How to Tweet with Intent

By: Jennifer Armstrong, Stacie Pettit


Social media use in the classroom helps us meet students where they are and connect with them in a meaningful way. Social media technology can motivate students while teaching them crucial 21st century skills and addressing several This We Believe characteristics, including:

  • Educators use multiple learning and teaching approaches.
  • Curriculum is challenging, exploratory, integrative, and relevant.
  • The school actively involves families in the education of their children.

In the classroom, social media use must be intentional, but many teachers do not know where to begin. Let’s look at three main areas: content connections, Twitter tools to manage content, and tools to simulate social media if Twitter is blocked at your school.

Content Connections

You can easily adapt social media to meet your objectives and standards. Following are some examples of how you might use Twitter to address Common Core State Standards in mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies. The standard is followed by sample activities.

CCSS.Math.7.G.A.3. Describe the 2-dimensional figures that result from slicing 3-dimensional figures, as in plane sections of right rectangular prisms and right rectangular pyramids.

  • Tweet a picture of a 3-dimensional figure to your classmate(s). Include a description of a 2-dimensional figure that would be formed by slicing the 3-D figure.
  • Reply to a classmate’s tweet with another description of a 2-dimensional figure formed by slicing the 3-D figure.

CCSS.Math.Content.7.RP.A.2.b. Identify the constant of proportionality (unit rate) in tables, graphs, equations, diagrams, and verbal descriptions of proportional relationships.

  • Tweet a verbal description of a proportional relationship, such as “$20 for 4 pizzas.”
  • Reply to classmate’s tweet with the unit rate of their proportional relationship.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

  • Choose a specific character in a story and tweet in the “voice” of the character. Respond to classmates’ tweets to create a dialogue.
  • Tweet a haiku.
  • Tweet about a current event.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.2.d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

Post a series of tweets that explain…

  • Steps to solving an equation.
  • Causes of the Revolutionary War.
  • Happenings during an experiment.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.2. Grades 6-8 Science Literacy. Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Tweet a summary of…

  • A newspaper weather report.
  • A chosen online article related to a science concept from the current unit.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.9. Grades 6-8 Social Studies Literacy. Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

  • Create a Storify (http://storify.com) in which you compare primary and secondary sources on a topic.
  • Tweet comparisons and contrasts among primary and secondary sources. For example, read a transcribed version of “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass (http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/what-to-the-slave-is-the-fourth-of-july) and compare this speech to similar information from the Wall Street Journal article by Andrew S. Bibby (www.wsj.com/articles/andrew-bibby-what-to-the-slave-is-the-fourth-of-july-1404342530) (login required).

Here are a few more of our favorite social media activities. Use these as a starting point, then create your own to fit your students’ specific needs.

  • Create class Facebook pages for parent communication and community building.
  • Tweet or Instagram a picture of a completed activity.
  • Tweet additional resources, such as videos and blogs.
  • Tweet or Instagram pictorial examples of vocabulary.

Twitter Tools

There are many ways to find tweets on a specific topic or to gather student submissions via Twitter. Here are some of our preferred Twitter tools to search tweets by a specific topic or hashtag.

  • TweetBeam (http://tweetbeam.com) helps you visualize tweets. When you visit TweetBeam, you may enter a hashtag or topic. UseTweetBeam to follow a class brainstorming session by searching by your class hashtag. The TweetBeam screen is a wall of profile pictures of users who have tweeted using the searched-for hashtag or subject matter; every few seconds a different tweet displays. Sign into TweetBeam to create a TweetBeam show with a specific hashtag.
  • Tagboard (http://tagboard.com) aggregates tweets, Instagram, Google Plus, and Facebook posts. Tagboard is searchable by hashtag. No login is required to use Tagboard, however, if you sign up for the free account you may embed your
  • Tagboard in your classroom website or blog.
  • Storify (http://storify.com) allows you to create your own digital newspaper using social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and Instagram. You may search the various social media sites from one place, then drag individual posts into stories. You may then re-order the stories and add additional comments. Storify is a good way for students to display their research.

Alternatives to Traditional Social Media

Before beginning to use social media in the classroom, check to see whether your district has a social media policy. The most obvious hurdle to overcome is blocked sites. Other concerns to take into account include cyberbullying, as well as legal, ethical, and privacy issues. The following tools allow teachers and students to reap the benefits of social media while overcoming the barriers.

  • Two tools that simulate Facebook and Twitter are from Classtools.net: Fakebook and Twister. Fakebook provides a way for students to create a Facebook-like page for a historical or fictional character. Twister provides a platform for students to write a “fake tweet” that can printed or linked on the classroom website or blog.
  • Backchannels are an easy way to simulate a social media environment. Two backchannel platforms that are especially friendly to education are Today’s Meet (http://todaysmeet.com) and 81 Dash (http://81dash.com). Both tools provide options for students and teachers to post short messages that display in a stream.

For even more ideas, see our complete presentation from the AMLE Annual Conference, including links on getting started with Twitter, at http://goo.gl/AC5zec.


Jennifer Armstrong, a former middle school math teacher, is the manager of the Instructional Resource Center at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Georgia.
jearmstrong@gru.edu
@itsjarmstrong

Stacie Pettit is a professor of teacher education at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Georgia.
spettit@gru.edu
@pettitstacie


Published in AMLE Magazine, April 2015.

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