Over the summer when I started to look at using Twitter with the Grade 1 students, I saw it as more of a way for the Grade 1 teachers to keep parents up-to-date about upcoming class and school events. I never even considered the possibility of having my students tweeting. Hey, I love technology and I check my e-mail constantly, but when it comes to using social networking sites, I am still a novice. Truthfully, I was always hesitant about using these sites. I read a lot about keeping information private on the Internet, and the thought of making the Grade 1 classes and Ancaster Meadow School so public, worried me a bit. I am so glad that I gave Twitter a chance though. I think that starting to tweet is one of the best decisions that I have ever made in teaching.Using Twitter with my students has allowed me to teach my students about being safe online, and in a very meaningful way too. While they have connected with other students from around the world, they know that they still need to keep important information about themselves private. They refer to themselves and their friends by their initials, and if they do use names, they never use last names. They see that I either refer to myself online as "Aviva" or as "Miss D.". Again they know that this is a way of keeping private information, private.
Letting my students tweet though has been an incredible experience for all of us. I watch even my most hesitant writers challenge themselves to write more and improve their writing skills because they are writing for an audience. They love that other classes are reading their tweets, and most of all, they love that their parents are reading their tweets. They also love writing on the computer: they see me write on the computer, their parents write on the computer, and even their older siblings write on the computer. They see word processing as a sign that they are growing up. I think that it also amazes them that with the daily opportunities to word process, their word processing skills are improving, and now they can help each other on the computer and even help older students on the computer too.
Two weeks ago, I took my students up to the computer lab, and I had them write a tweet about their day. A few Grade 6 students came to join us in the computer lab as my students were typing their tweets, and a number of them stared open-mouthed at my Grade 1 students typing away. My students know how to change the font style and size, how to correct their mistakes, and even how to find the space bar, backspace key, and numerous punctuation marks on the keyboard. These Grade 6's couldn't believe that these Grade 1 students could type like they were, especially without a list of ideas in front of them. At this moment, I felt so proud of all of my students!
I was most impressed on Thursday night though when I challenged my students to write a tweet in response to one of our shared reading poems. Much to my delight, I was overwhelmed with the number of tweets that I received! The students not only had fantastic ideas to share, but they are excited to share them with a global audience. They loved reading all of the tweets together yesterday as we looked at them on the SMART Board. This was such a well-received homework assignment that I challenged students again to write me a tweet, but this time to tell me what they are doing this weekend. Already I have had a number of tweets to respond to. One child wrote me four tweets yesterday and four more tweets today. Seeing children want to write is an amazing thing, and having them use technology to write is even more amazing.
I hope that I am not alone in these thoughts about Twitter though. Please leave a comment here and let me know what you think about my class's use of Twitter. If you want, you can even leave me a tweet with your thoughts. Just start your tweet with @grade1, and you are all set. I look forward to reading your replies!