal accounts too!)

    What is one piece of advice you would give a teacher thinking of using Twitter in the classroom?

    Again – don’t bombard them or post too much silliness. They probably already have a ton of tweets to go through. Make yours meaningful to them as well as to yourself. So make it fun, not just business. I once offered extra credit to the first person in each class to sing, “You Are My Sunshine” to me on a Monday. (They only got 5 points on their Friday quiz, but they loved it.)

    What is the coolest thing you did with Twitter in your classroom?

    Nothing too cool yet. I got my feet wet with announcements, reminders, inspirations, and little fun facts. I want to do class collaborative stories with it this year 🙂

  5. Margie says:

    The idea of using social media in educational purposes is brilliant. Those dilemmas you have presented is quite plausible though. There are some certain dimensions in which students might get distracted in their academics because social medias are also considered as a form of entertainment.

    Imagine your students passing their custom writings http://www.essayscapital.com to your e-mail account? It’s kinda interesting to see that. Well, I just hope teachers nowadays would study the effects of thisinnovation on both advantageous and disadvantageous aspect as well.

    • Catlin says:

      Thank you for the note, Margie.

      Using social media, as you say, can have both advantages and disadvantages. It is important to try to weigh them and decide what makes the most sense for students.

      Catlin

  6. Movers Tampa says:

    Twitter is the most common and popular social site and a big source of sharing and learning about various things like classroom, political issues, games, conversation, As I am a student , this is our great gift to see my teacher in my lists,

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