Using Twitter in Classrooms and for Professional Development
Date: November 8, 2011
Summary: Every day, more and more people are using well-known social media sites. How can these popular resources be used for good in the classroom? National Writing Project teachers share how they've used Twitter in their classrooms as a means of teaching writing.
As social media sites pop up with increasing frequency and play an even bigger role in our lives, the question running through teachers' minds is how these popular types of communication and information-sharing networks can be used for educational and professional purposes.
As Paul Oh provocatively asks in his Digital Is Collection The Short Form , "Status updates, tweets, text messages, 4Square checkins—our lives are awash in short form compositions. Are they "completely useless and meaningless," or do they derive their value from the social context within which they live? What is the impact of these brief bursts of words and characters on teens, on teaching and on writing itself?"
Writing project teachers have been exploring these questions in their classrooms, their learning, and their actions. Below are some explorations shared on NWP's Digital Is website .
Re-presenting Through "Little Narratives" or Re-producing Meta-narratives" in 140 characters or Less
Tony Iannone, a teacher-consultant with the UNC Charlotte Writing Project, created a Twitter account for his incoming third graders to use so that they, like him, would use it as a real space to reflect and think, helping define what it means to write.
Rebecca Itow, a PhD student at Indiana University's Learning Sciences program, has students take on the personality of a character in a novel and begin to converse in short tweets with other characters in the story. This encourages students to dig into their character and speak for him or her, thereby allowing the students to gain a better understanding of and to empathize with that character.
Skip Via made this video while he was the tech liaison for the Alaska State Writing Consortium to share some ideas about teaching with Twitter and reflect on using Twitter with both local and distance students at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Professional Development and Networking
Keri Franklin, director of the Ozarks Writing Project, revisits important lessons as a writer and as a teacher of writing. She says that whether writers write 140 characters, a five-paragraph essay, or a novel, they need the following: support, wide reading in the new genre, a sense of audience, and the new vocabulary of the publishing space.
Steve Moore, a teacher-consultant with the Greater Kansas City Writing Project, spent his first year as a teacher forming his identity as a professional in his field. He says that spending that year in public reflection on Twitter and blogs was the best professional decision he could have made.
Like a lot of people, Karen Chichester, a teacher-consultant with the Eastern Michigan Writing Project, didn't see the point of Twitter. But then, once she tried it, she had a series of revelations. Twitter is about the people you choose to follow. Twitter is about sharing your knowledge with others. Through her online conversations, she began to build professional relationships and friendships.
Melissa Shields, a school district technology director who has been a teacher-consultant and co-director of the Jacksonville State University Writing Project, says that social networking tools have become an integral part of students' lives and that it is paramount that educators experience these tools to fully understand their potential impact on students, both negative and positive.
Chad Sansing, a teacher-consultant with the Central Virginia Writing Project, says the pursuit of power as a common good changes it from a resource hoarded by few to a medium employable by everyone in the network that creates it. He asks, "How does this look in a classroom? How does this look in a network of classrooms or in a network of teachers? How does authority become a shared power for learning and change?" He reflects on the #blog4nwp campaign to answer those questions.