This post is meant for educators who are new to Twitter, or are trying to bring colleagues on board with Twitter, or are somewhere in between. After you read this post, I encourage you read Bill Ferriter’s 3 tips for teachers new to Twitter. It’s one of the resources I’m sharing in a series of Twitter 101 workshops I’m doing in my district and region.
Based on teachers’ and administrators’ questions, as well as lessons learned from student Tweeters, I’d like to add a few tips to Bill’s three – but I think they should go first, kind of a pre-primer for Twitter. Once educators understand the power of Twitter as a tool for building their PLNs, as a classroom (short form) writing tool, and as a global microphone (for good or for ill), they will definitely benefit from Bill’s recommendations.
1. Twitter has evolved beyond “What are you doing?” – If you have dismissed Twitter as a valuable communication tool because you assume that Tweeting is all about “stopping at Starbucks for a latte,” for instance, I think you’ll change your mind when you see how Twitter can provide a platform, accessible 24/7 , to share articles, classroom activities, suggestions, humor, and more – in 140 characters or less. Once you have set up an account, you can follow, learn from, and connect with education visionaries such as David Warlick, Vicki Davis, Will Richardson, Larry Ferlazzo, and, of course, Bill Ferriter.
2. Understand that students need guidance and modeling – In districts that have not yet woven digital citizenship into the core curriculum, it is all too common to find even college-bound 12th graders who assumed that only their “followers” can read their inappropriate Tweets…posted to their Twitter accounts …that include their full names and school names… and that include links to their tumblr and instagram accounts…and on and on – and online:-(
If students entered high school already understanding the need to build a positive digital footprint that will enable them to “Google well,” fewer districts would be dealing with issues such as “When does shaming racists kids turn into cyberbullying? With so many excellent, free resources for teaching students about the importance of their online persona (e.g., Common Sense Media, Netsmartz), starting classroom discussions on the smart and ethical use of Twitter and other social media could easily have a profound and positive impact on students’ (digital) citizenship skills.
3. Consider the power of Twitter as a classroom tool – When you think of the role of Twitter in the “Arab Spring,” for instance, it seems unimaginable to teach current events without access to Twitter. Yet many districts block both teacher and student access to Twitter during the school day. I am co-presenting the case to unblock Twitter in my district, and I think it’s going to happen:-). The tipping point in our argument has been sharing KQED’s Do Now project. “Do Now is a weekly activity for students to engage and respond to current issues using social media tools like Twitter. KQED aims to introduce 21st Century skills and add value to learning through the integration of relevant local content and new media tools and technologies. The project gives students a chance to practice civic engagement and digital citizenship skills while they explore ways to connect topics in their classes to the present day.” The site even includes a video to show how a San Francisco high school is using Twitter and Do Now as a starting activity for the school day. There’s nothing like having an example only a few counties away to push administrators to revisit filtering policies.
If you have other tips for teachers new to Twitter – or for advanced users, please leave a comment. I would love to add them to this blog post as well as to my Twitter 101 workshop resources!