Twitterpated: Using Social Networks as Educational Tools
There are many excellent free online resources available to help teachers enhance lessons and appeal to the tech-savvy audience that makes up many of today’s classes. Today I am discussing one category of these resources: social networking tools. Educators are forming connections with one another through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (and MySpace, Google+, Pinterest…the list goes on). Some teachers are choosing to bring these tools and connections to their students as well.
Although integrating any new technology in the classroom can seem scary at first, including social networking tools as instructional aids in the classroom seems like a logical step. After weighing the pros and cons of using social networks in the classroom and determining what is and isn’t allowed in your district, turn to your colleagues at school and online for advice. Remember, the Gateway Facebook and Twitter pages are always open for discussion. We love a lively conversation!
Joann introduces a variety of resources this week for foreign language, ESL, and ELL classrooms. I was particularly intrigued by one of her picks, the Five Minute Twitter Crunch Drill. This simple example of using Twitter to help students practice language skills inspired my post. I think the usefulness of these tools can move far beyond the language classroom. I would love to start a conversation about the topic on our Gateway Facebook and Twitter pages, so please speak up (or I guess I should say, please get typing).
The initial intention of social networks was to link people together socially. As we have seen over recent years, this connection has become big business and these networks have been used to promote businesses and celebrities, bring attention to issues, and even fuel major revolutions. Before I started using Twitter, I was very skeptical of the usefulness of random thoughts (in 140 characters or less) posted by people, most of whom I didn’t even know. Since I joined Twitter and formed connections with many other educators, I have begun to see what a powerful tool it can be in education.
Using Twitter and Facebook has become an outlet for me to be a contributing member of a worldwide community of educators. Instead of tossing ideas around with a group of teachers at one school, I can toss around ideas with teachers around the world. Educators are creating worldwide PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) to support one another and be a part of 24/7 professional development. Go to Twitter and search for #edchat to see an example of the type of valuable discussions going on every week. The value of social networking for educators is a topic I could write about a lot longer, but I will save that for another post. This week, I want to focus more on the ways social networking can enter the classroom as a tool for students.
The first resource I mentioned was intended for a language classroom. There are a few other creative ways to incorporate social networking tools in a language classroom. It could be really fun to create serial stories, called “twittories” where 140 tweets of 140 characters or less come together to create a story. Although participating in this original project might not be feasible, all the students in the class can contribute to a story through Twitter using your own hashtag (which is a code preceded by a #, entered with your tweet so people will be able to follow the progress of the story. In a foreign language classroom, students write their entries in that language. If your school’s rules or filters prevent you from using Twitter, you could adapt this activity to work without Twitter. Just allow each student 140-character entries each time it’s their turn to add to the story. Compressing thoughts into 140 characters is an interesting and challenging exercise!
The best way to learn a new language is to use it, in writing and speaking, as often as possible. Students can embrace this opportunity with the worldwide connectivity offered through social networking. Can you set your students up to have conversations with native speakers on Twitter? What about Facebook friends from other countries, a kind of modern pen pal? Maybe your class could Skype with people that speak the language fluently. What fun ways to really use the language they are learning. Look at this powerpoint presentation for some more facts and interesting ideas about using Facebook in a French language classroom.
One post is not nearly long enough to introduce the variety of ways to use social media in the classroom. If you have used social media as a backchannel note-taking tool, a conversation tool, or a student or teacher networking tool, please let us know what you thought. For more ideas, please search the all-new Gateway. My searches for “Twitter” and “Social Network” yielded some great ideas. My search for “Facebook” found another one I want to share: “Using Facebook with Literature.”
I could go on, but I hope you go to the Gateway yourself and see what you can find. The new redesign of the site will allow you to sign in through your Facebook account (for free, like always), and once you sign in, you will be able to search, bookmark your favorite resources, comment on resources, and search for resources that will cover the specific state standards you need to cover. When you find a resource you like, be sure to look in the right-hand column to see related resources in the section titled “more like this.” Good luck, and happy searching!