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Getting Started With Twitter Tuesday!

Last fall Jason Markey, principal of East Leyden High School, and two of his students, Ariana and Kristina, joined me in a hangout to share how they use Twitter to shape their school culture. As we begin this new school year, more teachers are taking on this social media tool to enhance their school culture and increase cross-classroom collaboration.

One great example of this is Twitter Tuesday. This is something I had tried solo in my classroom back in 2011. On Tuesdays I would have my students fill out a Google form with their reactions to our learning and questions they might have for experts around the world. After school, I would tweet their thoughts. While the students enjoyed this, and many folks responded to their tweets, it didn't have the powerful impact I had hoped it would.

Two years later, two colleagues - Jenny Lynch and Jamila "Mia" Leonard - attended a PLAYDATE and reinvented this idea for themselves. They envisioned Twitter Tuesday as a school-wide sharing of ideas and learning. Each week, they would give their students a prompt and each class would respond. The teacher would tweet out these responses throughout the day under a shared Twitter handle - in this case #ntalearns. Students from other classes would read and respond to tweets. Family and community members would engage and see what their children were learning. And yes, experts would share information and inspiration.

The result was incredible. From increased student engagement to even a guest Skype by author Mercer Mayer, here was the tangible impact not felt when my had classroom tweeted in isolation.

This idea has spread far and wide beyond Jenny's and Mia's classrooms. More schools around our network are adopting the concept and making it their own. Here are a few tips on how to get started with Twitter Tuesday in your school! 

  1. Create a short and easy to remember school hashtag. Make sure that it's as few characters as possible. Remember, you only have 140 characters - including punctuation and spaces. The longer your hashtag, the less space you have for your student messages.

  2. Research your hashtag before committing to it. Some of our schools hoped to have hashtags that were simply their school name and "rocks" or their school mascot. Remember that hashtags aren't proprietary. Anyone can use them. While you can't stop others from using your hashtag, you can try to use hashtag no one is currently using. It's a bit confusing (and perhaps inappropriate) when student families log on to follow your school learning to find tweets about concerts, drinking or other not-so-school-friendly topics.

  3. Help each teacher to create a classroom Twitter handle. Just like when committing to a hashtag, classroom Twitter handles should be succinct (economy of characters) and school-appropriate. Think classroom numbers, subjects or mascots.

  4. Create anchor charts to help students learn Twitter jargon. In this video, you see how Jenny Lynch created a great visual for her students to learn about hashtags, retweets and handles -- all confusing stuff for adults, much less 6 year olds! However her great display helped her students ease into this new world with confidence.

  5. The teacher is the Tweeter. While the students' create the ideas, the teacher is the one who tweets from the account. Children under the age of 13 can't use Twitter according to their terms of service. To observe this rule, our teachers curate ideas from students either by having them share ideas on the rug, or submit ideas in Today's Meet (great because it acts much like a Twitter stream and limits them to 140 characters). The teacher then tweets out ideas using the students' initials only.

For more information about Twitter Tuesday, check out this awesome guest post by Autumn Laidler, a 4th grade teacher and tech coach who works with Jenny and Mia. Also take a peak at this video created by Anita Huffman, the Director of Student Learning at this same school. Finally, follow #ntalearns and engage with the awesome students Tweeting and sharing their learning!

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