Looking for a great way to engage students in a blended learning environment? Consider setting up a district-wide Twitter chat where students can discuss relevant topics and issues. That is exactly what seven teachers in New Zealand have done with their Kidsedchatnz project. Through the use of Twitter and a blog, these educators have been able to get kids interested in learning by using the kinds of social media technologies they encounter in their lives outside of school every day. The program was created in 2012 and offers a great blueprint for teachers looking to institute a similar program in their own school or district.
Once a week, for an hour, New Zealand students use Twitter to discuss five to ten questions that focus on a particular topic. Using a flipped classroom model, teachers first post the discussion questions on the Kidsedchatnz and give students the opportunity to prepare their answers to the questions outside of class. Then, when they are in school, they have the opportunity to share their responses with other students over Twitter. After the Twitter chat, one tweet is highlighted as being the best response in the session. This kind of recognition encourages students to provide high-quality tweets.
Adapting the model
This model is easily adapted to many classrooms though it will take a bit of organization to set up. The two main parts of the Twitter chat are going to be a blog, where you post the week’s discussion questions and any updates or accolades, and a Twitter account that hosts the actual chat. You can connect all your students through Twitter by setting up a list to which they can apply for membership. As the moderator, you have ultimate say over who is included in the list, allowing you to block any spammers.
Collaborate with the other teachers in your school to get their students on board as well. When it comes to a Twitter chat, the more the merrier, though it may be wise to begin with a small trial run before scaling up to the whole school.
Benefits of using Twitter
Allowing students to interact with each other over Twitter teaches many valuable skills. First, it will develop their reading and writing skills as they respond to the discussion questions. In addition, this activity opens the door for discussions about Internet ethics and proper online conduct. Finally, familiarity with digital tools is a valuable skill in today’s workplace. In short, there is much to be gained by instituting a student Twitter chat in your school.