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Teaching Student Reporters to Live Tweet

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 9.26.29 PM.png140 characters. Concise, thoughtful and informative.

Tweets have the power of conveying powerful information in easy to consume bites.

Now imagine bringing Twitter into school to share events that parents, students or other stakeholders can't attend.

Not only does it provide documentation of these special situations, but it also curates and backs up the event for posterity, chock-full of pictures, quotes and ambiance that would easily be missed in sheer recollection.

Transparency is key to the partnerships fostered in education and journalism in schools is a great way to provide that transparency. Student media has a way of capturing student life in a way that few other community outreach tools can.

As a proponent for technology in school and a journalism teacher, it's my job to teach students to use the tools they have to report responsibly and Twitter is changing the way they do that. Recently, I attended a journalism conference with my students where live tweeting was encouraged and explained. (We were excited because we have been practicing doing this all year).

The rationale being that journalists need to be telling stories, gathering information and sharing that information quickly. How better to do that than with a microblogging platform like Twitter?

So how can you teach kids to live tweet?

First review with students what material they should be tweeting at events. 

  • Interesting things being said by speakers or contributors (making sure to practice proper attribution) 
  • Questions for the speaker or from the audience
  • Thoughts or review or commentary 
  • Photos of what is happening, both ambient photojournalistic pictures and fun selfies that capture moments with friends

Then practice with attribution (giving credit who says what) in the tweets. We must teach kids to tag speakers in the tweets or use their names so that readers don't mistake what is being said for their own words.

Always remind students to use the hashtag to gather the tweets as they go. (A hashtag is a way of sorting or categorizing tweets) We use #wjpsnews for all reporting at school. The hashtag will also provide a place for others to go to see what's happening if they aren't there.

Good tweeting takes practice, like all writing. Remind reporters to proofread what they post to insure no autocorrect catastrophes. If they run out of space, how can the tweet be rephrased to fit in the appropriate space? Doing this kind of editing will enhance student writing, particularly in their ability to cut out unnecessary copy.

Mashed up with good writing, comes good reporting and live tweeting synthesizes the two. It requires the reporter to know what to say and how to say it quickly and for an intended audience; why not use this tool to teach all of those important journalism skills.* 

How can you incorporate live tweeting in your next school event?

*Live tweeting should not supplant the development of important journalism skills in longer forms. This is just another tool to break news, that should definitely be followed up on in longer forms after gathering more of the story with face to face reporting and investigating.

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