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


10 thoughts on “Welcome to Twitterverse-A Vehicle to Expand Communication and Thinking

  1. I love how you let your students guide their own learning. That takes a big shift in practices and you are doing a beautiful job of demonstrating trust and creating a safe environment for learning and personal growth. Bravo!


    • Thanks for the support and reflections. I learn so much from my Twitter PLN about traveling down that student-directed, trust-filled path to growth. It’s important to me to show students how they can harness that power too : )


  2. Yikes! I teach 1st grade so my kiddos don’t use Twitter yet. I think it is wonderfully brave that you have decided to use it with your students. I further appreciate that you aren’t just using it for the sake of using it, but that you want its use to stimulate meaningful learning. Bravo! And Good Luck!


    • Thanks Caitlin–In my room-we are all about Thinking; so I call their brief (140 character) communications “TP’s” for “Think Posts” via Twitter or “Think Pads” via Post-it notes. When we are getting started, some students haven’t made Twitters yet and they post thinking with Post-its or “Think Pads” to a wall area in my room–still have to be 140 characters. I adapted the idea from an elementary classroom. Maybe you could use that to intro your students to the power of Twitter for learning purposes and how to use it responsibly : ).


  3. I can’t wait to share this with the science teachers on my campus. Could you use the same idea and have kids post on say edmodo? In the Elementary classroom I’ve seen Twitter Walls..where students have a laminated sentence strip. Each student has their own strip usual with their picture. Then the teacher can ask a question like..what did you learn today? Then each student can answer on their sentence strip. I think if you search pintrest you will find some good examples.
    I think this would make a great bell ring activity for just about any grade level or subject!


    • Thanks so much for the awesome comments Jessica. I love the Twitter wall idea-especially the strips with the pics. We use post-it notes in HS until students set up Twitters (Think pad posts instead of Tweet Posts). Your suggestions is perfect for elementary. Please let me know what your science teachers think. I’d love to share ideas for using Twitter on our sites and keep the conversation and sharing going! (Maybe specific activity ideas/prompts/scenarios).


  4. Pingback: The Power of the PLN | Partnerships In Learning

  5. This post is wonderfully affirmative for what I have been working on at my HS. I asked for and got permission to start a Digital Communications class to teach 9-12 students how to communicate online. Class is based around blogs they will use as portfolios, but we incorporate digital citizenship, use of social media, web-based apps and lots of reading online articles & blogs, watching videos, reflective writing and more. My hope is that this class with help students in other classes, in college and in the workforce, which is more digital every day.
    The bump I ran into my first semester, fall of this school year, was that students didn’t want to use their Twitter accounts for class purposes. One vocal student didn’t want her Twitter “persona” changed to look academic – at least, that’s the gist of what I got from our, er, discussions. It was a scenario I hadn’t planned for, and so I simply blew past the Twitter posting and focused on searching aspects. This semester I used a Google form survey to assess feelings toward using SM accounts for class. Things are going much better overall. I love that a class like this will continue to evolve every time I teach it. -@snidesky


    • I love the idea of your class and your mission! I agree with you and the importance of digital citizenship and leveraging media to communicate thinking and learning and provide great opportunities for collaboration. My students create “professional” twitter accounts because they expressed the same concerns about their personal accounts. We also stress the opportunities having a professional PLN through Twitter can provide for a student (learning, networking with experts, leadership, collaboration, standing out in college app process that student uses social media professionally as a HS student).


  6. Pingback: Student Created Videos to Communicate Thinking | Partnerships In Learning

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