5 Ways Twitter Strengthens A School’s Learning Community

Cross-posted at eFACE Today

This year, our K-6 staff began learning in a new virtual way using Twitter. After a couple staff in-service trainings and after school workshops, parents and teachers ventured into this new educational Twitterverse. As we enter the final week of school, I’d like to share it’s initial impact on teaching and learning from my principal’s lens.

Our staff’s “learning by Twitter” has occurred in multiple formats this school year:

  • From each other
  • From classroom to classroom
  • From our school parents
  • From their developing Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)
  • From local & national conferences
  • From our district hashtag (#nped)
  • From weekly education chats like #ptchat, #5thchat, #edchat #ntchat & others

Below are five examples of collaborative and transparent learning compliments of @KnappElementary staff and parents.  Without the efforts of teachers AND parents “trying” social media at school, something very new to most of us, none of these benefits would be possible.          

  1. MAXIMIZING FIELD TRIPS - 5th grade field trip to @TheFranklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA  and Kindergarten field trip to @ElmwoodZoo1, Norristown, PA  When your field trip is “broadcasted” in real time using Twitter, parents at home, at work, as well as school personal unable to join the physical trip can experience the learning in a virtual way. For parents, these photo and text filled “tweets” help them stay engaged and allow for pinpoint follow-up opportunity on exactly what the child experienced on his or her trip. For other teachers in the building, including the principal, it allows for continued conversations and building upon that learning in other areas such as music, art, gym and library classes. For each field trip, we shared a “Twitterfall” of teacher and parent field trip tweets on the front lobby monitor (a recent gift from our Home & School Association). The students, staff and parents may have returned from the trip, but the learning continues and the dollars are spread further. The Twitterfeed also lives on a Family Engagement Wiki using a free tool called Timekiwi.

    Front lobby display of Tweets

  2. SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS / CONFERENCES - International Speaker on Bullying & Teen Suicide John Halligan Spoke earlier this year at NPSD. We were able to share this tweeted transcript with parents and staff to enrich our classroom meetings across our building and district. An Edutopia article was drafted following this presentation, which included takeaways from a teacher and parent who took part in the discussion.
  3. DAY TO DAY COLLABORATION AMONGST STAFF - Teachers share plans, photographed project completion and lesson reflections across the school and district. For example, here’s a few tweets from a recent mystery Skype setup with some reflections made possible by one of our 5th grade teachers, Glenn Yetter (@coachyetter). After seeing his tweets, two more teachers plan to take part in a mystery Skype in their own classrooms next week!
  4. SIMULTANEOUS SHARING AT A NATIONAL EDUCATION CONFERENCE - During this year’s #ASCD12 conference, even though the budget didn’t allow for many staff members from our district to be physically present, with Twitter, we were able to gather notes and takeaways from over 30 sessions and develop a shared ASCD Evernote conference notebook . During Reed Timmer’s (@reedtimmertvn) Discovery Education keynote session on Stormchasing, we were able to tweet links back and forth with parents, who then played the same raw storm footage with their 5th grade student at home – powerful at-home learning of a tornado on a Saturday morning.
  5. STRENGTHENING PLC CONVERSATIONS - Several teachers and parents in our building have begun participating in weekly chats such as #PTchat (Parent-Teacher Chat), #EDchat (Education Chat) #5thchat (5th grade Chat) and even #NTchat (New Teacher Chat).  Storified archives like this one on meaningful report card comments were brought into morning PLC discussions to serve as conversation starters in pushing our thinking. You can archive entire chats or just pick out the most valuable tweets for your setting using Storify.

Although we’ve only just completed our first full year in using this socal media tool, we’ve broken the ice on a variety of teaching and learning benefits for parents, teachers and students. Over the summer, we’re planning to engage a shared hashtag to “keep the learning going” – one of the best features that Twitter offers.  If you’re committed to harnessing this tool in 12-13, start with the parent and teacher trainings that are vital to helping Twitter flourish in your own school setting. The addictive social learning that will ensue will steer itself once you’ve built in the time for the initial Twitter 101. For more “Learning Twitter” resources, click here.

Look for “Learning By Twitter – Examples 6-10” very soon…

74 comments for “5 Ways Twitter Strengthens A School’s Learning Community

  1. June 2, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Hey Joe,

    Just a quick note to say thanks for taking the time to write this up. It’s a GREAT example of what social media as a tool for communication can look like in action — and principals need those kinds of examples before they’ll be ready to move forward with their own social media work.

    #loveit

    Rock on,
    Bill

    • Joe Mazza
      June 3, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      Bill- you trailblazers ispired me to create a Twitter acct only a year ago. Thanks for your kind words & for taking the time to write. Looking forward to planning further social media edu-opps for all stakeholders in 12-13. Please let me know if I can help/support your work in any way.

  2. mohamed
    June 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    brilliant well written.

    • Joe Mazza
      June 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  3. Colleen Cotton
    June 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    I am an educator and I appreciate the ideas on how to use Twitter in my classroom. We can’t stop the use of technology by our students in the classroom, we might as well us it to our advantage!

    • Joe Mazza
      June 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      Yes! I agree- we have to continue to look for ways it compliments our work….Thx for commenting!

  4. Shelley Joan Weiss
    June 3, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Thank you! Your article summarized the strength of Twitter. I have been trying to let other administrators know the power of Twitter and appreciated being able to forward your summary – you captured a great deal of information. Thank you.

    • Joe Mazza
      June 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      Thanks, Shelley for your kind words! I, too, need examples of those in similar situations to get rolling. Hope it is useful to them & please reach out if you need anything at all moving forward.

  5. Anita Nautiyal
    June 3, 2012 at 6:53 am

    I have yet started using twitter in my classrooms but find a good teaching tool in the classroom which will better results and easy to handle techo savy generation.

    • Joe Mazza
      June 3, 2012 at 8:06 pm

      Take the summer to puts some initial plans in place! Good luck & please reach out if you need anything.

  6. meme bio
    June 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    awesome writting

    • Joe Mazza
      June 6, 2012 at 3:03 am

      Thanks so much! Hope you find it useful.

  7. LaRae Whitely
    June 6, 2012 at 12:29 am

    Thank you for the information in your article. My school has had a Twitter Account for about a year, but have done little with it. I had decided to really start using it this summer – even put it on our outside sign so people would start following. I wil have to start following you and get some ideas. Thanks agian…..

  8. Rob Brown
    June 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Loved the article. Great Information.

    • Joe Mazza
      June 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks, Rob!

  9. June 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Joe

    Thanks for sharing these great ideas. I look forward to introducing Twitter to my staff next year with more concrete and specific examples such as you have provided. And, I ‘m definitely getting that flat screen in our office.

    Cheers

    • Joe Mazza
      June 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks, Dan. It’s all about the training and harnessing those techies that already are using the tool for other non-school reasons. Our H&S was kind enough to purchase the TV as other times of the day we have a running photo album of the month’s events from Picasa.

  10. Susan Brenner-Camp
    June 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Joe, thanks for sharing this. I am starting my first principal position of a 7-12 rural high school. My board and administrative colleagues are technology-forward and supportive of moving forward in the digital world. I see this as an important collaborative tool for teachers, students, and parents as you have illustrated here. I have the opportunity to revise my school’s mobile phone usage policy and wish to integrate them into intruction rather than severely restrict or ban them. Do you or anyone else reading this have some pointers for this?

    • Joe Mazza
      June 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Hi Susan- Congrats on the new assignment! My own experiences would encourage you (in your first year) to listen and get the lay of the “connected” landscape among your staff and stakeholders prior to implementing any new policies. There are so many exciting things happening with mobile learning device, as @NMHS_Principal refers to cellphones, but making sure you are all rowing together from the start will be the best investment you can make in your new position. Good luck and feel free to reach out anytime! Here’s an article on the ‘mobile learning devices’ from Eric’s school in New Milford, NJ. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/10/19/new-milford-high-school-has-students-using-cell-phones-as-mobile-learning-devices/

  11. Laura Conley
    June 11, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Joe,
    Thanks so much for your time in putting this all together. I can’t wait to share with our district the inovative ways that you and your school have used Twitter. I am new to Twitter and am amazed at how willing everyone is to share apps, ideas, training, and such within the educational community. Keep up the great work! You have provided me with some good ” food for thought” !
    Thanks again, Laura

    • Joe Mazza
      June 17, 2012 at 12:47 am

      Hi Laura – I agree. Twitter is an amazing collaborative tool! So many great people that I now consider “colleagues.” Thanks for writing and keep connecting!

  12. AVJester
    June 15, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Mr. Mazza,

    I appreciate your willingness to share how use of socail networking, specifically Twitter, can be used efffectively as a communication tool in a school setting. I am recently embarking on learning the variety of social media, communication methods. Although the process has been challenging, it has helped me to feel empowered as well. Now, I feel I am able to communicate with a broader audience and/or broader number of constituents in my school community. Thanks for the helpful suggestions.

    Vanessa Jester

  13. June 18, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Check out our Early Learning Twitter feed @HatchEarlyChild

  14. Kari Hill
    June 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Help me, fellow principals…. How can I use Twitter as an administrator? I’ve been wrestling with the decision to move to Twitter for school-related purposes.

    • Joe Mazza
      June 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Kari,
      I just sent you an email detailing some other resources on using the tool. Hope it helps and call me if you need anything.

  15. Jeff Theus
    July 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks for some great ideas. Our school is about to begin the process of expanding our social media presence beyond our website and these tips are a great place to start.

  16. July 8, 2012 at 2:45 am

    Joe,
    Your article gives me continued hope going forward that providing opportunities for staff to become “connected” is indeed value-added in terms of teaching, learning and leading. Upon completing my first year as principal this past year, I continue to look for ways to develop and strengthen my own PLN and to sing these praises to others I work and come in contact with. Thanks again!
    Josh
    @joshlsnyder

    • Joe Mazza
      July 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      Hey Josh- great to be in your PLN. Keep building it. Together we’re better. Twitter has really solidified that in my mind as a leader & learner. My thinking is pushed daily and I need that.

  17. July 8, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    “Value Added?” More marketing jargon and just as inappropriate to the education profession as “branding,” or referring to one’s school as a “brand.”

    Why would we, as educators, want to lower ourselves to imitate the thinking of the sleazeball marketing business world?

    We are better than those people.

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