using Twitter as a teaching tool?!
Can teachers use Twitter as a teaching tool in the classroom?
This was the question I asked myself when I created my account as part of my online experiment. Prior to this moment, I was not convinced that Twitter was something I needed in my life. I mean, how many social media platforms does a single person need? But as I was entering the interwebs on a grand scale, I thought - give it a go, you can always delete it.
So @schoolancient was born. I only follow education or ancient history related accounts (yes, Legonium is a valid ancient history site - check them out @tutubuslatinus - its fabulous what they do with lego!) and academics who I admire from afar (@wmarybeard and @holland_tom). Then I was told (thank you Carly Damen from Monash University) that I could embed twitter into Blackboard which is the virtual learning environment and course management system we use at school.
This was a light bulb moment! How could I use twitter in the classroom?
@schoolancient 's twitter feed was loaded on to the homepage of each of my senior ancient history classes on Blackboard. Here, the students can see what I have posted and what I have retweeted that may be of interest to them. Additionally, I created separate pages for various #tags so the students could search for specific topics.
How do I hope to use it? Well, since joining twitter and following the range of twitter handles that I follow, I have realised how much great academic material is out there. This is as close as you can get to asking an Oxford or Cambridge professor a direct question; or using material that a practicing archaeologist just posted about the site they are excavating. This material is priceless for teachers in classrooms on the other side of the world. It can be used to show students what is happening in the field right now and that ancient history is still alive and being actively discussed on twitter (not always politely, I might add!)
It can also be another search tool for students. By creating individual tags in Blackboard, students can search material that I think is appropriate for their research, access useful readings or read about how to further develop their writing and analytical skills.
This was my hope.
So, full of enthusiasm about this exciting new idea, I introduced @schoolancient to my classes and asked: who has Twitter?
It seems Twitter is not used by the students in high school. Not only did they not use it, they didn't really show much interest in knowing how to use it. Disheartened.
I continued to follow exciting new accounts and post articles on my feed. I got the odd like and occasional retweet. I was starting to think I was alone out there........
But then this: Ms O'Neill, I clicked on the #tag for Stonehenge but only Machu Picchu appeared. Can you please fix the link so I can search Twitter for Stonehenge material for my assignment? New hope.
And then this: Ms O'Neill, I joined Twitter, can you please like my twitter page? More than encouraging.
Then I hit pay dirt! As a result of a couple of replies to my favourite academics, my tweets were liked and retweeted! Suddenly, my comments were being recognised by the the authors of the actual books my students were using in their assignments! General excitement in the classroom.
So, has twitter worked as a tool in my classroom? To be honest, I think it is too early to tell. It has only been available on Blackboard for 8 weeks and while both my classes have had research assignments this term, I am not sure they have embraced the twitter feed as a tool - yet! For many years, I was dubious about the usefulness of twitter. But as I have used @schoolancient to engage with the global ancient history community, I must admit that I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I have learned about history. But more importantly, I have realised just how much ancient history is alive and well and lighting up twitter feeds around the world!
post script: no apologies made for the shameless and unpaid plugging of various twitter handles...... but I encourage you to check out their feeds!