It is difficult at best to keep up with the latest in technology let alone find an acceptable use for it in the classroom. Add to that school policy on cell phones, Internet blocking software, and the epidemic of text messaging, and teachers are doing well to hold their own.
Now comes Twittering. This is essentially text messaging limited to 140 characters and it is can be sent as broadcast messaging and Instant Messaging to one person or several. Twittering can be limited to friends or as a subscription. However, its importance in the classroom, if allowed, is its potential to motivate students to share ideas and to even improve their note taking abilities.
First, you need to register your name. Try twitter.com for a video and more information. You can also practice on that site and you can follow others who can provide ideas and guidance. I suggest you make your Twitter stream private, there is no need for it to be on the Internet. This also makes it much safer for classroom use where you can communicate with your students and answer questions in nearly real time, if you have the time.
Remember that Twitter is like Post It Notes, quick and to the point, and not like email, which is more formal and has many more functions. Twitter is fast, and if you want to get more involved there are hashtags, a Twitter search engine search.twitter.com and Retweeting.
To start to use Twitter, students must sign-up for your Twitter feed and you obviously need to budget time to answer the Tweets you receive. After that I recommend you start small and expand as your time and interests permit. Remember to make sure you have administrative and parental approvals.
Here are some ideas I have come up with for using Twitter with public school classes.
quick review of what was covered and what is going to be covered in class that day or the next.
post a few quick review questions and some good websites to add depth to a lesson.
privately seek/accept questions from students who don’t have the moxy to ask in class.
network with students around the world. For example, while your class is studying Japan’s involvement in World War Two, students in Japan could be sending messages about their perspective. As the visionary Marshall McLuhan envisioned, Twitter makes possible an immediate Global Village.
The possibilities are vast, but remember that some students may have to pay a fee for such text messages and so check beforehand and always make Twittering an elective. Of course, students can set their Twitter so all messages come as emails, which is the only way to really avoid these charges, but this does remove some of the immediacy of the Twitter concept.
Obviously, there are downsides and caveats to using Twitter in the classroom and all such ideas need to be supported by the administration. But there are upsides as well. Imagine the students following President Obama by subscribing to his Twits or getting Twits from students who are under duress around the world.
As a teacher you can also use Twitter search to find other educators and learn about conferences, ideas, and even share lessons and concerns.
Other areas to explore include edmodo. This service enables teachers and students to send files, links, and even assignments to each other. Teachers sign up for an account and create a class code. Students sign up and the messages are held to just those in the loop. A great tool for ESL and gifted students and others who need a differentiated curriculum. www.edmodo.com/faq
Alan Haskvitz teaches at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut, Calif., and makes staff development presentations nationwide. In addition, he serves as an audio-visual evaluator and design consultant for his county department of education; a tutor to multi-cultural students in English and art; and an Internet consultant.
Haskvitz's career spans more than 20 years. He has taught every grade level and core subject, has been recognized repeatedly for innovative teaching and has received the following honors, among many:
USA Today All Star Teacher
100 Most Influential Educators
Reader's Digest Hero in Education
Learning Magazine's Professional Best
National Middle Level Teacher of the Year
National Exemplary Teacher
Christa McAuliffe National Award
Robert Cherry International Award for Great Teachers
In addition, Haskvitz publishes articles on successful educational practices and speaks at conferences. He has served on seven national committees and boards.
Haskvitz maintains credentials and training in special and gifted education, history, administration, bilingual education, journalism, English, social studies, art, business, computers, museumology and Asian studies. He holds these credentials for Canada, New York and California. His experience also includes staff development, gifted curriculum design, administration, community relations and motivation. His background includes 10 years of university education.
As a teacher, Haskvitz's curriculum increased CAP/CLAS test scores from the 22nd percentile to the 94th percentile, the largest gain in California history. In addition, Haskvitz and his students work continuously to improve their school and community. His students' work is often selected for awards in competitions in several subject areas. For more details about Alan and his students' work, visit his page on the Educational Cyber Playground.