To Tweet or Not to Tweet…That is the Question
March 21, 2013
Kerri Schweibert – Guest Blogger
I don’t have a Smart Phone, I don’t have cable, and I took the leap into 2011 last year by finally signing up for online banking. So I’m not the go-to girl to lead a technological revolution. Of course I host online discussions, have class websites on Moodle, and utilize a SMART Board, but I’ve realized that I’m hesitant to blindly follow in the direction technology seems to be baiting us (no carrot required). As an English teacher and lover of books, I cannot fathom a world where Kindles have become ubiquitous and books extinct. And when people ask me why I’m so opposed to digital texts, the Romantic in me can’t come up with a more concrete explanation than, “There’s just something about holding a book!”
I recently came across an article that, for the first time in a long time, opened me up to the possibilities of technology in education. I’ve always believed that our children’s use of technology hampers their writing capabilities. However, according to OMG Engaging Students on Their Own Terms, “texting encourages written communication. Students are actually writing more now than any time in history.” This makes complete sense when you realize that the typical teenager sends over 3,000 text messages per month. Okay true, but texting will be the death of real writing. In response to this growing sentiment, the article explains that Socrates believed “writing was going to be the death of thinking and debate,” and “fifteenth-century educators believed that the printing press and wide availability of books would be the death of scholarly writing.”
In Shakespeare’s words, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Having students summarize an article, or state an opinion, or forge a question in a tweet of 140 characters can force them to stop doing the tango around their point and just get there. However, at the same token, what if Shakespeare tweeted the balcony scene? The beauty and romance of his language would be lost. So what else can be at stake? What is the dowry we need to pay to the technological gods infiltrating our classrooms?
Larry D. Rosen claims that we’re all headed for iDisorders: “where you exhibit signs and symptoms of a psychiatric disorder such as OCD, narcissism, addiction or even ADHD, which are manifested through your use — or overuse — of technology.” As ludicrous as it sounds, it’s true. People keep their phones next to their dinner plates, families enforce “tech breaks” at the table, someone gives you the play-by-play of their daily activities via status updates. As my dear friend Ryan once said, “Why is it I can drive for days with my gas light on but freak out when my cell battery goes below 50%?”
So what’s the apropos cliche here? “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”? Well, maybe you can just send them a friend request.
Kerri Schweibert received a B.A. in English Education from Stony Brook University and an M.A. in English literature from Queens College. Born and raised in New York, Kerri spent time traveling and studying abroad before she decided to settle down in Hawai’i. She currently lives in Honolulu, teaching English at Assets High School.
Never Underestimate the ‘Cool’ Factor.
March 3, 2013
How have you answered that question?
5 Ways to Collaborate in the Classroom
February 22, 2013
The answer to that essential question can be collaboration, which encourages students to learn together, harnessing the power of social dynamics to improve engagement. Here are a few suggestions on how you can use collaboration to reinvigorate your classroom:
Create Ground Rules
Perhaps the most obvious way to re-engage a straying student is to target a student for being inattentive during class, but at this point, the class has already been disrupted, and the most successful teachers seek to prevent disruptions before they occur. One way to attempt this is to ask students to determine what appropriate classroom behavior looks like. Have each student write one ground rule on the board, on a piece of paper or, if computers are available, in a shared Google doc. This allows students to play a role in constructing the social space they share and creates a shared language of expectations.
Ask Students to Present Readings
You don’t really understand anything unless you can explain it to someone else, and as teachers, we all know that we internalize material as we present it to our students, so why not give our students the opportunity of learning their reading material as they present it to one another? If adequately prepared, most students will rise to the challenge of playing teacher for 10 or 15 minutes. Asking students to present in groups, co-presenting with the student or just standing by to help a student with facing momentary difficulty are all ways you can support them and ensure that an important aspect of the lesson isn’t missed.
Encourage Peer Review
This exercise is most suited to critiquing essays, but could also work for other projects. When students have completed a rough draft of a paper, divide them into groups of three. Have each student pick a short section of their paper to read aloud (preferably the section they need the most help with) and ask the other two students to provide verbal feedback on their impressions and understanding of the writing. You can provide a set of specific questions students must answer if you want to more precisely focus the critique, or you can have students read the essays in silence and provide written feedback.
Use Twitter to Broaden the Conversation
An easy way to encourage students to engage actively with reading material and to share their thoughts with each other is to get them tweeting. You can start a Twitter account dedicated to your teaching and encourage (or require) students to follow it. (If you don’t want students reading your personal Twitter account, it is a good idea to lock it.) Many students already use Twitter, and you may find that students who are silent in class are surprisingly comfortable engaging each other online. It’s a great forum to share those insights that hit you just after class ends, share news articles related to your class’s subject or ask one student each week to pose a question for group discussion.
Ask Your Students
Once you have built a classroom dynamic around collaboration, students sometimes volunteer excellent ideas for activities. Sometimes asking them what they want to do will yield insightful answers, and sometimes they will offer brilliant ideas for classroom activities without even realizing they have done so. It’s a good idea to be on the lookout for dropped gems, subtle cues and eagerly volunteered ideas alike. It can also be wonderfully validating for a student when one of their ideas is implemented, especially if their peers enjoy it. Again: Collaboration is about everyone creating a social space that encourages learning, and it works better when everyone’s input is sincerely considered.
Today’s Guest Blog is written by Erika Phyall who currently works in community relations for University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online master’s programs. USC Rossier Online provides current and aspiring teachers the opportunity to earn a Masters in Teaching online and a Masters in Education Online. Outside of work Erika enjoys networking, DIY projects, and spending time with her two dogs.
Guest Blog: What Emerging Technologies Do Adolescents Need?
December 22, 2012
Insight from School District Technology Director and CalPoly SLO Instructor: What Emerging Technologies Do Adolescents/ College Students Need To Be Exposed To?
“For some, new technologies have been such a defining feature in the lives of younger generations that they predict a fundamental change in the way young people communicate, socialize, create and learn. They argue that this shift has profound implications for education” (e.g. Prensky, 2001a; Rainie, 2006; Gibbons, 2007; Underwood, 2007). Adapted from Helsper, E., & Eynon, R. (2010). Digital Natives: Where Is the Evidence?
Our students thrive in a world of technology, and it seems counter intuitive to instruct them in an environment without it. My role in teaching technology to college students has been paralleled with my experience as a Technology Director enhancing technology in a small school district in California.
K-12 Education needs to prepare students to become digital content creators and consumers. The use of mobile devices create anytime anywhere learning that extends the educational setting beyond the classroom. Student learners leverage the power of technology through the use of mobile computing.
College students need full throttle instruction on how to augment technology in education. My class at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo explores research and theory on how children and adolescents use digital technologies, and its influences on cognitive, social, and identity development. The college students I work with value current technologies to help them in career choices and pursuing higher education.
I use a myriad of technology competencies to facilitate learning at Cal Poly and Coast Unified School District. Some areas covered are computer science programming, robotics, web design, augmented reality, app development, photoshop skills, video production, and research based technology. Useful emerging technologies for adolescents and college students include:
2. Basic Computer Programming (10 of the Best Online Programming Tools for Students)
3. Computing with mobile devices such as an iPad and the mobile operating system
4. Leveraging Kickstarter to create your own business
5. Using modern, Cloud-Based Web Design such as Squarespace
6. Creating Apps for mobile devices. One such resource is Buzztouch
7. Editing and using video as a vehicle for learning and creating content. Khan Academy is one proven example.
The structure of technology in the 21st century is fast paced and we must help students adapt. The surging culture of innovation in communities and schools can enhance student learning. We can prepare our students/ future teachers for a world that is creating jobs and enhancing workforce strategies through technology.
Henry Danielson is a Lecturer/Technology Lab Instructor at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, and the Director of Technology at Coast Unified School District in Cambria, California. Mr. Danielson can be reached @ email@example.com
Guest Blog: Six Ways To Get Your Class Moving
December 21, 2012
As educators, we continuously hear the phrase “multi-model learning.” It’s true, the more ways we learn something, the more we’ll remember it. Activating our bodies increases understanding. From teaching students to teaching teachers – improv, theatre and movement engages the body and mind, giving us yet another tool in our educator tool box. From knots to yoga, here are six ways to incorporate a little drama into our teaching practices:
1. Everything is a story, so make it active
Every event – historical and scientific especially – is a story when broken down to four basic elements: setting, characters, problem, and solution. Identify these parts and make it active. Create the setting, cast the characters, have the students write the dialog and put it up in the classroom. Add a twist by changing one of the four elements and see how differently the event could play out.
2. Be the machine
Collaboration and cooperation is essential to a group project. Having students and teachers working together to create a machine with their bodies not only encourages the group, but also gets them thinking about the parts of a whole. Be anything from the parts of a flower to a steam engine – pick a specific part, think about how it connects to the whole, what it sounds like and how it moves, then construct it with bodies. Or, build an imaginary machine that starts with a repetitive action and sound – having each new person add a new action and sound until everyone is part of a huge, moving machine.
3. Strike a pose
Tableau vivant – or living picture – explores 2D scenes in 3D. Students and teachers take the pose of figures in an artwork (or historical photograph!) and consider the moment before and moment after using evidence they see. The facilitator holds a ‘remote’ and tells the figures to either ‘rewind’ or ‘fast-forward, ’ making choices based off close examination.
4. Zip Zap Zop
Improv is all about careful listening and reacting, concentration and focus. This activity primes these things that are crucial to learning. The group stands in a circle. Person one points and makes eye contact with another person in the circle and says ‘zip’. That person in turn points to someone else and says ‘zap’. The third person points to another and says ‘zop’. The pattern continues until someone changes the order.
5. Untie the human knot
Practice problem solving and team building – students and teacher cross their arms across their chest and join hands with two different people. Without letting go of each other’s hands, untangle until the group is in a circle.
6. Take a breath
Yoga poses and breathing exercises are great ways to center a group before any activity – even a written test. Something as simple as three deep collective breaths will help them (and YOU) take a moment and start fresh.
These activities give students and teachers another method of expression. Try one (or all!) in your teaching practice for the New Year – because really, who doesn’t like a little bit of fun drama in their classroom?
Jen Oleniczak is the founder of The Engaging Educator, a NYC-based organization that specializes in theatre, improv and movement workshops and professional developments for educators. She is also a trained actor, improviser and museum educator. She’s worked as an educator with the Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, The Frick Collection and Noguchi Museum, and performs improv with National Comedy Theatre. Find out more at www.theengagingeducator.com
Guest Blog: A Tip For Successful 1:1 Implementation
December 19, 2012
Teachers are notoriously hard on themselves. We often tell students take educational risks, but we don’t like to do this ourselves. When adopting a new technology program, one of the most important pieces of advice I can give teachers is learn to take a risk and “Get out of your own way.”
Recently my school started a 1:1 iPad program. In the early phase of teacher training, we dealt with our fears. Teacher concerns included:
• how much time they would have to spend learning the apps.
• teaching students how to use the iPads effectively would take up time they should be using to teach the standards
• they wouldn’t know enough about how use the iPads
• the students would know more than the teachers
And that last worry was the kicker.
Our students are growing up in a completely different world than the one in which we were raised. We realized this generation of students doesn’t remember a world without the smartphone. The internet has ALWAYS been around for them; technology is touch-based and user friendly. My friend’s eleven-month-old daughter can turn on a smartphone and flip through pictures using the touch screen. At eleven months old, she expects to interact with technology. Like our current students, she has no fear of it, no fear of the learning curve, no hesitation in trying to make a device do something when she interacts with it.
In discussing this with my teachers, we realized how uncomfortable we are with learning technology. We want to know it before we are expected to use it. Our students expect to use it in order to know it.
Changing our mindset
To succeed, we needed to adopt the students’ fearlessness and get out of our own way. I told my teachers I wanted them to:
• be comfortable using the iPad, not every app
• design lessons to be content-focused, not app focused
• be willing to take a public risk and be comfortable with not being experts on all of the apps
• take baby steps. After all, since so few schools had gone 1:1 with iPads, there wasn’t much to compare us to- any forward motion would be a success!
• have my permission to have lessons fail spectacularly
Of course, that failure never occurred. In their first classroom lesson my teachers realized they didn’t need to know it all. Teachers introduced the app and the lesson. Students figured things out and taught each other. The teachers learned from their class, the class learned from their teacher. It was a beautiful experience.
But then something even more amazing and unexpected happened: The learning went viral. At break, students from one class taught students from another class about the app. Suddenly, everyone knew how to use it. The teachers’ greatest fear- needing to know how to teach the apps as well as the content- suddenly became a non-issue. Viral learning had occurred and filled in the blanks in students’ knowledge without teachers even trying. Almost instantly, our teachers’ fears dissipated because they realized they could focus on their content area.
By getting out of their own way, and being willing to accept they don’t need to know everything, they were able to take the learning and teaching to a new level:
• Student collaboration is at an all-time high,
• learning is exciting and participatory
• we are blazing new trails
• “Let’s figure it out together” has become our new mantra.
And all because we decided to get over our fear, and get out of our own way.
John Calandro is Principal of Santa Lucia Middle School in Cambria, CA. He’s happy to share his experiences in going 1:1 and getting teachers past their fear. You can reach him on Twitter: @mrcalandro or via his email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Guest Blog: The Smart Prof!
December 11, 2012
The SMART Prof!
“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins
Education technology has become my limitless library of resources. It continues to help me find innovative ways to bring my lectures to life. Each semester is a new learning experience, as I challenge myself and evaluate the effectiveness of the teaching techniques I have chosen. Since I started teaching my instructional tools have evolved. Students are not forced to decode hieroglyphics left on a chalk board or sit restlessly as I adjust the transparency sheet on an overhead projector. I am able to present my lectures projected on a big screen with vivid pictures and easy to read text. With the use of a database such as Blackboard I am able to upload course materials, links to articles, websites and online activities that students can use at their own leisure.
Video clips have proven to be an extremely effective way for students to glimpse the research methods of the past first hand. I show students historical footage from experiments without having to flip through library catalogue cards or climb large shelves. By embedding these clips into the presentations posted online, students are able to review the material outside of the classroom. The E-book included with the course textbook is a great way to quick reference pages rather then flipping back and forth through the hard copy. It also offers activities, quizzes and sample tests which has increased my own understanding of the topics discussed each week.
I have recently become more active on social media such as Twitter. This has shown me a whole new world of instant communication. I have had many professional development opportunities to stay connected to what is trending in education, through networking and collaborating with fellow educators in chats such as #edchat, #learnwme and #CSTD2012. Twitter in the classroom seems to be a hot topic. I have read many tweets about using Twitter for discussions or as a backchannel and I am now eager to see what it would add a lecture next semester.
As a lifelong learner I am inspired by the endless possibilities on what I can learn and how I can share my knowledge. It’s amazing how a simple question can spark an hour long discussion or how one powerful quote can ignite a fire or passion for researching a new topic. Essentially educational technology has shown me that the classroom does not have to be a physical place; anywhere you can gain information is your classroom.
Follow her on Twitter @nmollivierre or e-mail her at email@example.com
Nadia Ollivierre is a lifelong learner, Training and Development Specialist, HighScope Certified Teacher,, Registered Early Childhood educator, faculty member, student, and volunteer. She enjoys working with children and teaching future educators about the early years of development. Her focus is on learning through teaching, which she believes goes hand in hand.
This guest blog post is written by Julie Adams, a nationally board certified teacher and educator of the year.
To better prepare youth for the complexities of 21st century literacy, teach students to read with purpose and engage with text by utilizing these three strategies.
While reading fiction or non-fiction, pause every few paragraphs and ask students to write a Retell sentence (first this happened, then this happened, finally this happened). This is a simple chronological comprehension technique that can be mastered in the primary grades, though it greatly improves comprehension of even the most complex texts encountered throughout high school.
Before reading further, have students also write a Summary sentence (who/what/when/where/why/how); this is a more complex skill that requires deeper analysis of the text and helps to further cement understanding.
Finally, after completing the Retell and Summary sentences, have students Sketch a picture or symbol of the section as a visual reminder (also known as a logographic cue) as imagery is important to comprehension for 21st century screen-aged students.
This “Triple Threat” strategy can be even more effective when completed in pairs.
Though any one of these three strategies (Retell-Summarize-Sketch) used alone will improve comprehension, the three combined makes a differentiated and strategic tool that vastly increases comprehension, retention and the College/Career Readiness Skills the new Common Core Standards emphasize.
Julie Adams is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher and Educator of the Year who has taught primary through graduate school. She is an instructional coach who provides College & Career Ready Content Literacy & Writing PD to schools world-wide Visit http://www.effectiveteachingpd.com or follow on Twitter at @adamsteaching
Guest Blog: 9 Tips For Helping Students Reach Their Potential
November 29, 2012
Below is a post from David Doherty, who serves as the Academic Dean at The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland.
9 Tips for Helping Students Reach Their Potential
Robbie groaned audibly when I explained the poem explication project to the class.
“I don’t get poetry,” he said. “It’s too hard.”
Robbie is in my ‘regular’ tenth grade English section which is comprised of students who have not placed into the honors class. Some of the students think they are not “good at” English, and this sometimes means they don’t try as hard as they might. Robbie himself, though he is a personable and conscientious young man, has some difficulties with spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
So, today in class, when Robbie gave a presentation on his poem, I was shocked: it was a great presentation!
What happened? How did he go from being a disheartened student to a proud student? While much of the credit must go to Robbie, this kind of transformation can be facilitated by teachers in the intentional planning of such projects. Below, then, are nine tips for helping students reach their potential:
- Explain the why of the assignment – How is this project helpful to the students? How does it fit into the overall objectives of the course? In this example, some students had preconceived notions about poetry, so I used class time to discuss why poets compose poems and the benefits of reading poetry.
- Provide templates – Students shouldn’t get hung up on menial issues at the expense of developing higher-order analytical skills. Where appropriate, do some of the grunt work for them: often is it easier to provide a simple template than for each of them to make their own. (Do they need to invent the wheel when you are asking them to discover fire!?)
- Model – This project required the students to make a webpage where they would explicate their poem and then present the webpage to the class. In this case, I did exactly this: I chose one of my favorite poems (Digging, by Seamus Heaney), made a webpage explicating the poem, and then presented the page to the class. (Click on this link to see the model explication: http://goo.gl/UYlHy).
- Provide a student benchmark – This was one of the more difficult assignments, and I wanted to provide a benchmark in addition to my model. So, I engineered it so one of the strongest students presented first. He gave a great presentation, and his classmates had a standard by which to measure their presentations.
- Differentiate – Though it is important that all students are held to the same standard, there’s no reason why they have to complete identical projects. In this case, some poems were more accessible than others, and I was conscious of this as I gave the students individual help, and this was also taken into consideration in their final evaluations.
- Provide an element of choice – Students are more invested in a project when they feel some sense of ownership. In some cases, they can choose the topic/subject of their presentation with only minimal teacher guidance. On other occasions, it is appropriate for them to choose from a limited number of choices selected by the teacher. For this project, I wanted the students to work on poems that were both accessible, but also rich in figurative language, imagery, and other poetic techniques: we held a lottery, and the students chose their poems from a list I provided.
- Provide extrinsic motivation for the project – Students are motivated when they have a ‘real-world’ audience, when they are making something tangible (a webpage), and when they are collaborating with others. At a minimum, presentations provide motivation for students to work at least hard enough to avoid embarrassment!
- Provide plenty of class time for individual help and make yourself available for further help – Students need the opportunity to ask questions without feeling embarrassed. They need the opportunity to discuss the problems they are having and receive guidance about how to address challenges. In particular, where they are working on different content, they need the opportunity to discuss their individual work.
- Communicate the criteria for evaluation as clearly as possible – Make explanations as clear as possible: what exactly are you looking for? Use a rubric!
Of course, not all students will rise to the occasion and perform as Robbie did, but by providing these resources and opportunities for our students, they have plenty of support in reaching their potential.
© David Doherty, 11/28/12
David Doherty acts as Academic leader of the Boys’ Latin School, where he is responsible for curriculum and instruction, professional development, planning and coordination, student achievement and assessment, independent school accreditation, administration of Title II Federal funds, and faculty recruiting. In addition, He acts as the curriculum committee chair, oversees teacher observations and evaluations, and helps facilitate new teachers’ orientation.
Guest Blog: A Classroom in the Twitterverse
November 28, 2012
Today’s post is written by Jodie Morgenson. She is a teacher in NE, who uses Twitter in her classroom! She has created ways to use twitter in the classroom, or as she would say, “A Classroom in the Twitterverse.” Enjoy
A Classroom in the Twitterverse
My students like to talk to each other in person, but also–more so now than ever–digitally. The days of passing notes are gone. It’s been years since I’ve seen an intricately folded paper passed surreptitiously under a table. However, it’s only been hours since I–in awe–watched a student text his girlfriend with his hands inside his hoodie pocket. That takes talent. Seriously.
I’m in a first-year 1:1 iPad school, so digital communication has taken on a new level of importance in my life in the past few months. Digi-com is one of many ways my students speak and I need to be as fluent in my students’ language as I can be. The dilemma is that I don’t like the closed environment of Facebook and my thumbs are abnormally large, so texting is out … (My anti-texting stance actually has nothing to do with my thumb size–that was just a little joke)
It is rather my fear of becoming obsessed with yet another form of digi-com that keeps me from joining the majority on this communication phenomenon, despite immense pressure from friends and colleagues.) BUT speaking the language of the students is of the utmost importance to me, so what’s a savvy (and downright sassy) teacher to do? Twitter has proven to be a good solution for this girl.
Twitter has become part of my students’ culture, but it’s also one of the most transparent modes I have found for “talking” to my students in the digital realm. As long as I don’t ramp up the security, (which … let’s face it … can’t be ramped up terrifically high anyway) my communication is out in the open for my students, my colleagues, my superiors, parents of students, and local, national and international community members to see AND hold me accountable. The only way someone can send me a direct (private) message is if I follow him or her. While I encourage students to follow me, I do NOT follow them back (with the exception of one unique student–my daughter–because mama trumps teacher every time).
I am very upfront about this with them too. At the beginning of the year, I wrote my Twitter handle on the board and said, “I have a Twitter.” (The gasps were audible.) “If YOU have a Twitter, please follow me. Also, do not be offended that I will not be following you back.” Some were relieved that I would not be following them back. (I saw the tension leave their shoulders when they realized I would not be hanging on their every tweet.) Others though, wanted to know why; they were maybe even a little hurt, I suppose. I explained that even though I liked the idea of interacting with them on Twitter and sometimes I would tweet to them individually, that there is no way for me to keep up with all of them AND that I know that Twitter is a way for them to talk to their friends, and while I LOVE ALL of them, I am not their friend. (Someday maybe, but not today.)
I use Twitter in a number of ways. Here are the main ones:
1. I disseminate information. I make announcements and share information by using hashtags I created for each of my classes. The downside to this is that no one OWNS a hashtag. Anyone can tag a tweet with a hashtag that I originated, but so far that hasn’t happened and it’s worked well. (Hopefully this blog post won’t jinx me!) If someone decides to troll/spam our backchannel or even use the same hashtag for some other legit purpose someday, it will provide my students and me with a learning experience. I post links to articles that I assign my students to read, to our class wiki or website, or to websites I want them to use for our class.
I also use Twitter to send out reminders. What’s also handy is that many times when I send out an announcement or reminder, once one of the class members sees the tweet, he or she retweets it and soon it catches like a little Twitter-wildfire and in no time, most students know whatever it is I want them to know. (I do have a handful of students who are NOT on Twitter for a variety of reasons–usually due to a personal aversion to social media, or more commonly, due to parental preference–which I completely respect. I am also very aware of it and use other means of communication to reach non-tweeting students.)
2. I model digital citizenship. Sometimes students (or more broadly–people) make poor choices in life. It’s part of growing up. It’s part of being human. Unfortunately when a student makes a poor choice in the digital realm, a permanent reminder or–thanks to forwarding, reposting and retweeting–multiple reminders) can remain until the internerts* implode. That’s why I view integrating digital citizenship in everyday curriculum as my responsibility–as a modern-day teacher–but especially as a modern-day teacher in a 1:1 district. What I like about modeling digital citizenship is that, while I do use Twitter for professional development, resource-sharing, networking and other fancy grown-up stuff, I also have an all-out blast using it AND I DON’T GIVE A FLYING FIG WHO KNOWS IT!
I am not always serious when I tweet. I retweet funny stuff. I good-naturedly tease my Twiends. My tweets are not all sterile institutional regurgitation; I actually have an online personality. So, I like to model the serious purposes for using Twitter, but I also like to show that being responsible online doesn’t mean being dull. It means I’m respectful of other’s feelings, but that doesn’t mean I can’t assist the world in spreading a ridiculously dorky meme about Dumbledore’s Army or retweet a student’s clever post about fashion or declaration about the snow that is falling. (Seriously … that happened two days ago for the first time since last winter. Shocking. I know.) In addition to attempting to be helpful to my followers, I seek to entertain them as well! There is no higher compliment in the Twittersphere for this teacher than being retweeted by a student.
Retweeting is a part of digital citizenship too. Even if you didn’t directly say something offensive, if you retweet someone else’s obnoxious words, you are perpetuating them. That’s tough for students to grasp sometimes. Fodder abounds for discussions about how to tweet responsibly and how to (and how not to) protect one’s online identity. Another part of digital citizenship is maintaining what shows up when someone types your name into a search engine. It’s more valuable–to you, as a citizen of the 21st Century–for items you control to show up in a search than for nothing to show up at all or worse something someone else has posted to-intentionally or otherwise-damage your reputation.
Twitter is a good way to establish a positive online presence. And, if I stumble upon a student with a raunchy Twitter handle or a tweet rife with gratuitous cursing, drug or alcohol references, self-hurting, or bullying in it, I report it, and, if they are a student in my class, I call them out on it mano y mano. They have to know that they are what they tweet and that many times it’s the negative stuff that goes viral. You really can’t take viral back.
3. I build rapport. I like to interact with my followers and those I follow on Twitter. It’s called SOCIAL media … not LURKER media (though I–begrudgingly–acknowledge that lurking has a purpose … sometimes … I guess … harumph). I interact with my students, parents of students, and other stakeholders in my community on a personal (but public) level via Twitter. If I see an article that reminds me of a student’s interest, I will single out that student and direct it to him or her. If a student says something clever, witty, or humorous during class, I will quote him/her (by name, if he/she allows it or anonymously, if he or she is a more private person). I’m convinced that I have some of the most highly quotable students in America – right here in my classroom. Also, because I share many articles that I first read for professional development, parents and other stakeholders are able to learn more about my learning and my personality by following my tweets and asking questions (via tweet, direct message, email, or–get this–even face to face!) One of the most fun ways I use Twitter to build rapport is by promoting student activities! I use Twitter to congratulate teams and individuals on their victories.
I just received an email from one of the (non-tweeting) Mock Trial coaches that included these sentiments: “Thank you for your support this year … publicizing us on Twitter—you may get me on there yet! I believe your twittering has done much good for our team.” When our Mock Trial Team qualified for State, who was their biggest fan and most prolific tweeter? Yours truly! When I take my competitive one-act cast and crew on the road, who, in addition to coaching, is also the team historian? I AM. My iPad takes gorgeous photos and I have a ridiculous number of photography apps, so I often snap and live-tweet photos during activities and in the classroom.This offers a glimpse into my classroom that parents and community members would otherwise not have. You want rapport? Twitter is a rapport-building machine.
4. I whet the wheels of discussion. Students read at different paces and one way I combat the devil’s playground of idleness that differentiated pacing inconveniently provides is by posing a question or two on Twitter that asks the students to give their initial nutshell (less than 140 characters!) reaction to the article. Then, while others are finishing the reading, speed readers can post their reactions by responding to my tweets and begin interacting with other early finishers. By the time everyone is done reading, the discussion has begun already AND can continue in a face-to-face discussion. Using a backchannel is also another way to extend a discussion outside of the classroom as well, because it can happen synchronously or asynchronously and it can happen anywhere there is an internet connection available. I can use the class backchannel (hashtag) or I can whip up a new one specific to our discussion to pose questions for them to chew on and respond to outside of class. Then, I can check the backchannel to see who said what. Some students who don’t speak up in class will be prolific discussers in an online setting. (It just so happens that I know this from personal experience, as I am an introvert in real life, but a digital extrovert.)
My district has recently published an early draft of an official social media policy, which I believe is a necessity for all schools today, whether they are wired for the web or not. Clear consequences for making poor social media decisions need to be defined for everyone–students, parents, teachers, and administrators alike. Guidelines for what is okay and what is not okay in the realm of social media in one’s school is also helpful for us all too, so I look forward to having a solidified policy in the near future.
If you don’t have a Twitter just yet, then I encourage you to lurk in a chat or just check in on a couple of Twitter accounts you find interesting from time to time. You don’t have to have a Twitter to read other people’s feeds. Ease your way into Twitter that way. (It’s the one time I encourage lurking–as a gateway to participation!) If you do have a Twitter, I hope to see you in the Twittersphere soon and I’m guessing that your students would be pretty happy to see you there too.
Jodie Morgenson is a drama, English, and forensics teacher and theater director at Platteview High School near Springfield, NE. She’s been (sporadically) documenting the experience of Platteview’s first year as a 1:1 iPad school in her blog iTeach. iLearn. iWasHere. http:// morgetron.edublogs.org/. She blogs (off and on) about her family life on her Tumblr Morgetron Family Theater http://morgetron.tumblr.com. She tweets under the handle @morgetron– (probably too much). You should digitally interact with her
some time. She’s a pretty all right gal.