Making Twitter work for your students

Posted by: Megan McPherson, Project Manager, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

Megan tweets for the Not a Waste of Space Project @NaWoS and personally @MeganJMcPherson. The tomtom tweets @teachingtomtom.

Greater Blue-eared Starling
(cc) Flickr, Rodrigo Sala, 2009.

Late last semester, Dr Narelle Lemon presented her research on using Twitter in her pre-service Education classes for the first of the New Learning Spaces Research Network. We tweeted with the hashtag #NLSRh and you can find the full Storify of the presentation here.

There are over 3 million Australian Twitter accounts (and over 500 million across the world). Twitter’s use in educational contexts (K-12, TAFE and HE) as a tool that facilitates collaborative approaches to professional learning is recognised in the approach taken by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. If you haven’t got on to Twitter yet, they would be a good place to start because of the wide range of learning and teaching resources that they tweet. Follow them: @aitsl.

Narelle used Twitter with her Education students within the framework of her curriculum that incorporates visual art practices in the teaching of all school subjects.

Twitter is a tool that allows Narelle a space to support student learning in the realms of:

  • professional practice
  • communication, networking and communities of practice
  • the prevalence (and pitfalls) of social media in schools.

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More broadly, Narelle quickly realised the need to teach her cohort about the notion of a  ‘digital footprint’ for all users of social media.

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Narelle spoke about how her students thought about using Twitter in their personal lives. She wanted to change a common perception about social media and capitalised on transferring social media skills from a personal domain to a professional one. Narelle was keen to realign their use of Twitter in this aspect to be about their professional learning as practicing teachers. Updating skills, knowledge and application in teaching practice through communication and networking within and outside students’ course, school and practice boundaries are essential qualities to success in the profession.

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Narelle emphasised the role she plays in her class in scaffolding and modelling aspects of using social media. This included using different devices including phones and tablets. Most importantly, she described her experience in scaffolding the notion of a digital footprint to her students as prospective teachers and pre-service teachers in schools on their teaching rounds.

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She emphasized mutual respect, using a professional profile description and appropriate images for students twitter accounts.

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After doing the basics with students, Narelle found that connections were being established between the four class groups on different campuses. Conversations were taking place inside and outside the class within different years of the Education student cohort and connections with established practitioners were being formed.

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Students were able to show their work to each other, research topics, share leads and contacts with each other, and teach each other social media skills.

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Using social media challenged students to consider their online representation but also gave them a digital network to support them in preparation for and during their teaching rounds.

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Narelle used hashtags as identifiers. Students could identify one another easily with the hashtags: #visart12 (2012) #visart13 (2013) as course identifiers. Image

Click here to read more about Narelle’s experiences in using Twitter in her courses.

For RMIT Staff, If you’re thinking about using social media in your course, why not try a DevelopMe course to get you started: Digital Networks: Social Media for Research & Teaching.

Also, RMIT University’s Social Media Policy is useful to check out before you start using Twitter in your class.

Share your thoughts about using Twitter and social media tools in the classroom in the comments!

Recently on the tomtom:

Inclusive Conversation Series

In the first of the conversation series to launch the Inclusive Teaching and Assessment Practices Project, Professor James Arvanitakis’ presentations are now online:

  • Inclusion and Exclusion – personal perspectives as a learner and teacher. In this session James models his practice of using collaborative activities in large spaces. http://rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=nq508c9rbszh1
  • Pirate Pedagogy – Killing your Powerpoints and engaging students – teach like a pirate: http://rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=23f56eiprefh1
  • Inclusive teaching: Strategies using social media – James outlines how innovative pedagogical approaches, such as those using social media, can include those most likely to be excluded while encouraging already advanced students to thrive: http://rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=ljfym4fwv28h1

Please contact the Project Team if you have any questions: http://rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=d4eojzqwyf9

One thought on “Making Twitter work for your students

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