February 8, 2012
Twitter (twitter.com) is simply a communication tool for giving and receiving information. As one of the two major forces in popular social media on the Internet, Twitter has provided a forum for bringing the world together to discuss global events in real time on topics ranging from World Cup soccer matches to Steve Jobs’ resignation to the current presidential election to the events of the Arab Spring that have taken place over the past year. Twitter is often derided as a tool for posting inconsequential, egocentric tidbits–like what one had for lunch, and while Twitter is often used for that, too, its primary functions for most users are to serve as:
- a personalized news stream
- a way of collecting important links to information that is relevant, critical, and interesting to an individual user
- a network to find people commenting on similar topics and through which relationships can be built with those people
Roles of Twitter in Schools
So what role does Twitter serve for schools and to support learning with students and teachers? There are really three distinct roles Twitter can play in schools. They are:
- Megaphone – Twitter can provide schools with an inexpensive, easy way to blast out one-sided announcements. These might include reminders about student and parent events, updates on school successes or emergencies, and links to more in-depth items posted on the school website or school blogs. For Twitter to be effective as a megaphone for the school, parents, students, and community members must be on Twitter and following the school’s account. Team-level Twitter accounts can also serve as useful “megaphones” by directing followers to blog entries, wikis, podcasts, and other products that students have created. The use of Twitter as a Megaphone for the District and District 21 schools is continuing to be explored by District administrators. This post will be updated as the District moves forward in this area. District 21 Team Twitter accounts should be used as a megaphone for sharing links to student work and for gathering information and feedback from the Twitter community.
- Connecting Students – Twitter can be used in the classroom with students of all ages to connect with other students, experts, and gather information from around the world. By searching within Twitter on topics, teachers and students can find others commenting on those topics, and then by following those individuals on Twitter, a direct relationship that is informal and closely connected can be developed. From this relationship, future learning, conversation, and information sharing can take place–through Twitter, email, telephone, video conferencing, or even face-to-face! In District 21, each core team has a Twitter account, and these accounts are already linked with other team Twitter accounts within the school and within that grade level across the District. These accounts are to be used in the classroom with students to support the goal of Connecting Students. CCSD21 Twitter Guidelines
- Professional Learning – Twitter has spawned an incredible network of sophisticated, smart, and talented educators from around the world. For most of these individuals, Twitter has been the foundation of creating incredibly powerful Personal Learning Networks (PLN). Through Twitter, educators share information, challenge one another to think differently, support one another with specific strategies and ideas, and comfort and inspire one another with the daily rigors of very difficult work. District 21 educators can expand their own PLN and support their own professional growth by creating their own personal Twitter account. This account, which is separate from the District 21 Team account, should not be a tool used for student or parent interactions but rather to grow personally and professionally. Like with all things online and with social media, it has become difficult to separate work and personal roles, so consideration should always be given to how we represent ourselves as educators within personal Twitter accounts. There are already many District 21 staff members using Twitter to support their own professional learning, and for these individuals, it has been an extraordinary tool for growth and reflection.
Steps to becoming a Tweeting Teacher
- Follow-With both your personal Twitter account for professional development and your Team Twitter account, follow other educators on Twitter.
- Retweet-As you “lurk” and read others’ tweets come across your Twitter stream, retweet those that are the most interesting and thought provoking.
- Tweet-As you continue to gain confidence on Twitter, share your own thoughts by tweeting them out. Including links to important websites, blog posts, videos, and podcasts makes for great content on Twitter.
- Hashtags-Use hashtags to further define your own tweets as well as to search within Twitter. (Hashtags are words preceded by the “#”, such as #edchat or #ellchat or #edtech.) This list includes a number of popular education-related hashtags, as well as a calendar of education-related Twitter chats.
Each District 21 school is named after an American author, and learning and literacy is at the center of our Professional Learning Community. The Modern Pen provides a collaborative location in which District 21 teachers can come together to learn the skills that will enable their students to learn new skills and to understand concepts at an even different level than before.