Sunday, September 25, 2016

Changing Learning Processes and Environments through Twitter

As an Educational Technology minor, I am constantly thinking about ways I am going to use technology in my teaching career. In particular, this semester I am pondering ways in which social media will change learning processes and environments. In my opinion, social media can be implemented not only with the students in the classroom, but also "behind the scenes" for the teachers' professional development. In this post, I'd like to examine some initial thoughts I've had about changing learning processes and environments for students and teachers through Twitter specifically.

Image used with permission from Brad Flickinger on flickr

Students' Classroom Experiences
Twitter can be used as a medium for students to share their thoughts and communicate about lesson materials. This creates a community of learners that are able to assist each other in the classroom; especially during a lesson, small questions can be quickly answered by a peer on Twitter. By allowing students to exchange ideas and questions during class, Twitter can be utilized as a backchannel that the teacher can even look at later to gauge students' understanding and respond to lingering problems.

Besides backchannelling, Twitter can be used as the medium of the lesson itself. For example, Such Tweet Sorrow is a lesson plan that helps students translate Romeo and Juliet into the modern day using tweets. Moderated discussions or debates could be held via Twitter if each student is able to tweet from their own devices (or share with a partner). This method of discussion not only encourages students who may not be as willing to speak up in class, but also allows the students to share other relevant web content (such as articles or YouTube videos) to further the discussion. Students may even return to the discussion after class to continue the conversation.

Twitter can be used to bring professionals into the classroom who would not be able to otherwise speak to the class. For example, in 2012 this teacher was able to connect via Twitter with a woman in Cairo to speak with the class about the strife in Egypt (and particularly President Hosni Mubarak's latest speech to the public). Though teachers are great resources, nothing compares to speaking with professionals (or even lay people) who have first-hand knowledge about a topic.

Classroom Twitters can also be used to inform parents and community members about what the students are learning about in class. Students may be asked to post updates, photos, or resources related to the events taking place in the classroom that day. In addition, teachers can post information, reminders, or even showcase exceptional work on the class Twitter. These efforts can help parents and families feel connected and informed about what the students are doing in the classroom.

Though these are the ways I believe Twitter can be best used in the classroom, this topic has been explored by many professionals. For more ideas about using Twitter with students, I recommend checking out 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom15 Ways to Use Twitter in Education (for Students and Teachers Alike), and 60 Inspiring Examples of Twitter in the Classroom. If you'd like to see some examples of classroom Twitters, check out Mrs. Cassidy's Class, Ms. L's Class, and Mrs. Martel's Class.

Teachers' Professional Development
Just as students can connect with other students in various countries, educators can reach out to colleagues not only in the community, but around the world through Twitter. According to the text we are reading in my class (Tanya Joosten's Social Media for Educators: Strategies and Best Practices, page 23), "By making connections to colleagues via social media, you are building an expert network that can afford opportunities in gathering information, ideas, and perspectives." There is no better way to broaden your perspective than to communicate with professionals from backgrounds completely different than your own, and adding these educators to your network will help you stay current on the issues and trends affecting teachers around the world. Don't know who to follow? Start by searching for colleagues from your own school and district, then check out the lists of teachers on Twitter compiled here, here, and here.

In addition to selecting colleagues to follow, teachers should use Twitter to stay current on their academic reading. Most professional academic organizations are now on Twitter, so searching for your favorites should result in plenty of groups to follow. If it were me, I'd start by following US Dept of Educationedutopia, Education Week, Education Nation, Education NextTed-Ed, and Google for Education. Checking out the accounts that these resources are following is also a great way to build your network!

Besides tweeting, retweeting, and replying on Twitter, TweetChats are another great way to interact with professionals outside of your network. To learn about TweetChat, please see my blog post about the experience. Some great conversations to get involved in can be found on this Education Chats calendar or the A-Z Dictionary of Educational Twitter Hashtags.

I'm Ready to Tweet!
Have I convinced you to start using Twitter in your classroom? Before taking off and creating your account, I'd recommend checking out Making the Case for Social Media in SchoolsThe Teacher's Guide to Twitter, and the Guide to Using Twitter in Your Teaching Practice. These comprehensive resources will help you understand how to best create and regulate your Twitter account for appropriate use in the classroom.

I chose to reflect on changing learning processes and environments through Twitter specifically, but there are many modes of digital and social media out there. Besides Twitter, what are some other forms of media teachers may use to enhance their teaching? Share in the comments!

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