Recently, I’ve been exploring how to incorporate ‘outside of the box’ technology in my Music classroom. We have a Mac Suite, equipped with many a delight, such as GarageBand, Sibelius, Logic, etc. but over the past few months, I have been using various forms of techie ideas/activities to push the boundaries of students’ learning, somewhat (also see previous Google Apps post).
Yesterday, I had a very nice Year 9 class who I knew could handle what I was asking of them: To take part in a Twitter conversation, using an agreed hashtag for our ‘conversation’. Here was the process I went through with them:
- Asked students to explore the pros and cons of using Twitter in the classroom
I felt that this gave them ownership of the activity. They identified what could go wrong with it and they took hold of what they might do with it; exploring possibilities along the way. Some cons identified: “we could be tempted to look at other people’s Twitter feeds and send them messages”, “people might write inappropriate things/post inappropriate links”, “there’s not much space to write” and so on. The pros were nice, with students saying: “it means we get to hear what people think about a topic”, “we can interact with others in a new way”, “we can work independently or collaboratively” , “having only 140 characters helps us get to the point”.
- This linked nicely into setting the ground rules, which the class identified and agreed on: basically, those mentioned in the ‘cons’. Don’t look at famous people’s Twitter feeds; Don’t write inappropriate comments; Respect people’s opinions…. a good behaviour for learning activity.
- Introduced Twitter and what it does
Some students have Twitter accounts, but it was good to show my department’s Twitter feed to use as an example for the students (which, by the way, I had posted their starter activity to, so they had already interacted with it and seen it in the lesson). I then showed them what hashtags can do and asked the class to then reflect on why using specific hashtags was important in this activity. Part of this introduction to Twitter was to get the students who didn’t have a Twitter account, to set one up. This really didn’t take very long.
- Decided on a unique hashtag
We used a tag that would be unique to us as a class, decided by them. It incorporated their class name and the subject. On reflection, this could be something the teacher decides, to save time.
- Off we go!
I set the discussion topic, along the lines of “The music industry is manufactured and fake and cares more about image than music. Class discussion. Go!”
The monitoring of the activity was quite easy as we have Remote Desktop on the Teacher Mac, which means I can see everything they’re doing! It works well as you can send direct messages to their screens, lock their screen, take control of their computer etc. If the students know this, they’re less likely to drift into distraction.
The response was quite overwhelming to see. Students all respected the ground rules and came up with some fantastic responses. You can see some (not all) of their tweets here. (NB: the search engine used there, wixiy.com was built by a student in this class, so was very helpful and provided a list of the tweets for me to print out….I was amazed!)
As you can see, if you read the tweets, one of the History teachers, who I’m working/discussing this work with (@kenradical) joined in on the conversation and added his point of view. This then made the students more engaged!
What I’ll do better/differently next time:
With this activity, it has to be well planned. Also, I recommend choosing a class who will cope well with it – not all classes will, not all year groups will. This is probably a ‘one-off’ activity to do and if it works well, use it in future with the same class/GCSE/A-Level.
My colleague and I reflected on it afterwards and thought about asking ‘experts’ to join in the Twitter conversation. This could be through contacts we have, or approaching Twitter followers that have expertise in the subject you’re discussing. We both have links in the music industry and could ask them to join in – imagine how different the students’ engagement would be if they knew someone ‘famous’ (and real) was joining in?!
Just like any Twitter chat you take part in (#ukedchat, for example), it’s good to see a review of that conversation. I hope to make that available to my students, such as a summary of the discussion. If anyone knows how to do that, I’d love to hear from you!
I’m going to try this with my GCSE class soon and hopefully get someone in on the chat with a bit of expertise.
As ever……….let me know your thoughts and……….watch this space.