Archive for the ‘twitter’ Category

I have just recently been appointed to the role of principal and began my new leadership role the first day back from the Christmas break in January. After blogging about the use of mobile devices from the perspective of classroom instruction and student learning for over five years, I now find myself considering how these same tools that can be used to help students learn can also be used to strengthen the home-school connection.

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In experimenting with new ideas and practices, I have turned to two of my most trusted tools – my iPhone and Twitter. Immediately after beginning in my new role, I set up a school Twitter account and started tweeting; tweeting images of some of the work our students have produced; tweeting links to resources for parents and community members; tweeting reminders about upcoming school and board events; tweeting updates about bus cancelations after the most recent snow storm. In discussing the purpose of this account with staff, parents and admin colleagues, I have described my use of a school Twitter account as a daily newsfeed between monthly newsletters. I’ve also mentioned that the best part is that I update the Twitter feed from my mobile device so that I can really tweet updates from anywhere.

As Twitter doesn’t compile statistics as a blog would, it’s hard to say just how many people are accessing these tweets. One could look at follower counts but I have expressly stated to the parent community in other communications that the profile is public and one does not need a Twitter account to access tweets. This makes it difficult to know what the depth and breadth of use is after only 5 weeks of tweeting. I would definitely be open to ideas on how I could track traffic.

The other consideration is that this type of use of a social media tool is still really new for schools. While using Twitter as a school communication tool may seem obvious to those who are already engaged in these tools, it may not be so obvious the the wider community who so not use social media tools as often. Building community capacity is part of the work that needs to be done in order to really make the use of social media tools a viable way to communicate with the wider school community. What does help is that Twitter is now a well known tool used by celebrities and traditional media so the task of explaining what Twitter itself is has mostly been taken care of already.

I believe that using Twitter as a school communication tool helps to inspire public confidence in the work that we do everyday with their children. It opens up the school in a way where the community can be updated on a daily basis on the dynamic work that teaching and support staff do with their children that has typically not been communicated well enough in the past.

When I sense that the account has started to become an entrenched tool, I would like to experiment with other communication ideas that use other web tools. What could those be? One idea could be conducting surveys to gauge community sentiment using Google Drive. I know there are many ideas and examples on the web and I look to my PLN on Twitter to point me to interesting examples and ideas.

I am interested in your thoughts and ideas on using mobile tools to increase parent engagement in the school community. Please use the comment box to share. If you are interested in seeing what I am doing with Twitter to communicate with my school community, you can see/follow the school Twitter account here.

It’s been almost 5 years since Twitter came into existence and it has become quite the versatile platform. I remember when I first joined Twitter 4 years ago, there were heckling comments abound about ‘tweeting’ and how people didn’t care to know someone’s ever movement. Since then, and resulting from a series of key improvements to the service, we have a tool that can be shaped and molded to whatever the need may be.

In the case of teacher PD, Twitter can be used as:
– a networking tool to link with other educators to discuss ideas and issues with like minded colleagues around the world
– an information gateway where teachers can stay current with the cutting edge as it happens and is discussed

In the case of instructional uses, Twitter can be used to:
– provide students with a way to connect with each other and other students around the globe to discuss their learning
– create complex learning activities (i.e. students take on the role of an historical figure or character they are learning about and tweet as if they were that person)
– search for current events or search for links to other websites offering information to topics that they are researching

In the case of school communication, Twitter can be used:
– as a communication gateway for teachers and school administrators looking to communicate with their parent community in a new and mobile way
– a place to provide parents with links to resources or supports for their children

The link to mobile learning stems from the very nature of Twitter – that tweets can be viewed on any mobile device using the web app or a native app.  Mobility also stems through the fact that tweets can be posted through an app or even through text messaging. In my humble opinion, Twitter is better suited for mobile devices than other social networks because of it’s messaging feel and because Tweets and Tweeters are searchable and can be grouped (i.e. hashtags, lists). Anyone who has used Twitter and Twitter hashtags to backchannel during a conference or online discussion will know the power of Twitter as a mobile communication tool.

Twitter –  not your average bird. What ideas can you share on the uses of Twitter as a mobile learning platform?

As Aristotle famously pointed out, humans are social and political animals. We have an innate desire to come together in groups or in communities and to gather. In Aristotle’s day, in fact, during the most of the history of humanity, that social and political interaction and group forming took place with those who were in physical proximity to oneself. As all of you already know, technology has added new dimensions of interaction that have changed what it means to be social and political. Technological tools from the telegraph to the telephone, from the television to the Internet, have made distance communication both possible and practical.

So have technological tools changed human interaction? Some argue that online social networks form relationships that are shallow and transient. I would argue that technology has not changed natural human tendancies to be social and political and these relationships, while they may take on a new dimension, would be impossible without technology. One example of using technology tools to develop networks impossible otherwise is the use of Twitter to create and develop a global Professional Learning Network. Often it’s easy for us to forget what tools like Twitter are. They are simply platforms. They are channels by which we can communicate with one another. What we actually use these channels for speaks to who we are as humans. Being social and political animals, we’ve always used all commuication platforms to be social and political. My personal use of Twitter to create a Professional Learning Network speaks more about me the person and not necessarily about the tool itself. Professional Learning Networks existed before Twitter and can exist outside of Twitter. What these platforms do, however, is allow one to be social and political with those outside of one’s physical proximity. That was true of the telegraph and is true of the telephone, television and communication platforms on the Internet.

Humans will do what humans have always done; namely, to take advantage of whatever tool one had and use it to one’s benefit. Humans are tool-makers and it is this attribute that sets us apart from all others living creatures on earth. The power of using today’s digital tools is that it allows a community of like-minded individuals to communicate on the go. As I type this blog post on my mobile device at various locations on the globe, you may be reading it on you computer at home or on your mobile device away from your home. Either way, the technology has allowed you and I, regardless of whether we have ever met in person, to carry on this dialogue. In essence, that’s what books have always done; namely, to allow individuals to communicate over vast distances of both space and time. The major difference now is that the conversation is two-directional and, as a result, allows for a richer development of ideas.

To continue the conversation, you can follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rdelorenzo

Quentin sent me a link to the Tech Tips for Teachers blog with a blog post on ideas for using Twitter in the classroom.  This post offers some useful ideas in incorporating Twitter and mobile devices in a safe but productive way.  Here are some ideas on using Twitter as a communication tool for schools that incorporate those found in the Tech Tips for Teachers blog post with some of my own:

  • Creating a Twitter account that is used only to post reminders including homework or other due dates and getting students and parents to follow you through that account;
  • Using Twitter to post school or classroom news;
  • Sending information to parents concerning bus cancellations or buses being late;
  • Send messages to inform parents of emergencies quickly;
  • Use privacy settings to ensure only students and parents of your school/class community are following your updates.

Of course, Twitter can be accessed on any mobile that has access to the Internet so parents and students can follow you on their mobile device.  In addition, if mobile devices are used in Canada, The United States, or India, students and their parents can also receive updates via SMS so reminders are never missed and data plans are not required.

Of course, not all parents/students have a mobile phone or use SMS.  However, since penetration rates for cell phones is much higher than it is for computers or the Internet, and since receiving text messages is free on most mobile networks, this form of communication has a greater likelihood of connecting with members of the community and provides a modern and efficient option to connect to members of the school community at no extra cost to anyone involved.