The Twitteracy Project (TTP) 1: The Tweet Heard ‘Round the World

Wow – a single Tweet from Will with a link here brought something like 60 unique hits. Now I feel obligated to actually go through with this! (I kid, I kid)

I think the best way to start this off is with a clear statement of what this classroom implementation of Twitter is (or should be) in my mind, but also what it isn’t intended to be. Also, a clarification: in “The Twitteracy Project”, the project is my integration of the tool (Twitter) into the existing course. There is not an assessable Twitter project the kids will be working on. Just wanted to clear that up.

To borrow an old education axiom, I’m just trying out another tool in my toolbox. I’m not going to shoehorn all my class assignments into a Twitter-shaped hole, nor will I expect all writing assignments to be done in under 140 characters. This is just one part of the overall course entity, and one that I think my text-happy kids will enjoy. I cannot stress this strongly enough: this is an experiment. While I have objectives, methodologies, and hypotheses, I can’t say what the end result will be. The only guarantee I can give is that I am invested in this project for reasons I’ll outline below, and I will work my hardest to guide it toward success, because success for this project means benefit for my students. Here’s what I’m thinking as far as educational objectives:

SWBAT (Students Will Be Able To) create and contribute to a cohesive classroom community
SWBAT use the classroom community as an educational resource outside the classroom
SWBAT engage in a social learning environment outside of the classroom
SWBAT utilize an online communication tool to facilitate group communication when necessary
SWBAT exercise creativity in communicating information within specific restraints
SWBAT build upon existing technological proficiencies (e.g., cell phone texting) to learn new proficiencies (still struggling with the wording of this one; I hope the point is clear enough)
SWBAT explore related resources and draw parallels to core texts

Note that Twitter doesn’t play into things until the 4th objective. In my mind, this is less about tech and more about community. One of the best classes I’ve ever taught was an Honors British Lit class about a year and a half ago. At the risk of overusing the word, there was a strong sense of connectedness and community: the kids talked (and argued) with each other about the class after school, and they helped each other with the readings and the assignments (in a good way!). The kids and I connected outside of class as well as in class, and there was a sense that the relationships forged there were bigger than the class itself. In another class about four years ago, my students were faced with a project they created themselves (long story), and it’s fair to say they bit off way more than they could chew in the amount of class time we had left in the year. To their credit, most kids, including those who normally weren’t highly motivated students, came in before school, after school, and on weekends to work on this, under my or my co-teacher’s supervision. By the end, they had not only completed their project, but done such an exemplary job that the components of it have been on public display at the school ever since.

These classes came together from across social cliques and socioeconomic groups, committed to a/the cause. I’m not proposing that signing kids up for Twitter accounts will bring the magic automatically, but I’m wondering to what degree that out-of-class engagement helps kids become self-motivated and self-directed learners, and to what degree Twitter can help that along.

Becoming proficient at Twitter is not the point; developing the community is. Twitter is just one tool of many I plan to use to get us there. Other classroom activities and assessments (not all of them computer-based, believe it or not), as well as the tone I help to set as the instructional guide/co-learner (because yes, I’ll be learning along with them throughout all this; that’s the whole point) will also help get us to that goal.

This is too long already. Next time, I’ll address Bud’s and Paul’s quite valid concerns about Twitter for the sake of Twitter (which I hope I’ve done to some extent already) and some specific applications I’ve been thinking of, as well as my game plan for getting kids all Twittered up while staying safe. My plan for measuring this project’s success will also come a little later down the line.

As always, your feedback is appreciated as this all continues to gel in my mind.


  • damian –

    first, good luck on this! like some others, i’ll be looking forward to seeing what sort of progress you make on this.

    question: how many of your students do you think already regularly use twitter?

    related doubt: dan meyer expresses it succinctly here:

    reason for hope: seems like you have the correct view, that twitter is a way to extend the classroom time and expand the social community. if it takes too much time to teach and you can do it better w’ paper/pencil, you should just scrap it.

    random unasked for thought/brainstorm: how about you assign each student a daily tweet? something like a daily current event article or opinion paper. no idea how this could work, as i don’t use twitter/pounce/jaiku.

    my ramble continues: weekly, not daily, twitter activity, to take less of the time pressure off. one student / set of students leads / moderates by tweeting a statement & question. rest of class must answer by the end of the week. moderating student(s) choose the best answer.

    should start out non-academic, just to get students used to twitter / the format. eg, what’s the silliest outfit you ever saw?


    hope you enjoyed this suddenly long comment!

    i’m enjoying reading what you’re up to.


  • Hey Jeff – Got another post on this coming later today, but figured I’d hit some of your questions here.

    Don’t know how many are current Twitterers; of course, that’s one of the first questions I’ll ask of them (I don’t get them til a week from today).

    Dan’s point is well-taken, but one of the draws of this technology is the ease of setup and use. I can’t see this taking exceptionally long to teach them how to use, and the potential payoff for engagement down the line makes it a worthwhile (minimal) investment of time (of course, if it does take forever, or they don’t get it, I’ll need to re-evaluate).

    Also, in that conversation you linked, there was talk of meeting standards. Media literacy (including digital media/Internet) is one of the major NJ Core Content Curriculum Standards for English, so I feel I can safely get my kids online and looking around while still addressing the state mandates.

    Not sure about the daily tweet idea; maybe weekly (or semi-regularly; still not sure how I feel about instituting a regimented schedule yet). I think your idea of a student-led tweet is a good one; I’ll tuck it away for later contemplation.

    I really want to be careful in how I roll this out. I want there to be a sense of community outside of class, but I don’t want them to feel that I’m totally encroaching on their at-home time. It’ll be a delicate line to walk, but I don’t see how I’m planning to do this as being any more of an encroachment than their (almost) nightly reading homework.

    Totally with you on the silly intro tweets, just to get their feet wet. To build upon, maybe a scavenger hunt to have them tweet back links to something? I can see this being most useful when it comes to their research projects.

    Thanks for these thoughts & questions; in blogging about this (as opposed to just doing it without an audience), I’m hoping for feedback that can help me shape this, as well as maybe providing a resource to the many folks out there who are saying, “This seems like a cool tool, but how can I use it in education?” Regardless of my result, I’m hoping it’s educational to someone.

  • […] enthused with the possibilities of Twitter, he started The Twitteracy Project (TTP), an expermiment in incorporating Twitter into the classroom, which ended with The Twitteracy […]

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