For those of you who are only here for the SMART Table lowdown, I’ll apologise now. In fact, you can skip this whole post, and I won’t even be slightly offended. This post is not about our SMART Table, it’s about something that we have had for longer, and which I hadn’t even thought about blogging about until last week. A Twitter account, specifically the Twitter account that I set up for my class.
One evening last week, can’t quite remember which, I ended up fielding quite a few questions about my class Twitter account (on Twitter, naturally enough…) and figured it might make some sense to do a quick blog about it. So here goes!
I had been thinking of setting up a class blog for a while, but was becoming increasingly frustrated with the very negative response I kept getting – specifically that “anyone could see it”. Whilst I had thought that was the whole point, I hadn’t realised how protective we had become, and the class blog is on hold, for now. In a daring compromise manoeuvre, I managed to get permission to set up a class Twitter account providing the updates were protected. Figuring it was a step in the right direction, and as such a good start, I agreed, and @IMSLewis was born.
A snapshot of our Twitter page
Originally, I had intended to use this as a way to keep parents in touch with what was going on in class as well as giving the pupils an insight into social netwworking in a reasonably secure environment. I had hoped that other classes in the school might be interested in Tweeting too, and that we could connect with each other over our 3 campuses. In my more ambitious moments, I even pictured an @IMSchool or @IsobelMair account that could ‘follow’ all the other classes, providing an aggregated Tweet-feed that might be an almost real-time school blog. After all, everyone would rush to embrace this new technology, right?
Stop the sniggering at the back. As the more astute amongst you will have no doubt surmised, the reality turned out somewhat differently……
Blip 1 – Parental response
I’m still a bit shocked by this one. Without going into too many details, let’s just say that the response was ‘lukewarm’. I don’t know if it was because as a protected updater, parents would have to jump through a few hoops to follow us, or if the response would have been similar had we been ‘open’. The parents who did sign up were soon interacting with the class, and benefits could be seen, but overall this has been a disappointing area of the Twitter experiment.
Blip 2 – Access (ours)
As a ‘social networking’ site, Twitter has fallen foul of our Net-Nanny (Hello Websense!!!!) on a number of occasions. Annoying, particular when you are trying to establish the use of the site as part of the class routine. We have also encountered some ICT issues with faulty laptops, intermittent web access and the like which has impacted on our ability to use the site as we would have liked, particularly recently when our Tweeting has almost dried up. However, any new initiative is likely to suffer similar teething problems, and I am glad to say they haven’t managed to kill us off just yet!
Blip 3 – Access (others)
Whilst we were suffering access issues, some of our intended partners were suffering similar, or even worse, problems; in 2 cases these proved insurmountable and they had to pull out of our project.
Highlight 1 – Teacher response
If I was shocked by the (lack of) parental response, I was stunned by the response from other educators, many of whom were very interested in what we were trying to do. Special mention must go to Ollie Bray, who agreed to link up with the class through Twitter as they worked on their rain forest topic. The class really enjoyed being in touch with Ollie as he provided an ‘expert’ voice on their topic, and his assistance in discovering tree-kangaroos was invaluable! The sense of connection that the class got from communicating with someone as they travelled around Europe was also very worthwhile.
Highlight 2 – Mobile Tweeting
On a school trip to Amazonia, through the medium of mobile phone technology, the class stumbled onto a brilliant discovery – they could tweet from anywhere, making it an instant way of recording thoughts/events. It was also a handy distraction at some fraught times for some of the pupils, the familiarity of ‘updating our Twitter page’ helped calm some overexcited pupils!
Highlight 3 – Twitpic
Our most recent discovery, one that helped us share our rainforest artwork, was that sending pictures of things by Twitter can be FUN (providing you are careful about the pictures sent….).
Overall, whilst the Twitter experiment has not quite panned out the way I had originally hoped, it has been very worthwhile. The pupils have been quite taken with it, and in at least one case it has been able to engage a child at home in a way that has not been possible previously. The directions the Twitter account has taken itself in have been most valuable, and have offered up another range of possibilities for investigation. Parents have now been asking how to follow us, so our audience is expanding, and starting to feature more of our original ‘target’ audience. And the ideas continue to flow. Shall we follow the astronaut-Tweeter? With almost all of our parents now supplying an e-mail address, perhaps I could set up accounts for them and remove an obstacle to their participation?
Who knows. One thing, however, seems to be sure – our Twitter adventure will continue – providing we get that laptop sorted……