May
31

Power of Twitter for the classroom

Filed Under (iPad Learning, teaching with technology) by on 31-05-2013

Today I had one of those experiences which blows you away by the nature of it’s unexpected success. We used Twitter to connect and bring two oil riggers, each on opposite sides of the world, live into our classroom.

To back track slightly – as part of our Diamond Decades topic, this week we are learning about the 70s. On Monday we watched a video about the 1970s and amongst the strikes, 3 day week, no electricity etc we watched an oil rig being installed in the North Sea. The children were fascinated and following some discussion, beyond knowing somehow it got oil and thought it would be like a cruise liner inside – they didn’t really know much more.

That evening thought it might be an idea to follow up this child-led interest and see if some ‘experts’ could answer a few questions. I tweeted the following.

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 19.07.16

Thanks to all the people who retweeted – we got a good few offers of help. These included current riggers, an ex-rigger who lived and worked on a North Sea rig in the 1970s, as well as a Year 5 class in Norwich, many of whose parents currently work on the rigs. We set up a Linoit, children posted questions as one of their first morning activities, published them and people have started to answer our questions there. We were collaborating and using real experiences to enhance our learning.

In addition to this, I had two offers of help from riggers who were also on Twitter, Craig Johnson in Western Hebrides, off Scotland and Mr McKinley, currently on a rig off the coast of China. We sorted out the time differences arranged a time for my class to ‘chat’ live on twitter.

My class have an account and we use it in fits and starts. I do use a Tweeter of the Day (if I remember) but a lot of the time it is additional information for our blog, so therefore for parents. But as a result children do have the Twitter App on their iPads. This Tweetchat was upping the anti for us somewhat!

As I sat down to start, I suddenly realised I wasn’t exactly sure how this was going to pan out. I know I am capable of having a chat with a couple of people on Twitter simultaneously whilst following various conversation threads, but could I navigate a class though this and retain their interest? Could our riggers keep up with the questions if too many posted at once? How would we be able to display all the different answers? Suddenly Skype seems a more appealing option!

My intention was to start with one iPad per table linked to our Twitter account which children would post questions from and everyone else would view the @ connect feed on the IWB. I would facilitate it from my teacher account and somehow everyone would still feel involved. We did a quick e-safety chat and started.
We ran into issues almost immediately – the iPads were quicker than my network connected PC linked to the The @connected feed wouldn’t show conversations, so as more questions were posted, and answers came with photos attached, the children with iPads were viewing these excitedly whilst the rest were waiting for me to flick between them on the board. Children with iPads were wanting to ask more questions before the rest of the class had had a chance to digest (or even see) the original answer. At the same time I was trying to take some photos of the activity for our class blog!

In the end I let go. The IWB got ignored. Children buddied up in pairs, logged on to Twitter with one iPad between them and asked their own questions, viewed the threads they wanted to follow and asked their own follow up questions. This meant I had 30 children totally engaged, navigating their own pathways through the responses, choosing what interested them and then excitedly bringing me photos and facts they’d learnt. I watched the learning happen.

I have to at this stage to give utmost credit to @craig294 and @ABMckinley for their patience, speed, informative answers and for attaching captivating pictures to their tweets. The children made their learning but these two guys made it come alive!

To have brought experts from two different sides of the world live into our classroom was an exciting experience in itself. To have experienced the children taking control and creating their own meaningful learning from the opportunity was more incredible.

Success has opened up ideas and other possibilities. One account with many children hooked in having their own experience. Simple. What if you could connect to a fictional character related to your topic (I know some on Twitter have already done this), but live in a classroom situation? What if you used another class, using another single Twitter username as the ‘expert’



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