Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My students do my tweeting...

Recently, I decided to create a Twitter account for my classroom (the computer lab @PS10Tech).

I was inspired to do this by Ms. Glembocki, a 2nd grade teacher here at PS 10. Ms. Glembocki tweets fairly regularly, sharing news and information about her class with her followers, many of whom are parents. Recently, Ms. Glembocki decided to assign a student tweeter for every day. It's a new classroom role for the students. One student a day is in charge of her twitter account, and the student uses an iPad designed specifically for classroom use to tweet the happenings of the day. Students introduce themselves and sign each tweet. In addition, she uses the hashtag #2310st to designate the tweet is coming from a "student tweeter of class 2-310." Her 2nd graders "live blog" the day. It's a fantastic idea and I wanted to do it for my lab...

The subtle difference between Ms. Glembocki and me is roughly 570 students. She has her self-contained class of 30, so managing a single tweeter a day is not a daunting task. I, on the other hand, see five classes a day, or roughly 150 students (for those of you keeping track of the math, I see a couple of classes more than one period a week and not every class is 30, so the unique student count is just shy of 600 total per week). It would be a bit much to manage five or more tweeters a day on my @Mr_Casal twitter account...

... And so was born @PS10Tech. This is the account solely dedicated to documenting the happenings in my computer lab, tweeted 99% by students.

Why I use Twitter with students:

  • It's writing
    • It's writing in a new medium
    • It's writing digitally
    • It's writing for a broad audience
  • It's publishing
    • It's publishing, instantly
    • It's publishing beyond the classroom walls
    • It's publishing for a global audience
  • It's limiting
    • I love the 140 character limit as it forces you to write efficiently, concisely, and with purpose
And we have protocols:

  • All tweets will be written exclusively on a single @PS10Tech dedicated iPad, displayed on the board (via AppleTV)
  • All tweets must be written using proper sentence structure, spelling, grammar, capitalization, etc. Twitter is writing, and writing in school, and these tweets represent not only the lab, but the entire school community as a whole.
  • The first tweet a student composes must be an introduction:
    • "Hi, I'm firstname from class.  - FL #ps10st"
    • The "-FL" represents the signature, in this case "-FirstinitialLastinitial"
    • The hashtag #ps10st is added, representing a "ps10 student tweeter"
  • Folow up tweets by that student may include pictures of students working and/or pictures of student work products
    • Any tweet documenting studnet work or students working mush have the hashtag #ps10sw to denote "ps 10 student work" in addition to the hashtag #ps10st
  • Before the "Tweet" button is pressed, I, Mr. Casal, must approve the content. If the "Tweet" button is pressed without my consent, the tweet will be deleted and the student will no longer tweet
    • Pressing the "Tweet" button is publishing to the world on behalf of the PS 10 community, so it must be approved
We spend a full period discussing the basics of composing a tweet and the technological aspects of it.
We also spend much of that period discussing appropriate writing and the reach Twitter has. @PS10Tech only has 18 followers (as of this writing) and we discuss what that means. We also discuss my 800+ followers and how I can "retweet" or re-publish the writing to my 800+ followers.

The biggest demonstration of the power & reach of Twitter is a conversation I had with a college classmate of mine, Dave Kerpen:

The @PS10Brooklyn hashtags (#ps10st#ps10sw#ps10bk) have gone well beyond the PS 10 followers and well beyond my followers... Those hashtags have gone out to 50,000+ of Dave's followers... Twitter has powerful, instant, broad, and global reach. I demonstrate, illustrate, and stress this point to all my students. We are no longer writing for ourselves, we are writing for the world to see.
(big thanks to Dave for helping illustrate this point!)

What about student accounts?
The big question I always get from students: "Can we sign up for our own Twitter account?"
With the follow-up being, "If I sign up at home, can I log in at school?"
I don't say this to be mean or controlling or negative. I do it because online social media platforms with elementary school students is a bit of a tricky situation. Twitter does not have an over-13 age restriction (like Facebook does). Anyone, of any age, can sign up for a Twitter account. But, you need an email to do it and most email providers require users be over 13... See, a bit of a tricky situation...

... I tell students they are more than welcome to discuss tweeting with their parents and make a decision at home whether or not to have a Twitter account, but since we can't permit every student to have a personal account, we will only use the single @PS10Tech account for all students.

I do hope this inspires students to have the conversation with their parents about writing online, but a personal Twitter account for an elementary age student is 100% between the parent and students.

My final thoughts...
I think Twitter is a great way to introduce another form of writing and publishing to the classroom. Since I only see most classes once a week, having a class tweeting allows me to integrate another writing and technology platform into the 45 minute period. With Twitter I can now have students working on a PowerPoint, commenting on a blog post, and tweeting all in a single period. As classes have gotten accustomed to the tweeting protocols, I am able to have 3-4 student tweeters per period. Tweeting has opened up a whole new avenue of technology, pubishing, communicating, and docuementing.

The best feedback I've gotten on this to date, aside from the smiles and excitement from students, is from a parent. She came up to me and said "I love the Twitter account. I have it open at work and follow along with what you guys are doing. It's so cool. I even showed my co-workers how my daughter's school was tweeting."

Writing, publishing, documenting, engaging... Twitter is an amazingly powerful platform and @PS10Tech is a way to introduce my students to this amazing tool...

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