Tweeting my way into (total) uncertainty – help?

This might be the most unhelpful of all of the posts so far on the NWMU blog, in as much as I am not about to post answers to questions that start, “How do you do ‘xyz’ on the Mac”, nor am I going to give you an amazing new insight into, “Here’s what I found I could do today with the Mac that I could never do before”, but rather I am going to pose a bunch of questions that I (honestly) don’t know the answers to, but would love some input.

I am a BIG Twitter fan. I have three separate Twitter accounts that deal with different aspects of my life, and I have been tweeting for few years with close to 3500 tweets to my name(s). So this is NOT a post about any new discoveries with the Mac that I have had for a few weeks, but a post about something that I have found useful and interesting over time and NOT a sudden knee-jerk reaction to the new technology at my fingertips. As such, skeptics should be encouraged and unfazed!

My Twitter account relevant to chemistry, Westminster and education (but mainly chemistry) is @adchempages.



In 2011-12 I am going to use Twitter with my Honors Chemistry class. OK, fine, so what? Well, that’s where YOU come in.

I have a whole bunch of ideas some of which are listed here, but also have some very serious concerns. There are going to have to be some ground rules, and I would like to brainstorm with you, dear reader, about what those rules might be. I can certainly see a whole array of pitfalls and problems, and I would like you to unearth some more. Equally, I can see some positives and I would like you to give me more confidence by telling me all the ones I am missing.

So far I have the following open-ended comments and ideas (this is just me thinking out loud), and would like you to do one of two things; either add to the list, OR (perhaps more helpfully), comment on the ideas below so I can ‘flesh them out’.

1. There must a meaningful consequence for any abuse of the freedoms given. How will that work?

2. There must be a ‘standard’ that is established for the quality of input from tweets that is as high in the virtual world as it is in the non-virtual realm. What are those standards?

3. Which of the “50 Ways” do you think may work? Can you think of more?

4. Can I assess the twitter input from the kids and incorporate it into a grade? Is that a reasonable expectation?

5. Will this make more work for me? It better had not, otherwise I’m unlikely to do it.

6. Can you convince me this is meaningful? Will it engage the students more and perhaps more importantly, do Westminster kids NEED to be engaged more?

7. Will CHEMISTRY learning be enhanced? How?

8. Am I fixing something that’s ‘not broke’?

9. Tweeting during class? After class? Both?

10. What are the technology barriers that I will have to overcome?

I’m waiting to hear from you!


About Adrian Dingle
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6 Responses to Tweeting my way into (total) uncertainty – help?

  1. Bo Adams says:

    #6 You have found about 3500 “reasons” to use Twitter. I imagine that your students will find reasons to take sharable notes about being curious and engaged with chemistry. We all need to feel engaged. Even without motivation of a grade, you have blogged and tweeted in order to think out loud. I trust your students want and need to do similarly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and engaging others to think with you.

    • adriandingle says:

      Thanks Bo. I share your view of engagement.

      The reason I asked about ‘Westminster’ students specifically, is this; The level of engagement that I witness on a daily basis is generally very high, however, all of the proponents of using things like Twitter in the classroom seem to have one thing in common – they state the chief reason as being that it gets kids who were generally NOT engaged to become more involved. That’s not one of the problems that I need to solve at Westminster.

      Anyway, I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway as a matter of personal, professional development and we’ll see what happens. I’ll report back, ‘warts and all’!

  2. epdobbs says:

    I am intrigued by your questions on multiple levels. I also have been thinking about using twitter in my classroom more next year. This past year I was the only one on twitter (except a few of my students who had permission to use their smart phones in order to tweet to the #20minwms hash-tag their learning during classes). Next year, I’m hoping that each of my students will have a twitter account and can keep track of their learning (kind of like a formative self-assessment) there as well. I hope to model responsible use of social media with them, and also show them that twitter can be an incredible tool for learning.

    I’m interested in your first question about meaningful consequences. What if you let the students decide upon consequences for their behavior, and instead the you focus on teaching positive behavior/use of the internet? It’s been 2 years since I worked closely with high school kids, but in the junior high, I’ve noticed that when I focus on the positive and let the kids decide upon the consequences for the negative, I have less problems with the negative. The students are usually more harsh than I would be, so that helps. 🙂

    In terms of the quality of tweets, I think that the more you highlight quality tweets in class, the more students will be inclined to produce quality tweets. Also, won’t it be absolutely overwhelming to “assess” each tweet based on a certain type of criteria? I think that how you’re using twitter in the classroom will determine the “level” of tweet that you encourage your students to produce. If the tweets are part of their thinking, then can we really classify whether it is a good tweet or a bad tweet? Perhaps the fact that they are on topic is enough? Or that they’re doing it at all? Can you have students come up with the qualities of the perfect tweet so that they have ownership of their own standards?

    Thank you for that list of 50 ways! I love it!

    With #4, I think that depends on how you use twitter. I think I’m going to use it as a space for sharing ideas and metacognitive reflection. As such, I don’t know that I want to “assess” that, but more just encourage it. I think students will be more inclined to share and reflect on twitter if they don’t HAVE to do it. Last year, some of my students would tweet out their learning, just because they wanted to, not because I was assessing it.

    As for #7, I know that when I’m on twitter, I skip over some links and then pour over others. It helps me stay in charge of my learning, and I’m excited to read articles that stimulate my interest or are beneficial to me. I think that Chemistry learning can be enhanced if you let students use twitter as a place to take charge of their own learning. Perhaps twitter can be a place where they are linking interesting articles or talks that have to do with chemistry-related topics. Conversations can be started here outside of class by interested students. You can bring those conversations in to the classroom, especially if the students are using a hash-tag, and then allow them to connect their classroom learning to their outside interests….ideally, anyway.

    As for tweeting during class…. I say go for it! Maybe have a class hash-tag that is up on the smart board so students can do a kind of “back-channel” during class. (In terms of classroom management, if you see a kid on the phone/computer typing away, and nothing is showing up on the hash-tag, s/he is probably off task). I also like the idea of having twitter as a place where students can post questions about the class.
    Thanks for your questions… you got me thinking!

  3. Anna Moore says:

    Adrian, This is a great post. I hope you’ll post again over the course of the year to let us know how the Twitter experiment goes next year. I used Twitter in class this year as part of the #20minwms exercise that Jill Gogh organized, but I did not have students tweet. I found my limited use of twitter in my classroom to be a very rewarding experience because, as I tweeted out student summaries of “what I want to know now” or “what I learned”, etc, I occasionally got a reply from someone, not in my class, who had a question or comment that actually pushed my class discussion in a new and exciting direction (and one I’m pretty sure I would not have taken without the prompt). In light of my experience, I’m thinking that it will be potentially cool for your students to see the possible replies that come back to their tweets from folks NOT in the class. The only thing I did this year that is somewhat similar to what you are doing next year was that I used Today’s Meet as we watched a movie together. (A few of us had a virtual meeting during the snowcation and watched a PBS video related to the content we would have been discussing had we been able to get to campus… Today’s Meet let us “talk” about the video as we watched it). The ability to “talk” about the film as we viewed was really cool for me, as a teacher, to experience. And, as a student, I have found my own learning enriched when I can be in settings that allow back-channel dialogue. Just this week I am at a seminar that does not have a back-channel set up. And, I’m frustrated. Would I be more “engaged” as a learner in this setting if we all had a twitter hashtag to use? Maybe not. I’m already pretty highly engaged in the topic at hand. But, I keep having these “light-bulb moments” that I really want to share, to process, to digest etc. And, I can’t do it very easily in the current set-up. Societal convention and good manners says I can’t really keep turning to the person next to me to start a conversation, but I can tweet my thought or idea… even while the presenter is still speaking. Thing is: at this point, because we don’t have a common hashtag or established back channel, I’m not getting tons of traction on my tweets. They are helping me crystalize my own lightbulb thoughts because I can “write” them down, consolidate them to 150 characters or so, and then find the courage to share it with the “world-at-large”. But, I wish we had a group backchannel. So, I think it’s really cool what you are going to do in your classroom. And, thanks for the link to the 50-rules. Maybe I’ll follow your lead here and get the courage to set up a backchannel tweet in my classroom next year. ummm. something to think about!

  4. Scott says:

    I think there are some good positives here, but I strongly feel that 2 things must be taken into account before starting.

    1. There should be very clear rules and expectations set for the students so that (as you pointed out) it is not making our jobs as teachers harder.
    2. There should also be a mechanism outside of the twitter world to make students speak up and become engaged.

    While I admire the principles of allowing the less courageous to be engaged I also feel that this is one of my roles to get these students more engaged rather than enabling them to not do so.

  5. Pingback: To all the technology skeptics out there – remember the 1990′s? | New Westminster Mac Users

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