In a recent CNN article, “Twitter finds a place in the classroom“, it was reported that what Twitter did for students was…

“For a lot of them, what it did is help find their voice… many students that do not participate in my classes or share what’s on their mind, so Twitter became that vehicle.”

I love to hear reports like this! Any chance we have to give a student who might not otherwise have an active voice in the classroom a vehicle to participate I’m all for it! However, in the same article it was also reported that…

“A survey of 1,920 U.S. teachers published in April found that 2% of them use the micro-blogging site in college lectures. About half those polled said the use of Twitter and Facebook in class is harmful to the learning experience, according to the study from consulting firm Pearson Learning Solutions.”

How do you find this balance between giving students a vehicle to find their voice and the perception that these tool are “harmful to the learning experience”?

When is it time to use Twitter in the classroom?

If you look at the numbers on Twitter, only 4% of the 106 million use are in the 13-17 age group.  These number might are not all that compelling if you are going to try to make a case to use Twitter in the classroom.  But the numbers don’t always tell the story, you need to look and listen to the things going on around you for the cues that the time may be right.

  1. Be an active listener. It’s the casual conversations teachers and students are having that can tell you a lot.  How many teachers are on Twitter? How many are asking you about Twitter? Are the students talking about it? What are they saying? Has it become part of there lives, part of their communications stream?  I was able to uncover a lot from a handful of students during a recent trip to Ireland (@irishstudies) where I heard students talk about what their classmates were tweeting about while we were on our trip. It had become a stream of information for them in their personal lives
  2. Distraction. When the topic of distraction and “blocking” came up in conversations with teachers and administrators I knew the school was reaching a critical mass of people “using” the tool.   These types of discussions are a telltale sign that something needs to be done and rather than starting an arms race with students where you tell the what they can and can’t do, let look at what is possible and engage them is what we can do with these tools.  As educators we must  “Design for Distraction” and understand that these issues don’t disappear by blocking sites.
  3. The punchline. Normally when you say something is the punchline of a joke you think negatively about it, but in this case I think it’s just the opposite.  At graduation Twitter was one of the topics of the speeches given that day and it was joked about to the parents in the audience that it might not be something they understand.

These are just of few of the things that could be telling you that your school is ready to use Twitter in the classroom, ready to give your students a voice that they might not otherwise have within your class(es).

I invite you to share when you knew that it was right to use Twitter in the classroom and the ways in which it’s given your students a voice?

 

William Stites

William Stites

Director of Technology at Montclair Kimberley Academy

Director of Technology for Montclair Kimberley Academy (http://www.mka.org), "Blogger in Chief" for edSocialMedia.com, consultant for Educational Collaborators, husband and father of two crazy boys. All that and still trying to find time to write and share as much as I can with you here and at http://www.williamstites.net.

http://www.williamstites.net