Five Ways to use Twitter for Lessons (especially in communities)

Part three of my list on why Territory (and other) teachers need to use Social Media. Seeing part of my aim is to get more Territory teachers using social media┬áI’m going to keep talking about communities, because that’s where a lot of kids in the Territory live. And when you are isolated in a two teacher school, it often feels like you’re too small to matter and there’s nothing out there just for you. You always have to adapt the ideas you find to make them work in your circumstances, nothing is ever straight out of the book. All of these ideas will work anywhere, but just for once isolated teachers can feel special and remembered.

Twitter

140 characters is all you have to do to be able to Tweet. The essence of Twitter is short, sharp chunks that show kids you don’t need enormous slabs of text to learn. Reading and writing are manageable and engaging because they get an instant result, not one after several sessions of planning, drafting and finally a good copy.

Twitter is about spreading information and ideas. Most Twitter users have hundreds or even thousands of followers, and if you use hashtags it is even broader. So you can use Twitter for connecting you to a very wide audience without extra work.

Planning

Most Territory kids have low literacy levels, which makes pictures a great stimulus to start a lesson. In fact they’re great for all sorts of kids, because it’s something new they have to think about and analyse. Different people see different things in pictures depending on their backgrounds and experiences, which leads to a rich class discussion. But it can be difficult if the reactions you get are completely unexpected. So put it out there and ask.

?

"I want to use this as a stimulus image for Year 7 science, what do you think when you see it?"

Twitter shares images through services like TwitPic, yfrog, imgur and Instagram, as well as videos, links and of course text. It makes it very easy to broadcast your idea and ask opinions.

Experts

Twitter gives you unprecedented access to professionals and therefore experts. Want to contact a published children’s author? A poet? A science journalist? A historian/geographer/economist/lawyer/chef/photographer/you name it? Chances are there is one on Twitter. Living in a remote community drastically restricts the range of people you have direct access to, but Twitter opens it up again.

You can use it as a simple tool to find people then email them,

“Please RT! Looking for an Australian biogeography expert for school questions.”

Twitter users tend to be helpful little souls, especially when asked politely and for a good cause such as school. The RT stands for ‘re-tweet’ and it’s when someone repeats your tweet to their own followers. With a few re-tweets a message may get in front of many thousands of people, and thousands of heads are way better than one.

Or you could get really daring and set up a Twitter chat with your experts. Imagine if you found half a dozen sportspeople who were willing to be available on Twitter during your class time? Tweets are only 140 characters, so you can do a prepatory lesson of writing questions as tweets. Then during your scheduled time your students tweet their questions to your experts and get the answers. How much collaboration, how much literacy, how much analysis afterwards would you get out of that?

The world is a big place

And a community is tiny. An ongoing problem in communities is helping kids to realise just how big the world is and how different other countries are. So back to those helpful Tweeps who get a kick out of helping little kids:

“Please answer and RT for our class – What’s your weather like today?”

“What time is it where you are?”

“Where are you – town, state, country?”

“What do you do after school?”

“How much does a loaf of bread cost you?”

What more would you like to know? Putting out a single tweet then collecting all the answers could be the basis for several lessons worth of research into different cultures, climates and countries.

Current Events

How sad is this – I get all my news from Twitter. Revolutions, political commentary, the US debt shenanigans, riots, earthquakes and celebrity deaths all make their way to Twitter faster and with more angles, commentary and opinions than traditional news outlets. By keeping an eye on Twitter you can learn about world news even from the middle of nowhere, and the richness lets you do all sorts of things with it:

  • Compare two different news sources to see if they present the story differently.
  • Track a breaking story, such as an earthquake, over time and see how it changes.
  • Investigate the difference between factual writing and opinion.
  • Compare different opinions and see how people support their argument.

Quotes

Quotes are a powerful way to sample and illustrate opinion and connect with people. If they know they are being quoted, most people try to say something significant and 140 characters makes you choose with care. This can lead to powerful and thoughtful language. You can ask people at large for their thoughts and feelings, but don’t forget you can also target specific people.

@KRuddMP @JuliaGillard What is your opinion on Sorry Day?

What other ideas do you have to use Twitter for your classes?

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