This past week, I finally started to use Twitter with my 10th grade class in Navi (Biblical Prophets). Here are my initial observations and suggestions.
- Be ready to spend a lot of setup time to get the project moving. The project has gone well but not without some significant setbacks. The first period that I introduced it, what I expected to be a 10 minute activity took almost the full 40 minute class period. The second time was much smoother with 2 Twitter discussions as a Do Now at the beginning of class and as an extension activity at the end of class integrated into a period of teaching and student discussion. A teacher choosing to use Twitter must be ready for the initial delays and "wasted" class time in order to get the payoff in future learning activities.
- Give students different avenues to use Twitter. My students can Twitter on personal laptops, on school laptops which are on a laptop cart, or on their cell phones.
- Setup a private Twitter account special for your class and private Twitter accounts for your students as well. For purposes of safety and security, I do not want my educational work with my students to be a part of my Twitter stream. Therefore, I setup a protected account special for this class. My students mostly do not have Twitter accounts. While I allowed those few with their own accounts to use them, I setup Twitter accounts for the rest with the student's first initial, last name, and the class section. The students follow my class account and all of their fellow students and their account is then blocked so no one else can follow them. It is important that they follow me and I follow them before marking their account as private or else I will not see their Tweets.
- Only Twitter at specific times in class and otherwise, do not allow students to use their cell phones or be on Twitter. A constant Twitter stream in a high school class is a distraction and recipe for vandalism. Therefore, I prepare questions that all students must answer (I learned this method from the Nehama Leibowitz) and only then can they Tweet.
- Install a Twitter app like Twhirl and keep it open and projected to the front of the class when Tweeting questions and answers. The effect of seeing Tweets pop up on Twitter is electrifying. It models responses for students while encouraging students to respond quickly so they can see their name appear.
- Discuss the Tweets in class after they appear on the board. It is important that Twitter is used as a tool to elicit class discussion which is then continued by students through more traditional methods. I still want to hear my students in class and not just see them typing. I use these Tweets to acknowledge students who are too shy to participate in class discussions but write beautiful responses using Twitter. Finally, I will create follow-up activities where I ask students to read their classmate's tweets and categorize them into different approaches to answer a question. Through this students realize that they have been able to anticipate almost all of the approaches of the classical biblical commentaries in their tweets.