Saturday, September 17, 2016

Twitter in the Classroom

It's interesting that here I sit in year twenty-one in the classroom and yet, I feel like a brand new teacher. Well, not new, exactly. I have the knowledge of what I've done before, but an entirely new building, curriculum, and group of colleagues to wrap my brain around. And so, I look at the calendar as I did on Tuesday and think, "Oh, crap. It's September 13th and we haven't tweeted yet this school year."

In previous years Twitter was something I taught the first week. Ditto to blogs. I had access to nine iPads daily, more if I needed. Technology use was not something I thought about on a daily basis, it was just there. Our classroom was connected to the world by default. I concerned myself with teaching how we would use it, what digital citizenship was (over and over all year), and then they were off. It was organic. 

Now I need to sign-up for a cart of Chromebooks. Where I had the iPads all logged in to our Twitter account, I can't do that with these devices. I have an iPad in the classroom - and that's logged in. So is my computer. With that, I set about on Tuesday of connecting my group of seventh graders to Twitter.

Many had tweeted in my class two years ago as fifth graders. As soon as I began talking about it, I saw their heads nod. Interestingly, while many of them have their own Instagram and Snapchat accounts, very few have a Twitter account. We went over the basics - the 140 character limit, hashtags, verified accounts, how we follow others, what we tweet, etc. I wrote a tweet on the projector in front of them. And then I asked them to tweet at some point that week.

What followed was kids making lists on sticky notes of who was in line as they passed the iPad person to person. As I conferred with readers I would have kids come up on the side to ask if this user was the author they were looking for. We talked about using the district hashtag and they wondered if anyone in the community would search it and see their tweet. I heard shouts of excitement as the person with the iPad saw notifications that an author or another classroom had tweeted them back. 

Connecting my students to the world through Twitter (and blogs) is an integral part of my classroom. I want it to be authentic, not forced. I want them to see it as a reaction to what they read, learn, and share. Due to the high percentage of kids I've already taught in previous years, I know we will get there quickly. My favorite moment on Tuesday, however, came from a former student, who is a current student once again.

I had already taught the lesson on Twitter and was conferring with readers at the front of the room. Lizzie was sitting in the back reading Ghost by Jason Reynolds. I heard a book slam shut and looked up as Lizzie stood up, holding the closed book in her hands and gesturing with it. All of the other readers looked at Lizzie along with me as she said, "Seriously? Where is the next book?" 

I immediately knew what was going on and said, "Sorry. I think it is still being written." 

Lizzie let out a huge sigh and then asked if we could tweet him to be sure.

Day made. 

A huge thanks to the authors and classrooms that tweeted us back this week. 

If you are on Twitter and want to follow our class, we are @SagesHoots. We also use the hashtag #gosages (our district hashtag), and #readergrams or #writergrams depending on what we are tweeting about. Katharine Hale started those hashtags in her classroom to connect students who were recommending books or asking for writing advice. Love it.