First, let me admit that I am not a very social person. I struggle and feel awkward in social situations. You would think Social Media would not be my thing, but I have jumped in full bore into social media as a teaching tool. It's engaging. It teaches skills for the 21st century. (digital citizenship, social marketing) It can be harnessed to teach historical perspective, have discussions, inform parents, collaborate, and just generally bring the level of engagement up.
Honestly, learning to use Twitter was my one big take away from grad school. I was fairly advanced technology wise when I started my Masters in instructional technology, so many of the things in the program were things that came easy or I already knew. I had not really dipped my toe in to to Twitter. Grad school changed all of that. It showed me the vast network of teachers and resources Twitter has. I also figured out hashtags which opens up a whole new avenue of student assignments and resources.
Up until this year, I have always been scared of the possibility of Twitter and social media assignments in class. My school district is the type that says if we see you cell phone it is punishable by death. I hate that feeling, but I have done my best to comply. They are softening that stance though, and have said that devices can be used for classroom purposes this year. It took me till second semester, but I finally said screw it. I added a Twitter based assignment to my list of options that students can complete. Really this was the test flag, and it has been a resounding success.
I started with Tweet as a Historical Figure. The basic parameters are that students create an account for a historical figure and they then Tweet like it would be that persons live Twitter account. This was just one assignment in a group that students could choose from, but it has been by far the most popular. Students love the use of social media, and by completing their assignment they are learning multiple skills. They are learning how to summarize (140 characters is not much), they are learning historical perspective, and they are also working with an increasingly popular tool.
If I am in the classroom next year (hoping I might be in ed tech), I am going to increase our options for social media based assignments. They are just to engaging, and I have had no problems related to students using them in an inappropriate way. Some of my ideas include getting students to live blog an event as a historical figure through Tumblr, Have them create a fake Facebook page for a historical figure, have student historical figure conversations, have them interview a historical figure through Twitter, have them connect with a historian and ask them 5 questions while also anticipating response, and have them live tweet a historical event.
Twitter can also be a powerful tool for both student and parent communication, student discussions, and things such as free response questions. Really there are loads of possibilities. You just have to get creative. So think about it this way, you are being creative and letting kids explore. Isn't that what we want education and teachers to be?