It has been over a term now that my year eight class have been using Twitter to assist their learning and the experience has been incredibly rewarding. I am continually amazed at how the use of Twitter has demolished the walls of my classroom and assisted in extending the learning of my students beyond their physical confines. In particular, the experiences I have had with my class on Twitter are a great example of why modelling is the best policy when it comes to Social Media.
I believe that building strong relationships with my students is essential if we are going to work together effectively. Often, this happens in class, however I was pleasantly surprised to find that Twitter nourished these relationships between classes. Simple things like recommending great reads, congratulating or enquiring about a student’s absence became much easier over Twitter, particularly during holiday times. Using Twitter made it much easier to send well-wishes to sick students, congratulate them on their achievements or share something that I knew would be of particular interest to them (eg, a movie launch or book recommendation). It quickly became second nature for my students to let me know what they had worked on in class if I was out at a conference or meeting and recommend things to me they knew I would like. The image below is a quick snapshot of the Tweets I received after my most recent time away from the class. Not only did this let me know what they achieved in the lesson, it also helped me to know what I needed to cover the next time I saw them.
Not only did using Twitter build on the relationships I had with my class, it also allowed greater communication and relationship building between my students and other members of staff. The students also used Twitter as a means of communication with their peers between classes.
Having your students Tweet in class is a great tool to allow for real-time feedback and clarification. Although we like to think all of the students in our class will ask questions the moment they don’t understand something, this doesn’t always happen. What I have noticed is that when students are able to Tweet their questions they are a lot more open about what they don’t understand. This allows you to give real-time feedback and allows your students to seek clarification and move on quickly, instead of waiting until you check their work or assessment for understanding. I noticed the particular benefits of this when I had a student-teacher taking a lesson in my class. The students who were too shy to ask questions or didn’t want to interrupt started Tweeting their questions/observations and this allowed their peers or myself to help them out so they would be able to understand the content of the lesson. Below is a brilliant example of the students coming to the assistance of their peers.
I was then able to follow through and check for understanding at a later date to ensure that the student had really understood the concepts being studied. You can see that her peers also offered her positive encouragement and recognised her efforts to understand something that she had found confusing.
Sharing of ideas with class and wider community
Students love to have their voice heard and Twitter provides an excellent forum for this. Sharing notes, resources and ideas on Twitter came very easily to my students, and often our class hashtag became the best place for people (including myself) who had missed a class to catch up. Sharing happened with the class, with other classes and staff and also authors and people in the wider community. Some examples of how this happened in my class are below.
Modelling IS the best policy
As you can (probably) tell, I have absolutely loved the opportunities for collaboration and relationship building that Twitter has created for my class. However, what I do need to stress is – I was lucky that things went seamlessly for me. I think this has a lot to do with modelling. Taking five minutes out of the occasional lesson to discuss Tweets we had seen and what we thought about their professionalism and effectiveness really helped the students understand exactly what they should be doing when using Twitter. I can’t stress enough that if you start your students on Twitter and don’t know how to use it yourself you won’t get any results, and students will probably only use it to follow celebrities and TV shows. In order to use Twitter effectively in your classroom you must be willing to follow your students and have them follow you. You need to be comfortable enough to have a conversation with them when they aren’t Tweeting appropriately (eg, using a ‘selfie’ or ‘Emojis’). If you take the time to model for you students and make them aware of the appropriate usage you will find that they use it professionally and are well on the way to creating their positive digital footprint.
If you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of your students being able to contact you 24/7 just remember.. you decide where and when you Tweet 🙂