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Finding the “Work” in Student Social Networking – Part 1

by Neil Finney

Whether it’s Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus or Blogs – students are increasingly becoming active and engaged in this online collaborative world. While many educators are taking steps to implement technology and include online activities as part of the learning process, the question often remains: “How can I incorporate social networking into my teaching practice in a successful way?”

 Twitter is already an integral part of most students’ lives. Here’s how Twitter can be a part of our classrooms:

• Communication – What is important to me today? What does this connect to in my life? Students share their thoughts, feelings and ideas in a public forum. What better way to learn than to ‘put themselves out there’ for all to see and comment?
 Word Choice – How can I say this using the right words to convey my meaning? Twitter requires writers to publish carefully crafted tweets to fit within the character limits. Students must choose carefully what they want to say and how best to say it.
 Recognizing Purpose and Audience - Who am I writing for and why am I writing this? Students unconsciously have an audience in mind and write accordingly. Students can ‘tweet’ to varied audiences and for different reasons.
 Persuasive Techniques – Passionate about a cause or driven to spread a message? Students will tweet about things that matter to them – their words reflect their values and beliefs and they will often try to persuade others of the merits of their views.


Twitter is Public Thought

The things posted on Twitter are the thoughts, feelings and perceptions about the current issues a person chooses to share. Twitter can propel our students into the conversation.


Try this:

 Critical Thinking – Ask students to find out what’s “trending.” They could choose a #hashtag and find out why the topic is hot. They could even contribute to the conversation using the #hashtag and become part of the dialogue.
 Inferring Skills – Have students find a tweet and explain why the user posted it. What are some possible meanings or inferences that they can make about the post of a person they don’t know? Our students, indeed, make meaning out of short messages and blurbs from those they follow. They infer, process and connect to form their knowledge networks.


Let’s keep this list going. How does Twitter work for you in your classroom? What other Language Curriculum expectations are you achieving with this tool?


During Neilʼs 10 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.


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