Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Technology in the Classroom: Using Twitter in the Literature Classroom, Part 1

Many of today's teachers are trying to find ways to incorporate technology into their classrooms in fun and creative ways. Why not?  From etexts to school websites to topic wikis to educational social sites like Edmodo, technology and education are becoming increasingly more interconnected.

How can teachers utilize technology in the modern classroom to help students really connect with course content? Social media sites like Twitter can be valuable classroom tools that instructors can easily use to further any lesson, but teachers need to be careful about how they use such tools.

Teach Students to Be Responsible with Technology

Just because today's students are part of the "App generation," doesn't mean someone taught them how to responsibly use technology. Teachers need to make sure students know how to use technology in a safe and professional way if they want to utilize it as a tool in the classroom.

Impart to your students the importance of safety and professionalism when using technology. It is up to you to determine what you consider to be the key aspects of this importance.

For instance, I will help my students understand that while fun, social media can be dangerous, both personally and professionally. Students need to know not to give their personal or private information out and to not post things that are defaming to themselves or others; you never know who is going to be looking at your page/feed, be it a future boss or a potential predator.

To help them remember to be responsible, I will give my students this techno rule of thumb: if you wouldn't want a convict or your grandmother to see it, don't post it.

Why is teaching safety important?

You always want to make sure your students are safe in your classroom, even from potential dangers on social media sites. Also, if you allow students to access social media in your classroom and something happens - they post inappropriate updates/pictures, they make contact with a potential dangerous "friend," etc. - you may be liable for the outcome.

How can teachers avoid this issue?

As part of teaching students to be safe and professional with technology, have them create a new Twitter account that they only use for professional things, i.e. education posts, following potential career feeds, etc. Make it an expectation that they are only allowed to use Twitter during designated instructional time and that they are only allowed to use their "professional" Twitter account.

Twitter in the Literature Classroom?

While Twitter can be a useful tool for teachers in every discipline, it is especially useful for teachers of literature and writing. Below are a few ideas on how you can use Twitter as a tool in your literature classroom.

1. Creating a Twitter haiku

Because tweets have a 140-character count limit, Twitter is the perfect platform to have your students create a haiku or another type of short poem. The character limit makes users really focus on what they are saying and how they are saying it. Here is an example:

"A Twitter haiku/A tiny Internet thought/That people enjoy #haiku"

2. Role playing

A creative and fun idea for using Twitter in the literature classroom is having each student pick a different fictional character and pretend to be that character all day. Students could post as much as they do on their private Twitter accounts, but they have to remember to stay in character. Examples for a student who chooses Elizabeth Bennet from Austen's Pride and Prejudice:

"Just met the cutest boy. Too bad he is a snob. #supercute #justmyluck #smarterthanhimanyway"
"So found out today my missing little sister ran off and married my evil, one-time crush #isthisreallife #awkward #awkwardfamilyholidays"
"This man just proposed to me and insulted me in the same sentence. #snob #inyourdreams"

Want a more structured, direct approach for this idea? Check out this lesson plan.

3. Write microreviews of movies and books

Like the haiku exercise, students who write microreviews of movies and books have to pay close and careful attention to style and their use of language. An example of a microreview for Great Expectations by Charles Dickens:

"charlesdickens: Orphan given £££ by secret follower. He thinks it’s @misshavisham but it turns out to be @magwitch"

Want to read this and other cool examples of microreviews? Go here.

4. Post supplementary materials

Ever come across information at home that you think your students could greatly benefit from? Share it instantly on Twitter! Have students follow your professional Twitter account so they can see when you post links to awesome supplementary materials for your course. 

Remember: encourage your students to only communicate with you on Twitter via public tweets. The private nature of Direct Messages (DMs) makes them a questionable form of communication between you and your students. You want to keep everything out in the open for everyone to see.

5. Tweet reactions to books and movies as they read/watch

Many of us react strongly to the various plot points that come up in books or movies (I often gasp, laugh, or rage very loudly while reading a book or watching a film). Chances are, our students do to. 

Have students post their initial reactions to a text on Twitter. Then, after students have finished the text, have them look back at their tweets and discuss how their interpretation of the story line/characters changed as more elements were revealed. 

This could be a very useful exercise for a variety of things from teaching students to focus closely on a text to helping students discover how good authors build suspense to showing students how the reader's reaction to various elements can affect the overall reading of a text. This method is only limited by the teacher's creativity in assigning it.

Information Source

Image Sources
Twitter logo: www.muzeumniepodleglosci.poznan.pl/upload/editor/admin/Image/twitter_muzeum_powstania_wielkopolskiego.png
Twitter Jailbird: http://lawrencewray.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/twitter-mistakes.jpg
Darcy meme: http://www.readbreatherelax.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/mr-darcy-meme-2.jpg

No comments: