I have had a classroom Twitter account for several years. We have used it to share what is happening in our classroom, to find out what is happening in other classrooms and to have conversations with those other classrooms. Parents and others have followed us to watch what we are doing and to be part of our learning. We have never been a “tweet every day” class, but went in fits and starts, much like my own Twitter use has sometimes been. Using and following hash tags has made a big difference to my own Twitter experience, and as always, if something works well for me, I think about the educational implications it might have. As I thought last summer about the things I wanted to explore with my grade one/two class this year, making better use of Twitter hash tags was one of them.
The first time we used hash tags this past fall, we were learning about the writing trait of ideas. We explored many sources of ideas ourselves, and then asked the people who followed us on Twitter to tell us where they got their ideas, using the hash tag #ideasforwriting. Classes and individuals responded, giving my students many more great sources for “what should I write about?”
On this, as on every other occasion, the giving nature of others on Twitter continues to astound me. My students were thrilled that people they had never met would help them with their writing and we eagerly added their suggestions to our classroom list of where writers get their ideas.
It was getting closer to Christmas by the time we revisited hash tags, and this time we were working on the writing trait of voice. After reading the story The Gingerbread Man, the students took pictures of their gingerbread men around the school and then tweeted about what the Gingerbread man might say using the hash tag #SaystheGBMan. A couple of other classes joined us, and the students laughed and joked as they set up their pictures, created their own tweets and read tweets created by others. Interestingly, during the process, the phrase “GBMan” became a saying in our classroom and the students now use it instead of saying “gingerbread man” in most of their speech. Along the way, all of the students showed me that they could meet the curricular outcome of writing using a different voice.
The week before the Christmas holidays, several classes from #1stchat were tweeting about Santa’s secrets–that is, things people generally do not know about the jolly old man. This was the brainchild of Karen Lirenman, who has done a paper version of this with her class for many years. What fun to make up humorous anecdotes about Santa and to see what ideas others had! Again, my students were fascinated to be part of a group of students who were all composing and creating tweets with their own ideas. (And meeting yet another curricular outcome at the same time!)
As with every form of technology, it is not the technology itself that improves the learning, it is the way that the technology is used. Harnessing the power of hash tags has really revolutionized my ability to learn on Twitter professionally, and now I know it can do the same for my students.