EdCamp Dallas 2012: Twitter in the Classroom

The final presentation I went to at edcampDallas focused on the use of Twitter in schools. There were two presenters – Amber Teamann and Matt Gomez.Both of them were actually two of the edcamp organizers. My hats off to them for putting together a great event!

I was hesitant about going to a presentation about Twitter in the classroom, but since I’m still a Twitter noob myself, I thought I might learn something. I did!

First, Amber presented about Twitter from the side of an administrator. Twitter is a great way for schools to keep parents notified of a variety of announcement in a timely manner. For example, the principal can tweet reminders about early release days, picture days, and special events. They can also keep parents informed during emergencies such as tornadoes. The best part is that programs like HootSuite allow the user to schedule tweets. So if you know the schedule for all of your early release days, you can set up the tweets in August so that they’ll go out a day or two before each early release day. Now you don’t have to worry about forgetting to send them out as you inevitably get swamped during the year.

What I liked was how the school can get around parents who are too cool for Twitter (or is it that they’re not cool enough?) Either way, what Amber does is ask the parents if they prefer receiving text messages instead. Most of these anti-Twitter parents are happy to receive text messages. So what Amber has them do is a fast follow. The parents text “Follow @[handle]” to the number 40404. This signs them up to receive tweets as text messages. The parents may or may not realize they’re essentially following a Twitter feed, but either way they’re happy because if someone asks if they use Twitter, they can still honestly reply, “No!”

Matt represented Twitter from the side of a teacher. Since he teaches Kindergarten, I was surprised to hear that he uses Twitter with his class, but he has found some clever and effective ways to use it. For example, at the end of the school day the class sits down to summarize their learning for the day. They think about what’s important enough to share in a tweet. I love this because the students are reflecting on their day, but they also have an audience that they’re thinking about. They want to share interesting things that others might want to hear about. I also like that the students are forced to practice short summaries since tweets can’t be very long. They’re learning to “get the gist”. I love it.

In addition to summarizing, Matt’s class also follows other Kindergarten classes. To ensure internet safety, Matt only connects with a select few classes; otherwise his stream is closed to the outside world. In the morning the class will read through their Twitter feed and decide what they want to respond to. He said it’s funny how opinionated they are. Sometimes they just say, “No, we don’t want to write anything back. Move to the next one.” Again, it gets back to having an audience. They are learning how they want to communicate with other people. It’s empowering that they have a choice in the matter.

So was driving 7.5 hours round trip worth it for a little over 3 hours of PD? You bet! In addition to learning valuable lessons from real teachers, I also had a chance to meet and get to know some great folks. I ended up having lunch with Cynthia Alaniz from my first session as well as Martha Lackey and her fun crew from Midlothian ISD. It was energizing to hang out with passionate educators and talk shop. If I don’t see them again sooner, I can’t wait to learn from and with them again at edcampDallas 2013!

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