Someone asked me this great question at a session I was leading this week. I don’t think I answered the question adequately, so I decided to put a better response here.
Who Do You Follow?
My first thought is that it is not who follows your class that is important; it is whom your class follows.
If you teach a primary class, you probably choose very carefully who you follow. Simply put, you want to select people or classes that you can learn from. My class follows some primary classes, including a class that tweets in French. I include this class to help my students see that other people actually speak and write this language that we practice together. We purposely follow only a few classes to help my students feel more connected with these students in other schools. We also follow Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut whose photos, videos and tweets are inspiring the world’s interest in space. We learn from everyone we follow.
We do not follow my children’s parents or educators I admire. Many of these people’s tweets would be beneficial, but most adults occasionally succumb to banal or snarky tweets about the person in front of them in the grocery line or worse. These are not appropriate for young children so we simply do not allow them in our timeline. I want our shared or individual reading time that includes the reading of tweets to be a learning time, so I make who we follow a matter of careful consideration.
Encouraging Others to Follow You
Despite what I just said about who you follow being more essential than who follows you, no one wants to tweet in a vacuum. Here are some suggestions for ways to help others to notice your class and what you are tweeting.
- Make your class worth following. Ask your students what they like to read in tweets. Do they like to read sentences that all start with “I”? Would they rather read “we did math” or “we put cubes together to show groups of tens and ones”? This can be a great motivator for students to add details to their writing.
- Add pictures or video links to students’ creations to some of your tweets.
- Let the parents of your students know that you are on Twitter. Although we do not follow them, I do encourage them to follow us.
- Show that you tweet. If you have a blog, you can put a Twitter widget in the sidebar to display what you have been tweeting. Go to your settings and then click on widgets. Twitter will set it up according to your preferences.
- If you are on Twitter yourself, occasionally retweet good content from your classroom to let other teachers know you have a class account.
- If you follow a class, but that class does not follow you, you can still interact with them. If you put @username in your tweet, they will see your question or comment on their mentions page. If a class enjoys interacting with you, they may follow you in return.
However you use Twitter and whoever you follow, Twitter can be an engaging and authentic literacy tool. I have written a book called Connected From the Start. It should be available by the end of March. It includes an entire chapter about using Twitter with little learners.
The best people I know to explain the wonders of Twitter in the classroom are my students. I’ll leave the last words about Twitter to them.