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Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

If you receive the New Zealand Teachers’ Council’s weekly e-letters, you’ll be aware the council has just launched its Teachers and Social Media website – yeeha.  And if you’re lucky enough to be on holiday you might have even had a look at it! The site aims to promote discussion about the relationship between the registered teachers Code of Ethics and social media.

It’s important that all teachers are familiar with the code and being relatively fresh out of training, I’d read it fairly recently. The site is structured around the code’s four stakeholder groups so commitment to learners, parents/families, the profession and society are all covered in relation to social media usage.

Home page of NZTC social media website

The resources section features animated videos that pertain to each of the four groups and deal with scenarios such as texting students, blogging, Facebook and digital footprints. Under the resources tab, you’ll also find guidelines and docs (including a staffroom-friendly social media map explaining what social media is), a presentation framework enabling schools to use the videos etc for PLD, FAQs and links.

True to form, under the reources tab, the guidelines and documents page features a prezi with tips on how to manage and recognise ethical dilemmas when using social media.  A lot of information is repeated throughout the site so what you read in the prezi (don’t set to auto play unless you’re a speed reader!) also features in a downloadable poster. The same page also includes a link to a seminar that was held a few months ago where the site’s developers discussed its content with teachers.  It’s 58 minutes long but interesting to see the initial response to what was essentially a focus group for the new site.  As I’d already explored the site, I found the teachers’ comments in the chat box in the side bar of more interest that the presentation itself.  Some pointed out that their schools still had firewalls blocking the use of Facebook and other social media – these comments were not always picked up on by the moderators but I suspect those and the usual access to technology issues will ensure some of the scenarios discussed are a long way off being reality for many teachers.

My favourite section is  Your Stories under the pink tab where teachers share experiences about using social media tools – yes. That’s what I was looking for!  So far there are only four posts but obviously that will build over time.  I’d used all the tools discussed except pinterest but it’s always good to learn how others are using Facebook, Twitter etc to engage their learners.  The links page in the resources section provides more hands on assistance with the “How do I…?” questions rather than the “What will I do if…?” focus that is the site’s raison d’être.

Overall, it’s a great site and one that is long overdue. I love the resources, enjoyed the stories and have bookmarked many of the links as well as adding #educhats to my twitter feed.

My only concern is the emphasis on the “What ifs…?”.  Because teachers want the best for their students, and possibly due to some of the bad press the profession has received this year, we may be over thinking things somewhat. I’m not trying to be blase about the importance of ethics, a subject I’ve taught most Fridays this year to my aspiring journalism students.   Ethics is all about shades of grey. There’s no way the NZTC can develop a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts to cover every possible scenario that might (or might not) occur.  I guess that’s why the site focuses on linking the existing code to the social media environment so that if members are in a position of having to justify their decision-making, they can refer back to the code to explain themselves.  But surely that’s the same for countless decisions made in every classroom, every day? I guess also for members, this approach provides protection against potential critics.  But should professional protection be at the heart of discussions over usage? Certainly we need to have those conversations but it would be a shame if developing pedagogy that encompasses social media is driven by fear of stuffing up. And that’s ethics too – there is no right or wrong so even with the best of intentions, we might have to accept that sometimes we get it wrong. Hopefully if best professional judgement is applied, those mistakes won’t be career ending, hangable offences.

If we wait for an elusive list of dos and don’ts, we might miss a golden learning opportunity. Digital tools are evolving at such a rapid pace, by the time we work out how to use them ethically and acquire the technology (and skills) to use them, the next tool is here. This results in teachers being in a constant mad scramble to keep up, make lessons meaningful and head off every ethical issue imaginable before it happens.  It’s easy to see why social media ends up in the too hard basket.

It shouldn’t be that hard and it shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of classroom teachers to find ways to successfully embed social media into their schools’ learning programmes. Let’s not forget that social media is all about interactive community building. One teacher in the webinar said when a negative post was made on his school’s Facebook page for parents, before the school worked out what to do, other parents had (diplomatically) shut the negative, naysayer down.

And that’s what it’s all about really – yes we need to be careful and well-informed in everything we do and say with our students BUT we also have to have a little faith that social media, if used wisely, will enhance communication, strengthen communities, engage learners and keep our jobs interesting and personal commitment to lifelong learning relevant.

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…that may well be the question you are pondering. Twitter is one of those Web 2.0 applications that people either love or love to hate.  “Why would I?”  is probably the first reaction from time poor teachers. Fair enough.  As with any online application, it pays to keep an open mind but in reality, you should only go there if it enhances the teaching and learning process.

In case you’ve been asleep for the past five years, Twitter is a microblogging service. Think of it as the equivalent of a Facebook status update. In 140 characters or less, you can share news and information with a network of followers and vice versa. 

Here’s some tips on getting started:

  • Sign up and create a profile at twitter.com
  • Include a photo or Avatar and a quick description of yourself
  • Unless you specify otherwise, what you write will be seen by the whole twitterverse
  • If you want to follow a person, click on their name and then click “Follow”.
  • If you don’t want to receive their updates click “unfollow”.
  • If they are being a pain, you can block them.
  • Links to websites in your tweet are automatically shortened but are active so your followers can click on them and visit sites of mutual interest
  • RT is a retweet – handy for passing on useful information to your network while acknowledging the source
  • Use # hash to tag tweets and make searching easier
  • Te reply to a fellow tweeter or mention them in your tweet, use the @ sign For example:

@budgie10 thanks for that link to the Kings High blog (reply)

Just saw @budgie10’s newest post on the Kings High blog – hilarious (mention)

For English teachers, the brevity of twitter can make it a useful classroom tool.  Using 140 characters or less is a great way to teach young people to write simply, using the best words available.  Twitter also presents a range of specific classroom activities. Here’s a few I’ve gleaned from reading how “real” teachers are using twitter:

  • A tweetstory – Choose a theme/genre, post a standard story opener and tweet to your network, ask network to continue the story and follow them via www.twitterfall.com or a #tag. Then students can follow, choose the best ones and edit them into a coherent story – great for editing skills.
  • Short but tweet – give students the 140 character rule, assign them with either the intro, character description or whole story.  In groups, get students to play “pass it on” – but they must do this in twitter speak (140 characters). They then add to it in their groups. Results can posted to twitter or via blogs.
  • Word morph – Use twitter to send out a word and have your network give students the synonym and other meanings.  Or have the classroom connect during a writing workshop.  Then have the students help each other create a wordle cloud of a word and its synonyms, antonyms and examples to foster more descriptive writing.
  • POV and character development – After reading a novel or short story, assign students a character and create a twitter account e.g. @atticusfinch. Students use their study of that character to create conversations around key events in the plot.  Or focus on events or situations that are omitted from the plot but referred to so students are creating their own fiction based on their knowledge of the writer, the time period and the characters.
  • Word Play – online games eg: anagrams – post 8 letters and see how many new words can be formed, “What does it mean?”, use twtpoll to post definitions – “Who can guess the correct definition?” post a word and guess – synonyms, antonyms, homonyms?
  • Bite Sized info – Set up a twitter account dedicated to just one topic for pure information eg: Shakespeare quotes, poetic devices, newspaper jargon etc
  • Multi-media class newspapers – Students shared links and tweets become professinal looking articles. Create a class or project newspaper at Paper.li by creating a specific twitter account for the class/project. It will auto-publish a multimedia newspaper to all the tweeps followed by the main twitter accounts and send it out to those who subscribed.  

More ideas like this can be found here with thanks to @tombarrett on Twitter.

Personally I can’t wait to have a go at paper.li  but there are clearly lots of really practical and engaging ideas of use to English teachers.

For all teachers, twitter offers a forum for professional development and reflection. Here’s why Twitter is also useful in this regard:

  • It’s instant – if you’re under pressure to find a resource or come up with a lesson activity, tweet to your network and get help quickly!
  • Access to global experts – you can follow people you may not get a chance to shoulder tap in the real world and ask them questions
  • Access to colleagues – twitter can be used for peer review – ask and you may well receive
  • It’s quick and easy to use  – which lays to rest the “time poor” argument!
  • It’s inspiring – you can follow really smart people on twitter as Phil Beadle says: “Following smart people on Twitter is like a mental shot of espresso”

Don’t forget to visit my resource page for links to more articles and resources on Twitter in the C21 Classroom.

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