On Tuesday I participated in my first edchat on Twitter. The topic was Social Media in the classroom. I found out about it from a tweet from a colleague (you may want to follow her at @janaslindsay). She tweeted about ‘SM’ in the classroom and her tweets had the hashtag #edchat. I decided to go to twitterfall.com and see what was going on. I pulled up #edchat and immediately a stream of tweets cascaded down the screen. I needed to read a few of the tweets before I could put the SM into context and realize that it was Social Media. I read the tweets go by and then decided to join the conversation.
The discussion that was happening was amazing. There were people there from all over the world (I tweeted back and forth a bit with someone from England). There were also people from different areas in education: administration, industry, K-12 teachers, and post-secondary.
Topics that came up were:
The parental role in Social Media
How/If/Why School boards block Social Media sites
Using Twitter in the classroom
How to backchannel during classes
Using Social Media in the primary grades.
One presiding theme was that of changing the view of Social Media from the fringe to the mainstream: if we as teachers like using social media, then why can’t (or how) this translate into the classroom? Our students like SM more if not the same as we do. It was an amazing experience to converse with other like-minded teachers. It also felt great when I said something ‘smart’ enough to be retweeted!
Twitterfall is a great way to backchannel discussions, professional development, meetings, etc. I came upon twitterfall at one of our District PD days where we had 3 worksites connected through our video conferencing units. Each worksite also had twitterfall projected on a screen to the side with hashtag #ccsdpd. People in the meetings were engaged in the discussions 3 ways: in house, via videoconference, and through Twitter. It was powerful and for many teachers at the sites it was their first experience with Twitter.
So why twitterfall as opposed to other twitter clients such as Tweetdeck or the regular Twitter.com? Twitterfall is easy to use. Go to twitterfall.com, enter your twitter credentials, and enter the hashtag. The tweets ‘fall’ down the centre of the screen in a linear format. Only tweets with the hashtag you enter begin the fall. Twitterfall searches all tweets with the hashtag, not just your contacts. Unlike tweetdeck, which too can stay live and updated, there is only one column. Distractions are at a minimum and the screen layout lends itself well to projection resolution. You can also adjust the speed at which the tweets fall if they are coming in too fast.
How this would work in a middle years classroom? I was doing some searching for hashtags in the classroom, and most of the sites that I came upon dealt with teachers and teacher training via twitter hashtags. There really were not many hashtags that could be used in the middle years classroom.
The most comprehensive site I came upon was cyberman.com (http://www.cybraryman.com/edhashtags.html). It is not a fancy site, but it is comprehensive.
I seem to come back to this resonant theme of cascading technology; first from higher education, to senior K-12, middle years, and so on. I believe that backchannel twitter and the use of hashtags is still in its infancy in the K-12 classroom. I look forward to pioneering some of this with my students this fall. Who knows? Maybe one of them will invent the next big hashtag!
I created the opening graphic on wordle.com.