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Summing it up with Twitter

February 8, 2012

As a relatively new teacher, and a brand new teacher of Biology 12, I am constantly trying to find ways to help my students actively digest the massive amounts of content.  Last semester I did a lot of work booklets (due to time shortage by me) to help focus the students’ studying and posted answer keys to make sure they were right.

This semester I hope to get them to become more involved in the learning process and to enjoy doing it

Today I tried out “Twitter Tuesday”.  I created a new twitter account so only bio12 students are following.  I chose one “simple” concept they should know to start and tweeted a question.  My goal for this activity was:

  • To have the students to be able to describe a concept clearly and concisely.
  • T0 include all the correct terminology while showing their understanding.
  • To do this using a media that the majority of the students already use

What I liked

  • Students were fired up about it.  Most couldn’t wait to get their phones or computers out.
  • I heard students, from my class last year (“bummed they didn’t get to do it”) and others I’ve never taught, talking about it in the halls.  Having fun while learning is contagious.
  • They sent focused responses
  • It was a different, but good, energy in the class that I hadn’t seen often enough
  • After getting everyone set up it took 10 minutes to get their ideas tweeted

What didn’t go as well

  • Some “thought twitter was a waste of time” or “why can’t we just write it down like always?”
  • Some said “I don’t want to ruin my ‘ratio, by following you”…ugh
  • “My friends don’t care about Bio so why would I tweet about it?” (if they respond to my question it won’t show up in their friends twitter feed unless their friends are following me as well.  Once they heard this they were on board)
  • Our laptops take a long time to get started and I don’t always have them

What to change

This was the first time I tried this so I looked at and responded to every response myself.  This would be quite time consuming to do for every question so peer review could be useful next time.  With peer review, I could ask 3 questions and have students tweet their summary and respond to two others.  This way the students can also get feedback on their summary.  “Were they missing an important point/ term?”.

Here is the question I posed and an example of a response:

Overall, the students seemed to really enjoy it and I liked the focus of their tweets.  I think Twitter can be a powerful tool in the classroom and there is a ton of different ways “Twitter Tuesday” can go.  I’ll keep you all posted or tweeted.

Happy Tweeting!


5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2012 4:20 am

    Nice!! Scott!

  2. Naryn Searcy permalink
    April 9, 2012 9:31 pm

    Hey Scott,

    I have tried using twitter in my class various times but I have found the most success when it is an option for certain groups and not required for the whole class. There are two reasons for this. One, not everyone in my class is on twitter (do you ask all your students to get a twitter account?). Two, the access my kids get to wireless is very spotty. Guest wireless kicks out every 30 minutes and it is just a pain for some kids to even get on the internet. Do you have these issues? How do you allow access for the kids who can’t get twitter (do you have a few extra laptops available etc.).

    I have had similar problems when using QR codes. Not every kid can access QR reading programs … kids have devices with various capabilities etc.

    Any advice for filling in the individual technology gaps?

    I would love to use twitter for some whole class activities every once and a while.

    • April 10, 2012 1:59 am

      Hi Naryn,
      For the most part I’ve only used twitter as a method for the students to summarize a concept but there are so many things you could do with it
      I agree that accessability is an issue for some. I didn’t make anyone create a twitter account and most were pretty excited about it. For those that chose not to create accounts I give the option to write down their responses instead. However, they still have to following the character limitations of Twitter (140 characters).
      This might help with your intermittent wireless issue too. If the wireless is down they can write it out using @ mentions and # hashtags to make it fun.
      I usually have some tablets in my room too for students that don’t have electronic devices with Twitter abilities.
      Other things I have done is have students work in groups or 2 or 3 if devices are at a minimum.

      Hope that helps


  3. Naryn Searcy permalink
    April 10, 2012 4:55 am

    Thanks Scott. Those are some great suggestions for levelling the playing field. I’ve done the group thing but the writing it out on paper and using twitter symbols and providing a few extra tablets are both things I’ll try soon. In English and Literature I’ve used twitter to provide a response to a controversial question (used a hashtag and then answers were shown on the overhead and then discussed). Students have also “re-created” poems/key scenes etc. by creating characters on twitter and chatting “in role”. In general the response has been very positive.
    I really like your “twitter Tuesday” idea. Might steal that one 🙂 I’d try to be original but “Twitter Wednesdays” isn’t quite as catchy.

    • April 11, 2012 2:51 am

      Hi Naryn,
      No problem, glad it helped. Don’t worry about “stealing” anything. Its all yours! Let me know how it goes and if you have any suggestions on how to make it better

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