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Tips for Using Twitter in the Classroom

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b2ap3_thumbnail_twitter-clipart-LiKq6G6ia.pngThey're under desks. In hoodie front pouches. In giant purses, lurking in boots or even undercover in a binder.

Phones are out. They aren't supposed to be, but students are covertly examining Facebook, Twitter and other personal "non-school" media on school time. What are we to do?

Electronic rules and policies are in place in most schools, (however antiquated they may be) but teachers have to find a way to harness the power of the smart phone for good rather than assumed evil.

Because of this premise, I've entered into an experiment with my 12th grade elective class publications finance. Instead of conducting our usual discussions or assigning more projects that reiterate the skills we've already exhausted, I broke out a secret weapon.


For those of you who don't know, Twitter is micro-blogging - 140 characters or less to comment and discuss or pronounce whatever is in your mind and/or heart. It's fast, real time communicating, integrating necessary revision and editing skills to maintain to restrictions on time and space.

Given that most of my students are already familiar with the platform but use it to espouse their less than academic past times, I thought it was time to give it a try. "It" being a classroom chats on articles and topics the students will be interested in engaging in.

I wrote a plan that easily aligned with standards about using technology and revision for writing and communication and developed a hashtag for the time we spend in class together. Rather than just discuss an article that easily allows 2-5 students to monopolize conversation, we brought the talk to a Twitter Chat.

At the beginning of each week, I send the students a new article to read themed around the transition from high school to college. They are expected to read the article and then post to the #pubfinancecollege - after they post to show that they have an opinion about anything they have read, they are required to engage in side conversations around what other folks have posted. I jump in as well to make sure conversations remain seamless. So far it is working.

Here's what you can do:

Clear with administration that you are allowed to use smart devices in your classroom for that period.Do a short lesson (140 characters or so) on what Twitter is and how to use it responsibly (and how not to use it)

Make sure all students have a Twitter account to participate with (it can be their personal one or one created just for class)

Then decide as a class or by yourself a theme to start chats aroundCreate a hashtag (#?) appropriate to your class that is unique and won't be visited by many outsidersFind an engaging article to share with students - make sure it isn't too long at first

Create an open-ended question that will both provoke thought and honesty

Then set the kids loose on the hashtagRead what they write and participate in the conversation too -set specific parameters that you can monitor for accountability purposes

Teach them to proofread as they go

Marvel at the quiet sounds in your classroom despite how much "talking" is really going on.

Give it a whirl and share how it works out. So far, it has been going well for us.

Here is what a sample email looks like to students:

This week you guys will read this: http://smu.edu/alec/transition.asp

Take notes on the differences between college and high school

Then post your reactions to twitter using the hashtag #pubfinancecollegeWhich differences are going to be the biggest challenge for you? Which will be most welcomed and why?It's not enough just to post this time, I want to you to reply to at least 3 different people's posts. This is due by Friday, 3/1 (that's this week)

There are many ways to use Twitter in the classroom. This is only one way. How do you use Twitter in the classroom?

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Starr Sackstein currently works at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, N.Y., as a high-school English and journalism teacher. She is the author of Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective, Blogging for Educators, Teaching Students to Self-Assess, Hacking Assessment, The Power of Questioning and Simply May . She blogs for Education Week Teacher on “Work in Progress” in addition to her personal blog StarrSackstein.com where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher. Sackstein co-moderates #sunchat and contributes to #NYedChat. In speaking engagements, Sackstein speaks about blogging, journalism education, throwing out grades and BYOD, helping people see technology doesn’t have to be feared. Follow her @MsSackstein on Twitter.
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Guest Thursday, 13 December 2018