For years I have maintained a class website. I found as parents became more tech-savvy, they enjoyed seeing the photos of student learning and reading about what was happening in the classroom. This seemed more timely, environmental and cost-effective than a monthly newsletter (as I was in a community that all parents had access to a personal computer). It also allowed parents the option to log on to the site at any our to find information or revisit an earlier post. Websites allow for documentation of the learning and growth of students.
This year I wanted to try Twitter. It was a new learning curve for me, but I could see the benefits of its immediacy. So last fall I started a Twitter account for our grade 6/7 classroom and invited parents and students to follow. Students created a logo contest in the class and selected a piece of student art to represent our account. I have found many benefits to Twitter instead of a classroom website. They include:
- Timeliness – I usually take a photo and send a message once a day from my classroom. It is so quick and simple from my smartphone that my posts are more frequent than logging into a website and writing a post for a class website.
- Focused – I find that my tweets are focused and meaningful. For example, I select a specific moment during math or science and take a photo that makes the learning visible. When I would write posts for my website, I often felt overwhelmed in covering all the subjects and providing enough detail.
- Connections/Information/Networking – Sending tweets and using hashtags from our classroom has created dialogue with other educators, students, and interest groups, that would not be possible through a website. For example, my class was excited to be retweeted by Bird Studies Canada when we shared a photo of one of our students feeding a chickadee from his hand. This introduced us to information about the Great Backyard Bird Count, an accessible activity that interested students could learn more about. It also initiated an environmental leaders project to make and maintain bird feeders at our school.
- Reflection/Assessment – As a daily activity, tweeting from the classroom provides me with a purpose to capture learning and document it. I am then able to review my tweets weekly and reflect on the highlights or areas of need as assessment for learning.
- Social Media Etiquette – Tweeting with my students allows for authentic discussions about how to conduct ourselves with appropriate image use. We also review our messages and discuss what they can convey.
- Accessibility – Although my school is recognized as higher needs due to lower family incomes, some students have access to smartphones that they can use in the classroom with our Bring Your Own Device program. Others can share the iPads and netbooks that are available to our class.
- Engagement – Each month, more students get their own account or encourage their parents and become excited about our classroom tweets that are retweeted by the Principal or the board to an even wider audience. We have participated in tweet chats with other classes, using a visual display of the tweets so the whole class can be involved in the discussion.
I have found Twitter to be an effective tool for increasing engagement and communication. I can use it to feature student voice and reach a community larger than our classroom or school. It also informs my own practice as I follow educational posts to inspire me!