Welcome to Twitterverse-A Vehicle to Expand Communication and Thinking

For students and teachers attending a school on a semester block schedule, January is a new beginning in every sense:  new classes, new teachers, new experiences.  We are lucky to get to capture that excitement of a world of possibilities.  As a teacher, I spend hours reflecting on past student feedback, new resources and strategies, and those creative and inspiring chats with other educators to craft those magical first few weeks where all the foundation for a successful semester is laid down.  How can I welcome students and make them feel valued and safe, engage them with all of the”amazingness” and wonder of science, and immerse them in discovery?  What is going to set my class apart from the other science classes they have experienced?  These next few blog entries will focus on some of the ways I address those important questions.  To start off–what is one of the main things that students say sets my class apart–Social Media in the classroom.

Welcome to Twitterverse!

When we found out at the end of the 2012-13 school year that we would become a BYOD district, I asked my students where they wanted to start on our tech journey.  The overwhelming answer was Twitter and Instagram. Over the summer I focused on learning about these platforms (first by joining Twitter myself :D) and how I could make them fit into my mission:  to partner with students to develop the 21st Century Skills of critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. Twitter creates a platform where students can learn from others and where their voice and ideas can be shared to authentic audiences beyond the four walls of the classroom. The use of social media increases the student’s active learning of the content, the student takes center stage in their own learning. Students can communicate with the world through social media easier than ever before; I want to help them harness the power of this communication tool and use it responsibly and to their advantage.

My first goal was to develop a scaffold of skills to teach students how to harness the power of Twitter and use it to form their own professional learning network; setting the stage for one vehicle of lifelong learning. A second goal was my one obsession, of course, technology use in my classroom has to be connected to the nurturing of thinking skills and fit into my existing scaffold in the creation of thinking products with other vehicles like writing, speaking through class discussion, and creating products with technology. My third goal was to find opportunities for my students to communicate through Twitter with other teachers, students, and experts in our subject area. Below, I have a series of links further detailing how my students and I are currently setting out to accomplish these goals.

 Goal 1:  Twitter Scaffold of Skills

How can I build a scaffold and organize Twitter experiences to help students harness the power of this microblogging tool responsibly while also facilitating student learning-especially student thinking?  To me,  it is a balance about content, scientific practice (NGSS Science and Engineering Practices: asking questions, investigation documentation and analyzing and interpreting data, constructing explanations, engaging in argument from evidence, and obtaining, evaluating and communication information)  and real-world experience (especially ISTE standards of research, communication and collaboration)

 Scaffold of Twitter Activities and Links

 Goal 2:  Thinking Products via Social Media

How students use Twitter to develop 21st Century skills in a personal, social and global context.

  • Increase their interest in science by exploring topics that interest them and interacting with scientists from around the world, thus encouraging professional relationships (examples- #scistuchat, curating resources from chosen websites once per week)

  • Identifying and constructing questions to acquire new knowledge and to stimulate discussions with others.

  • Collaboration and discussion among learners to collectively move learning forward.

  • Documentation and explanation of scientific phenomena in lab investigations and model building activities.

  • Constructing evidenced-based answers/ conclusions/ claims which requires students to communicate relationships between claims, evidence, and their own thinking.

  • Reflection on one’s own learning/ Self-assessment of meeting expectations for participating in class discussions and Twitter backchannels or moderating chats.

  • Evaluation of claims made by others on the basis of evidence, critique, and impact the learning of others requiring analysis of alternative explanations and arguments.

  • Sharing learning and resources with others through curation.

 Connection to Standards

CCSS http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RST/9-10

NGSS http://www.nextgenscience.org/

ISTE Standards  http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/nets-s-standards.pdf?sfvrsn=2

 Post from Adam Taylor, @2footgiraffe, presenting an argument to unblock Twitter in your school


 Final Thoughts

My deepest appreciation to Adam Taylor, @2footgiraffe, who has made significant contributions to the development of my Twitter scaffold and constantly serves to spark creativity and innovation.

 I understand through my own personal experience in the “Exploratory phase” of integrating Twitter into my instruction this fall that the journey into the unknown can be very uncomfortable at times (ditto for students).  The fact that I shared my anxieties and fears with my students and we worked them out together impacted my classroom climate in such a positive way.   Students felt empowered and valued in determining our Twitterverse path. Having my PLN gave me a constant army of support and advice. I know that will continue as we refine and revise this starting model presented here with future students and teachers.

 My biggest surprise was the many comments made by my students about how letting them use Twitter in the classroom showed them I trusted them, and unfortunately, they also expressed that the fact that they unsuccessfully approached other teachers with the desire to have similar experiences in their classrooms showed students, in their opinion, that those teachers did not trust them. That trust permeated more than just Twitter and media use, it created an amazing climate of challenging oneself and trying new possibilities- an unexpected bonus.  Twitter also sets up a student-teacher interaction framework providing another way to give individual feedback to move student learning forward – such a powerful form of formative assessment.

 The bottom line for my classroom: Social media use helps to provide a rich educational experience with a basis in communicating thinking that integrates technology and science to capture students’ interests and uses that spark to fuel future learning.  By creating a strong PLN or professional learning network, students can start out as consumers, finding resources and expanding their learning and work towards becoming producers, recommending educational resources and links, posing questions to spark intelligent discussion and challenging and expanding their own opinions, philosophies and learning. Thus, we are preparing students for communicating and learning in the new media landscape of the 21st Century.

We are just beginning our journey in harnessing all that Twitter has to offer, please share your experiences with us so we can continue to learn about how Twitter can enhance our educational experience.

I would love to build a public google doc of prompts and activity examples other educators are crafting to use social media in their classrooms.  Please comment or share through Twitter if you would like to contribute.


Tricia Shelton  @tdishelton

Our class story @BCHSstory

Our Story

A constant theme in my classroom has been “challenge yourself and take risks so you can move your learning forward and open the doors to the unlimited possibilities for you in the world.”  As a lifelong learner myself, I thought  I was modeling that sentiment for my students.  I didn’t realize until the spring of 2013, when I really pushed myself out of the comfort zone to develop a thinking products framework for my science students, that I hadn’t really been living by that code; I wasn’t really taking risks to change the classroom experience for my students.  In my first blog entry “The Game Changer”, I describe the experience that has changed my trajectory.  I didn’t have a map or a clear path, just classrooms full of eager and amazing students who trusted me and partners who were committed to our vision of scaffolding thinking skills to enable students to be successful in life as critical consumers and problem solvers, not encyclopedias of facts.  We gathered data to show our new approaches were working to satisfy those “standardized test score focused folks” and we made student feedback and products our primary focus.  Since that experience, my students, my partners, and I have explored many avenues to extend our learning beyond the four walls of our classroom and communicate with authentic audiences, gathering class data and performing action research.  My PLN on Twitter has exposed me to a world I never knew existed and with their patience, kindness and support, gave me the confidence to try things REALLY outside of my comfort zone.


My students, partners and I have used our journey down the path to thinking products to enable us to communicate effectively and confidently with the world.  By creating a culture of trust, a safe classroom environment to take risks, and and an atmosphere where student voice is truly valued, we have had many successes and are well on our way to “figuring out how our classroom can impact others”.  This idea can be summed up in an end of semester quote by a student: “ I can’t believe how much I learned in this class and how much fun I had.  I knew so much about anatomy that I was able to have a conversation with a real scientist and he thought I was smart.”


In this blog, I am asking for the help and feedback from my PLN and other educators.  My students and I certainly know we don’t have all the answers, but are excited about the journey.  In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, I am going to commit to blogging about our class story here once a week.  In our blog entries, my hope is to share our ideas about how we are extending our learning beyond the four walls of our classroom, scaffolding thinking skills, and developing creativity, collaboration and communication skills to make us successful in the 21st century.  As part of the District team leading the implementation of the NGSS, our story will also chronicle how I am making instructional decisions around the science and engineering practices and how those decisions support our thinking products framework. We are also going to chronicle our story through twitter at @BCHSstory starting in January.


Here are some samples of our upcoming blog topics:

  • How we use Twitter in the classroom to communicate thinking and extend our learning.

  • How our class is organized to support success for introverts and extroverts.

  • How we use multiple ways in the classroom to communicate thinking and express a developing understanding of science.

  • How we use video and screen casting to establish, extend and refine knowledge.

  • How we get students talking in class discussions.

  • How we incorporate the 8 NGSS Science and Engineering Practices into instruction without sacrificing knowledge acquisition, but instead enhancing it


Pushing myself beyond the comfort zone has increased my passion for transforming education, increased my creativity for finding ways to connect with students, engage them, and meet them where they are, and made me more fulfilled as an educator then I have ever been.  I hope that by sharing our story, we can continue to learn from you and your story.  Please consider commenting to us or tweeting to us.  Let us know how we can enhance your classroom experience.


Tricia Shelton @tdishelton

Our Class Story @BCHSstory


Tricia Shelton