If you are anything like I once was, you saw the title of this article and said, “Yeah, right.” I know; most teachers groan at the mention of Twitter, just knowing how obsessed some of their students are with it. Aren’t we supposed to be trying to get students to abandon social media while they are transfixed on our engaging lessons? Well, try as we might, we know it doesn’t always work. If we can’t stop the kids from “tweeting” while we teach, why don’t we at least try to use Twitter to our advantage?
A Little Birdie Told Me…
My students asked me all the time if I had a Twitter, and I would always reply something like, “No, sorry, I’m not fifteen.” Then I realized something; if they were so interested in me having an account, why didn’t I use this for educational purposes? Therefore, with some help from my class, I created a Twitter that’s sole purpose was to facilitate communication between my students and me. I gave them time in class to log on to their own accounts to “follow me” as soon as I made it, and even just getting the go-ahead to use Twitter in school was exciting for them.
This is the primary principle which many social media advertising companies use today. They bring what customers want, so they would love the brand. Hence, I optimize its use in the class.
Right away, I began tweeting homework assignments. This is so much more convenient than updating a teacher’s website, which I’m sure many of us have. I would keep Twitter open on my computer, and as soon as the words would come out of my mouth, I would tweet what the kids needed to do that night (because let’s be honest- sometimes even we forget which pages we assign which classes for reading). You know that these kids are checking their Twitters every hour or so, so you know that they’ll see the homework assignment. Another awesome advantage of using Twitter for homework is the fact that you can download it to your smartphone. Sometimes on a Sunday, I’d be sitting on the couch and quickly tweet to the kids, “Don’t forget to read tonight!” I’ve been told that these “little bird” reminders have saved some kids from a zero on an assignment.
A Better Connection
In addition to homework, I would sometimes post something profound or funny that was said in class to make the students feel special. I’d also throw in some personal things to help me connect with my students better, like a picture of my cat or a tweet notifying them I was taking a break from grading papers to play video games. Once I posted that I had just finished my Master’s degree, and the next day when I walked into the room the entire class clapped. I was amazed at how interested they were in what I posted and how my tweets opened the doors of communication for us. I felt more bonded to these students than I ever have in other years, and I know it was because we broke down the barrier of “teachers aren’t real people and can’t really relate to us.” Needless to say, this relationship not only led to a newfound respect for me while I was teaching but enormously improved class participation.
I know some of you detest even the thought of using Twitter for school, but just create an account and give it a try. The great thing about it is that students can see what you post, but you never have to see what they write if you don’t “follow” them. This prevents you from seeing anything you don’t want to see about their personal lives and puts you in control. If you hate it, you can always delete your account and we can all pretend like you never succumbed to the trend.