“Can I tweet this?” is a question that I routinely hear in my grade 2/3 classroom at Eastwood Public School in Windsor, Ontario. My students interact online with over 160 other classrooms around the world through Twitter. Children in my class might be solving math problems with children in Iowa, writing collaborative stories with students in Iceland, or sharing video of the class tadpoles with kids from Singapore.
Armed with 20 iPads, my students do a large portion of their work online. They use a variety of educational apps and reflect on their learning using personal blogs and Twitter.
Introducing Twitter to my classroom
I began using Twitter in 2011 for a number of reasons. I was interested in connecting with educators from all over the world and using Twitter as a tool for professional development. I also wanted to expand my thinking and share classroom resources and innovations.
While it was useful to connect with other educators and students, I was doing all the thinking, writing, and composing of tweets. Instead of me tweeting about my classroom, I began thinking about how I could involve my students in tweeting about their learning. I wanted them to create their own meaningful connections with peers, as I had, through a personal learning network.
Last year I decided to create a class Twitter account @MrsWideensClass, where my students were the main contributors.
We began on a Monday with a conversation about Internet safety, which developed into deeper learning about digital citizenship. The initial discussion focused on setting the ground rules for safety and participation. We adopted some key parameters for our classroom Twitter use. We use only first names on Twitter; we connect only to classes and people who add value to our learning; every tweet is approved by an adult before publishing; and Twitter is only used as a tool for learning. Constructing these parameters together gave students ownership of their learning, while incorporating guidelines for safe and responsible use.
We then focused on who we were writing for, what we would write about, who we would follow and why. We were selective about the people we decided to follow. Besides other classes like us, schools and educators from around the globe, we follow some specific individuals that may be experts in their field. Last year Commander Chris Hadfield mesmerized us with his images, experiments, and messages from the International Space Station.
What Twitter looks like in the classroom
Teaching students to tweet is a gradual process. At the beginning of the year, I modelled by showing my students my professional Twitter account and what I tweeted about. I then introduced them to the class Twitter account. We began