Twitter Politics

I have often said that Twitter has a reputation problem and recent events have brought that to mind.  I have been a defender of this wonderful social media tool for a long while and still believe that it is a profoundly powerful tool for professionals such as teachers.  I have countless stories to tell of how using Twitter has provided me with the right answer at the right time, with examples of connected learning, and even a supply of informative and fun news feeds. Students and teachers with whom I have worked have had wonderful interactions that really enhanced their learning.

I often hear the “I don’t want to hear what so and so had for lunch or what that silly celebrity did last night”.   I get that ! Neither do I !  I tell people that all social media tools are customisable, we select who we follow and should regularly and judiciously click the Unfollow button.

Recent Tweets by the newly elected President of the United States, have me seriously wondering and indeed, concerned.   News articles are often published citing quite major policy decisions that have been announced on Twitter and I really wish that Twitter was not being used for that purpose.    Obviously due to the stature of the office held, tweets from a President, get a large degree of attention, retweets and quotes in other press outlets.

I don’t want important government announcements made in this forum.  We all know the limitations of 140 characters and I don’t think this is the correct communication tool for such work.  Twitter has it’s purposes but in my personal opinion, I do wish that major leaders did not use the forum in this manner.  If it is possible to be old-fashioned in this relatively new sphere of communication, I think I am!  I want to hear important policy announcements and the thoughts of our world leaders distributed in other forums than social media.  Perhaps things are just evolving as I know communication does, but it makes me uncomfortable, it seems to trivialise things that are not trivial at all.

It would appear that over 24 million followers disagree with me.  What do you think ?




‘Tweeting’ our way to Reading and Writing

Young children cannot use social media on their own. That does not mean they cannot use it, guided by their teacher as a great way to share their learning and to develop their literacy skills along the way.

A wonderfully rich experience in junior classrooms is the experience of witnessing chickens hatch and grow.  Teachers garner so many opportunities – in viewing and observing, language vocabulary, maths, not to mention the sense of awe watching a living creature grow.  Nowadays, that learning does not have to stay inside the classroom and through technology, the experience can be broadened and extended. What would you prefer?  Your student completing a written journal of the growth of a chick that is never seen by anyone except the teacher, has no interactions or … the written journal (for the personal task) AND this shared experience with their class ? 

tweet 5tweet 4tweet 1
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The students are observing, questioning, reading and writing, just as they would without the technology, but with the added value of a real audience, others involved to share it with and extend their thinking.  Questions and affirmations from other stakeholders in their learning – an audience that provides a true purpose to construct replies and articulate their understandings as well as just the fun of sharing the excitement!

The journey is recorded in a digital format, available to be shared with families, the rest of the school and used in many other ways.  

Let’s tell a story – Let’s build a story : Social media in schools


I have had some interesting conversations recently about school’s use of social media.  Opinions range from the very hesitant and quite wary to very positive and amazingly enthusiastic.  I have read articles about the downturn in interest in Twitter, the swaying audience of other tools. They are good conversations and ones I hope to extend by sharing here.

My conversations with teachers usually steer towards the particular tools;  Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc and then a discussion around the purpose behind the activity.   The intended consequences are varied but quite easy to define, but it seems that the unintended ones, or the fear of them, are what become the roadblocks to what I have experienced as a wonderful gateway to connections.

There are people much better trained in communication strategies than me but what is clear to me, is that whatever the tool we are using, we are talking about communication and in most cases relationship building.  The intended audience will in many ways determine the best tool – who are we trying to connect with and for what purpose? are we intending to broadcast news or promote interaction and feedback?

In today’s world of immediate access to information and news, some older methods of communicating with our communities are becoming defunct or redundant.  A weekly printed newsletter is not enough for most of of our parent communications and it will never connect our students to other stakeholders in their learning in the way online communications can.

I maintain and am convinced that if we expose students to the concept and reality of working in a space that is not limited by their physical surroundings, that we are doing them a great service.  Our access to information is 24/7 and global and so too should be our learning experiences.

In this short interview, Stephen Heppell is asked for advice to using Social media and my precis is as follows:

  1. Turn on your common sense
  2. Acknowledge that ‘acceptable’ behaviour is the same online as face to face
  3. Research and then trial your own pathway

Listening to Stephen, I heard “Let’s tell a story – Let’s build a story” and it struck me that it is the building part people need to focus on.    As a school, we have been using Twitter along side an extensive blogging program for quite some time and I believe we are building our story as a consequence.  Different things are happening as a consequence of being connected via social media. Some of the benefits include:

  • affirmation of teacher practice through feedback from local and global peers
  • drawing on a much wider field of resources
  • deepening of experiences by sharing them with other stakeholders
  • exposing our students other ways to find answers to questions
  • immediate sharing of school events
  • we all experience the value of a wider audience for our thinking and the interactions that occur as a consequence
  • modelling connected learning

I am very aware that the concept of an online Professional Learning network is entrenched in many people’s lives, but it still does not appear to be the norm and all I can say is that I think that those not involved are missing out.

Note:  School based Twitter account @slblackburnsth is managed by teachers only as our students are Under 13.  The students contribute ideas and text that is published by staff in a modelling process.  

Relevant further reading:  

Why are Schools spooked by Social Media 

Forget coding – we need to teach kids about digital citizenry  (although I don’t agree about forgetting coding)

Thanks again to Sylvia Duckworth for once again synthesising ideas into such a wonderful format and Amanda Ronin.

Postscript (Jan 2016) :

Since writing this, I found this post by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano which encapsulates this topic much better than mine.


Twitter+Storify = Learning & Sharing & Curating

Last Monday a group of our students attended an excursion in our city. They visited the Immigration Museum and explored many exhibitions and wandered the city noting historical changes.

The experience was well documented by the Tweeting teachers as well as the Museum Educators (@MvTeachers) .  Anyone watching from afar was well informed and connected to what was happening throughout the day.

The Tweets were then curated into a Storify – capturing a timeline of the events and enhanced by the ability to add relevant weblinks.

Back at school, the Storify became a journal of the days events, shared on the class blogs.  It was also used to enable a de-brief of the day before the students began unpacking the ideas they explored.  It can be edited to show the follow up and further aspects of the learning.


A tool that I once saw from one light only (capturing a series of Tweets), I now see with a broader lens.

 I wonder how else it might enhance our learning?