Twitter in the Classroom

by Carla Douglas

Writing is hard. Even for good writers, putting one word and then one sentence after another to create a unified whole is at times an act of balancing, juggling, measuring, choosing, placing, weighing and judging, all rolled into one. Is it any wonder some students are paralyzed before they even get started?

Not writing enough is a comment teachers make frequently about student work, whether it is a quiz requiring short answers or a formal five-page essay. Those who mark the OSSLT report over and over again that many students who don’t meet the EQAO standard have simply not written enough to properly score. Frustrated teachers wonder if there isn’t some way to wring just a few more sentences from these students.

Enter Twitter, the platform teachers are flocking to (sorry!) for its nearly limitless classroom applications—as a news feed, as a way to role-play Shakespeare, to facilitate group work and research and to connect classrooms, to bring diverse groups together, to write poems and stories, and on, and on, and on. And all in 140 characters, which means that tweeting is a manageable, doable task for a student who really struggles to get the words out. What’s more, that struggling student probably already has the means to tweet right in his hand—a smartphone.

Explaining the title of her well known book about writingAnne Lamott tells the story of how her brother,

who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
—Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Bird by bird or tweet by tweet, Twitter is an idea whose time has come.

Image by cobalt123

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