(cross posted from http://www.bestcollegesonline.com)
Plenty of colleges are getting tuned in to all of the great things you can do with Twitter, but unfortunately, many high schools are still held back by restrictive social media policies. However, the lucky few who are able to take advantage of Twitter are already doing amazing things. Chatting with students in Pakistan, reporting high school football on the fly, and supplementing classroom discussion are just a few of the great ways high schools have made use of Twitter. Read on, and we’ll explore 20 innovative ways high schools are making use of this great social media tool.
Vocabulary and grammar building
In foreign language classrooms (and beyond) students learn about verbs with the help of Twitter. Through the service, students tweet verbs, their definitions, morphology, and grammatical functions, and as the tweets come in, teachers and peers fix or give hints on incorrect entries. Teachers can see how and where students make mistakes, and have them immediately corrected, while students can understand how they’re making mistakes before getting too far, offering immediate formative assessment.
So many school districts are using both Twitter and Facebook to reach out to plugged-in parents without having to send home notes in kids’ backpacks. Lunch menus, school board meetings, and even discussions about school district decisions are being shared online. Proponents of school districts on Twitter support this move, pointing out that districts can get instant feedback, and parents can conveniently share their insights. In one Portland public school, after sending out information about swine flu and recommending that students wash their hands frequently, community members pointed out that there are unreliable faucets, and the school was able to respond with maintenance workers.
Back channel discussion tool
High school students can sometimes be quite introverted and shy in the classroom, but outspoken online. Additionally, some high school classes move through discussions quickly, and not all students find the opportunity to speak up in class. Both of these issues are addressed as high school classes encourage a Twitter backchannel discussion, in which quiet, shy, and unable-to-get-a-word-in-edgewise students are able to speak up in class without actually speaking up in class, sharing their comments, insights, and even relevant links through Twitter as the discussion goes on. Educators have found that Twitter backchannel discussions provide for more interaction not just in the classroom, but beyond, as students often enjoy further carrying on the conversation even after class time is over.
Twitter makes the education world smaller, connecting principals, teachers, and other education professionals across the U.S. and even around the globe. Principal Sheninger at New Milford High School in New Jersey started using Twitter to keep in touch with parents, but found its real value in reaching out to other educators and collaborating with them. He is able to use the tool to find new ideas, new resources, and ideas for professional development.
Reaching out to political candidates
Wise politicians know that listening to the people is their most important job, and as such, so many have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon to connect with constituents and voters, particularly during campaign season. One 11th-grade social studies class in Canada is using a Twitter classroom to reach out to candidates in local elections, allowing students to become more informed and feel more involved in the political process. The students send out questions to the candidates, and often, get responses right back.
Creating imaginative dialogues
Illinois high school English teacher Tracee Orman uses Twitter to enrich the learning experience of Hunger Games, asking students to tweet as if they were a character from a chapter in the book. This is a fun way to engage students in the content that they’re studying, and a great practice in learning empathy and understanding of characters.
Review and understanding
At Iowa’s Valley High School, Sarah Bird’s DigiTools class uses Twitter as a tool for reviewing material. After each discussion Bird asks her students to twitter their MVP (Most Valuable Point) using their classroom hashtag. This quick exercise allows students to further digest and understand the material at hand, while at the same time creating a great resource for future review.
Upgrading under appreciated school newspapers
In some schools, high school newspapers just aren’t getting the attention they used to, as students are often glued to phones, tablets, and laptops much more regularly than anything representing real paper. Some school newspapers are now using Twitter as a way to aggregate news information, tweet stories as they happen, and interact with their audience through questions and polls. Freedom High student journalists in Pennsylvania’s Bethlehem Township often live-tweet updates about football games right from the stands, sharing news for those who can’t make it to the game
Adam Taylor’s class at Nashville’s Overton High School connects with students half a world away in Pakistan, and they’re quite enthusiastic about it. The two classes discuss student voices in school, cultural stereotypes, and more, learning what life is like outside of their own classroom and culture. Taylor’s idea has been quite popular, and is even such a great draw that students are willing to come in early to school for the discussions.
One nonprofit group, Jersey Cares, targets tweets to find volunteers to fill their recruitment needs, and has found that many high schoolers answer the call. High school groups use Twitter to locate projects in their area where they can help out, since so many nonprofits are speaking out and asking for help on the social media service.
Concise writing exercises
English teachers often need to teach the importance of brevity in writing, and Twitter is such a great tool for that, with its 140 character limit per tweet. Through the service, teachers assign tweets as a way to encourage understanding and efficient use of language.
In California, Half Moon Bay High School history students can actually have fun with their quizzes, which take place on Twitter. Teacher Mike Putnam uses the social media service to ask fun questions that students answer, such as, “Who would you rather have dinner with? Adams, Jefferson, or Washington?”
As classrooms focus on a particular unit or subject, Twitter offers a great opportunity for staying up to date with learning beyond textbooks. Through Twitter, high school classrooms are tracking words, in which they subscribe to all tweets that include a particular words or phrase, like “Pearl Harbor,” or “woodworking,” returning results with insights, new developments, and more. This exercise is great for allowing students to follow current events and learn about resources they might not otherwise find.
Inspiration and thought provoking question
Minneapolis English teacher Candace Boerema doesn’t use Twitter for assignments, but she does keep up the educational chatter, and encourages her students to interact with Twitter. With questions like, “Who are you in Elizabethan England?” and “Is chivalry dead?,” Boerema sparks offline discussion and interaction among her students that’s reported to be inspiring and great for keeping students connected even when they’re not in class.
Whether it’s for sending the glee club off to regionals or shoes to South America, high schools always seem to have a need for fundraising, and they can use all the help they can get. Some schools have turned to Twitter and Facebook to get the word out, going social, and hopefully viral, in their efforts. Aided by online fundraising platforms and online payment tools, they’re able to do virtual fundraising to complement and even replace traditional car washes and bake sales.
Connecting with experts
Everyone is on Twitter these days, from celebrities to the President, and some high school classrooms are smart enough to take advantage of that. In Madison County, Ala., students use Twitter to interact with historians around the world. They put together questions to ask historians on Twitter, getting answers that may not be easy to find in their history books. This sort of interaction is great for learning from experts, and teaches students the value of research beyond traditional sources.
Another great way high school students are using Twitter connections is in preparing for their careers. Students can talk to professionals who are currently working in the paths they’re thinking about following in their future careers. Some teachers have set up assignments that have students create Twitter lists in which they can follow accounts that are relevant to their career goals.
Twitter scavenger hunts
Some teachers are helping students improve their research skills by assigning Internet scavenger hunts and only allowing students to use Twitter to find their sources. Students often find this a fun challenge, and a great way to research ideas and movements through Twitter searches.
Real-time source evaluation
Using Twitter, students are able to tweet sources and ask their teacher, fellow classmates, and others that they engage with on Twitter whether it seems to be a credible source or not. This is a great way to teach about the use of online resources and learning about which sources are reliable, and which shouldn’t be trusted.
Foreign language learning
Students in foreign language classes are able to use Twitter discussion around the world to learn about foreign languages. They create lists that allow them to follow foreign language news resources, key Twitter personalities, and more. Students are even able to follow foreign language Twitter pen pals that they can interact with.