By Teachers, For Teachers
As the social media platform Twitter turns 12 years old and boasts over 300 million monthly active users, it’s again time to consider to what extent this tool is being leveraged by your school as a technology in the classroom feature. By “Your school” I don’t just mean by your singular lead school account. I mean by your staff, your administrators, your students, and your broader community of families and neighbors. The truth is that Twitter opens up new technology in the classroom opportunities for schools to engage in a wider conversation that leads to a positive impact on school culture. While there are many areas impacting your school’s overall technology in the classroom culture, consider some of these outcomes an increased use of Twitter may bring to your school.
Teaching can often feel like an isolated profession. Teachers go into their individual classrooms and “Do their thing” with students. Teachers in neighboring classrooms or within the same department may have some idea what’s going on in your room, but it’s likely that no one else does.
Twitter can change that. It’s unlikely the typical teacher will have an opportunity to explore what may be happening around the building in other classrooms, but if teachers regularly posted their class activities and teacherly reflections, then all the teachers who are connected will have insight into what’s taking place all around them.
Even though we’re with students each and every day, we can easily forget that parents have little idea what a day in our classroom looks like. Break this barrier and give parents that inside info by sharing what’s taking place. Give brief summaries of what is being explored or what may be coming up. Give parents recommendations for what to talk about at home or ask them questions that will help you reach students better. Post pictures of student activities, achievements, and special moments.
Yes, you already told it to your students when you were together in class. Yes, it’s posted on your syllabus and included on your course calendar. Yes, you sent home a letter and email reminder last week. But yes, your students can still benefit from hearing it – whatever it is – one more time through a timely tweet from you.
Twitter is not only good for reminders, but it can help keep students and families up-to-date on recent changes in ways that aren’t as easily publicized elsewhere. This might work great for teachers giving information about an upcoming exam or due date, giving hints on homework, or providing links to supplemental sources. It might also be utilized well by coaches trying to give their players real-time updates on practice times or field conditions.
It’s one thing to praise a student who just aced their first test by shaking their hand and giving them a sticker in front of their peers. It’s another thing to pile on the praise by making their achievement public via Twitter. In addition to pointing out your students’ achievements – whether or academics or character – through the traditional formats at your school, consider how you can help the student feel even prouder by sharing what an awesome job they did in a way other teachers, parents, and community members can witness. Doing so helps others add to the praise, and everyone benefits from the communal focus on positivity.
Once students are old enough to use Twitter themselves, they may suddenly find that they have another venue through which to voice their opinions about their experience at your school. Much of this can be encouraged or facilitated by staff – such as with a school-wide hashtag – and much of it can simply arrive organically by looking at student comments to school account posts and asking students their opinions.
While it may be difficult for some students to share their perspectives during school due to restrictions in time and space opportunities, Twitter opens the door for more asynchronous conversations and feedback to take place.
Who’s in your PLN? A PLN is a professional learning network, a group of people across the globe personally selected by a teacher to give them input. A school’s culture can be improved via Twitter when teachers have an opportunity to connect with a multitude of people, personalities, and perspectives from all over.
Teachers who are connected are more likely to be exposed to new ideas, to gain access to resources and trainings that benefit their students, and to engage in conversations that improve their own practices. And all of these ideas and reflections from educators all over the world via Twitter end up making their way back into the school and positively adding to the culture.
When students are connected to the world via Twitter and when they see their teachers and school engaged as well, they have a lot to gain. Typically students use social media differently than adults: Students may see it as merely social, where fun-but-meaningless interactions take place. Teachers, on the other hand, can demonstrate how to use it in a more productive and professional manner.
A school whose members engage in a professional way on Twitter models for students the positive advantages of connectedness and demonstrates for students another way to learn. Social media helps connect teachers to resources, professionals to one another, and the school to the world. Students can personally witness how social media like Twitter can be leveraged to build meaningful relationships, engage in thought-provoking conversations, and identify worthwhile resources.
Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker in their book “School Culture Rewired” note that “Members of a culture will help to shape one another, and the culture in turn will evolve into a unique group of individuals who share certain characteristics and take some pride in being set apart from those outside the group.” This is established and reinforced through an infinite array of elements. However, the leveraging of Twitter and other social media vehicles will doubtlessly work to bring your staff, students, and community together in ways that are difficult to replicate.
How might your school utilize Twitter to contribute to your school culture? Share a comment below and leave us your technology in the classroom ideas!
Jordan Catapano taught English for twelve years in a Chicago suburban high school, where he is now an Assistant Principal. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.