Saturday, July 11, 2009

Twitter in Schools; What Does it REALLY Look Like?


Twitter is the new black. Everyone is doing it! Well, everyone except, of course, our schools. For most, the issue starts and ends with the firewall departments. Twitter is blocked and therefore no further discussion is necessary. But even if Twitter is blocked, isn't there still value in using it after hours and with those who have a vested interest in school-based updates?

Some school districts and individual schools ARE using Twitter to issue updates to the community. There certainly are many teachers who use Twitter and we've all seen many presentations where the benefits of using Twitter in the classroom are sung with great praise. What's missing is what it all really looks like.
  • Administrators
    How do you get administrators on board? How do you get your principal or other administrators who may be nervous, to allow you to give it a shot?
  • Parents
    How do you get parents on board? Do you explain how Twitter works at a Parent Night? Do you create a white-paper or video tutorial? Face it, if it looks too difficult then we've already lost most of them. Signing up for Twitter and entering your cellphone number is a pretty scary thing for many. How do you ease people's fears about this (in the few minutes you have to address it)?
  • Content
    How do you determine what you will tweet? Obviously, a school district and school will have many more generic tweets, but what about individual classes? Do you tweet about upcoming quizzes, projects, and lunch menu changes? What about Author of the Week or other happenings that might involve individual students?
  • Privacy
    Do you protect your updates? If you do, how do you determine who you let follow you and if you've gone to that much trouble, how do you determine who those folks really are?
  • Conversations? or Announcements?
    Do you follow back? If so, why?
What does it all really look like?

Whenever I venture into new territory, the first thing I do is seek out those who are already actively involved. I've created a few collaborative documents to try to compile information on those who are currently using Twitter in our schools. The first is for school districts on Twitter. The inspiration for this was when I learned that the school district next door to us (where it's blocked BTW) was using Twitter to issue updates to the community; but we were/are not. I wanted to find out if there were many other districts trying it out as well. This spreadsheet has since proven helpful to many educators as we all continue to argue for reasonable awareness as it relates to our school districts using Web 2.0 and social networking tools. If you have something to contribute, feel free to edit it here.



The next document is specifically for classroom teachers who use Twitter with their students and/or their parents. Feel free to edit this one as well.


The last is a wiki site I set up in a manner of minutes thanks to a tweet sent out by Liz Kolb (@lkolb) Here, I'm looking for some concrete examples of how teachers are using Twitter with their kids or parents. Please add or glean ideas here as well.

If you're someone who has never considered using Twitter in the classroom, I encourage you to check out a few of the Twitter names on the last spreadsheet and check out their tweets. I've already learned a lot about the different ways teachers can not only keep parents informed but motivate students to stay involved.

23 comments:

Gayla Thompson said...

It is a great idea for educators to share what they are doing in the classroom with Twitter. Maybe if list gets long enough, it will something tangible to present to individual school districts for consideration. Technology is our future!!!

Lee Kolbert said...

@Gayla
That's what I'm hoping for. Thanks for visiting my blog and for commenting. Hopefully, we'll all be able to do great things together. :)

Mr. Lauer said...

At Lewis Elementary we have a Friendfeed set up to watch for the following: Posts by teachers to our teacher site, posts to our main school site, and images that are posted to Flickr via our school account. http://twitter.com/lewiselementary . We don't currently have teachers set up with individual Flickr accounts, but anticipate having a few set up when we return in the fall. Friendfeed watches the various accounts and then automatically sends out tweets when the watched sites are updates. We currently have 46 followers to our school site...

Taz said...

This is fantastic information and I believe it will happen in our district(PB) someday. We need to start outside the district's firewall first and then take baby steps. We also need to get our SMaRT teachers on board to help take the lead within their individual schools and perhaps set up a pilot program. Keep up the good work. I love your use of Google.docs in your blog.

Gerardo LAZARO said...

Great Post, very useful information, I didn't check all the twitter users, but have you considered international too?
Here is one peruvian school to look at: www.sanjorge.edu.pe
http://twitter.com/sanjorgeperu

Lee Kolbert said...

@Mr. Lauer,
I love how you are using Flickr>Friendfeed>Twitter! Parents must LOVE being able to see new photos as they are posted. How has the feedback been? Are there any issues with publicly publishing student photos? Thanks so much for commenting.

@Taz,
I agree that it's ok to encourage teachers to use these tools, appropriately (outside the district network - not bypassing it), even if they are blocked. That's a fight that is being fought, but may take some time. Our students who are currently in our classrooms may not still be in our classrooms when we finally win that battle (and I believe we will). Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

@Gerardo
International contributors are more than welcome. My assumption has been that school-based Internet restrictions are much looser outside the U.S. so my main interest is in the U.S. to see how teachers are coping with such tight barriers and yet still benefiting from the powerful networking features of something like Twitter. The instructional aspect of how teachers are using Twitter, knows no borders; so PLEASE contribute! Thank you!

~Lee

Mr.Marshall said...

Have you seen this video about Twitter being used at the post-grad level? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WPVWDkF7U8

Lisa Thumann said...

Awesome Lee. Another excellent resource to share with educators during workshops on how to develop your PLN.
Thank you!

Ernie Easter said...

What a great resource to use with administrators, other teachers, and parents that clearly shows how Twitter can be used in the classroom. Thanks Lee.

C Rod said...

Lee, this is a great post. I have actually had your Google Doc on my iGoogle page for about three weeks (found through a RT on Twitter!) and then found your blog!

I'm working on a project for grad school on Twitter in the classroom. We'll be using your document as examples of how it's being used in K-12.

Thanks!

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I think that twitter is a good tool that many people must have in schools, jobs, University.... Because with twitter you can inquire of anything that you want, besides that you can publish personal information and many other things.

Cheap Viagra said...

This is fantastic information and I believe it will happen in our district(PB) someday. We need to start outside the district's firewall first and then take baby steps

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I pleased to find this blog site. Its is great idea that what they(students) are doing in classroom with twitter... This is really very fantastic information for me... I will use this idea or resource in my school. Thanks for this great efforts. Keep posting.. I would like to see more form you...

Regards
Alexa

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Most Social Media sites are blocked by schools, mostly to avoid gossip which distracts kids. I think social media sites should remain blocked for schools, but might be open for colleges and universities.

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Friendfeed watches the various accounts and then automatically sends out tweets when the watched sites are updates. We currently have 46 followers to our school site..how much it will impact the site .http://www.lifestreamhealth.com.au/detox-programs-australia

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