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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TWITTER - Expanding the Classroom - Shrinking the World

While I was principal for 3 years I dealt with a lot bullying/behavior issues related to social media. Finally, I swore it off as a hassle that led to many discipline issues. I swore up and down that I would never use social media such as Twitter or the like. Now I am back in the classroom full time and cannot imagine my life or career without Twitter.

Twitter recently led to an experience for my 6th graders that I could never planned or make happen on my own. While studying Ancient Greece and their gods, I assigned my students a research project on a god. While they were giving their presentations on it, I posted a few tweets about how well they were doing. A teacher in Pennsylvania (@brdcmpbll) happened to see the tweets and it led to an awesome interaction between our two classes.

Mr. Campbell saw that we were studying Greece and asked our class to help his class. His senior Western Civilization class had prepared Greek god reports and we were going to be judges. Through the use of Skype we sat in on some of their presentations. During the presentations, our students used the backchannel Todaysmeet.com. My 6th graders were excited to see other students’ work, talk with students in another state and oh by the way, learned a little more about Greek gods in the process. One of my students actually got to perform the song she wrote about Athena for her presentation to the class in Pennsylvania.

The collaboration due to Twitter did not stop with viewing those presentations. Our class viewed the rest of their presentations using a Google 3X3 grid. Later, the students in Pennsylvania made study guides for my 6th graders using Studyblue, Studystack and Quizlet. All of these sites helped my students learn our material better and made it more fun for the students to learn.

Twitter helped make all this connection and collaboration happen. It broke down the walls of our classroom and allowed students in classrooms across the country to interact and learn from each other. My students were still buzzing about the experience days later, more so than they ever would have been had I just taught a lesson only in our classroom.

Twitter shrinks the world. My students and I follow world events on Twitter, almost as they happen. Greece riots reported by someone watching out their window, earthquake updates in New Zealand, and of course the guy who blogged the U.S. raid on Osama’s compound without even knowing are all examples of events we have “watched” unfold through Twitter. We talk to with classrooms around the world. We participate in classroom competitions and gain authentic audiences for projects of our own. For a recent project the students had to create Prezis on an earthquake. I wanted the students to practice the skill of persuasive writing/presenting. They had to slant their Prezis and try to convince their audience that their earthquake was the worst of the century. I wanted to give them a bigger audience than just themselves and me. Twitter will make the happen. Because of Twitter I already have one teacher who will help judge and I am confident more will help. Twitter provides my students with an authentic, non-biased audience for their presentations. One of my 6th graders was concerned that in the voting phase, everyone would vote for their friends. Great point! So Twitter will help address this concern. This provided more motivation for them to prepare great presentations.

Twitter increases our school’s communication with parents as well. I have created a middle school Twitter account (@aslsms) that the students are allowed to tweet from during the school day. The students update it periodically. I also put updates out there for the parents to read. We have gained a few followers through the year; parents and others. Parents are also just checking the Twitter page to see what is going on daily. Also, some students have even gotten their own Twitter accounts and I have communicated with them via Twitter.

Twitter brings the world into our classroom in so many ways. It breaks down the walls of our classroom and allows our students to experience the rest of the world in new and better ways. Twitter provides opportunities for connection, communication and collaboration to help make the students’ learning experiences better. Twitter has made me a better teacher. Twitter has expanded our classroom and shrunk the world in exciting ways for my students.

Please check out some of my students’ work at www.aslsmra.blogspot.com. This is a collection of some of the digital work of our students from this school year. Most, (if not all) of these ideas or websites I learned about on Twitter – yet another benefit!

Two big thank you’s – one to @kevcreutz for getting me to sign up for Twitter. Also, to @brdcmpbll for collaborating on the Greek god project.

Scott Akerson – 7th Grade homeroom – Abiding Savior Lutheran School – St. Louis MO – @mra47 - www.mra47.blogspot.com