This week in my classroom students are listening to one of my favorite read alouds, My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. We’re reading a chapter a day, working as a class to infer word meanings (weep, cargo, inhabited ) pausing so that students can turn and talk about the storyline and share their understanding of the text. We started by making predictions about what would happen in the book. Why is there a lion on the cover? Why did Elmer pack what he did in his knapsack? But instead of just writing these predictions on paper, and turning them in for feedback, my students are using Twitter to share their learning with classrooms around the United States and Canada. For the third year in a row my 1st graders are connecting with other 6 , 7 and 8 year olds in more than 20 different classrooms using the #1bc18.
My students are used to sharing on Twitter. In fact, our class Twitterers, (there are two) is our most popular class job. Most days these students will send out a tweet at the end of our day. It’s their chance to share what they think is most important about our school day. These tweets are student directed. My 1st graders use their best guess spelling and they use our school hashtag (#QAE) because they know hashtags bring specific audiences together. I don’t step in until their finished, and then I read it, offer feedback and let them tweet it out to the world. What’s most significant about this is that they are sharing their voices with an authentic audience.
During the book club, my students are literally lining up in front of our classroom computer so they can share their predictions, thoughts, etc. about the chapter we are reading. And because we are on the west coast, and 2 to 3 hours behind most of the other classrooms that are online, we are able to see what what other students are doing which creates a lot of excitement that help push my students in ways that I alone cannot. It is a connection that is authentic and motivating. We are also noticing similarities about our thinking and about the schools and classrooms that we learn in. We have gotten out maps and put dots on the cities and towns that we now have a connection to, we feel like we have made new friends and we’ve added geography to the 1st grade curriculum.
Learning is also amplified when students can share their ideas and get immediate feedback from people who don’t even have to be in the room. We have tweeted several authors and heard back from most of them. My students also share their thinking on kidblog. And you can find that link on our class Twitter account. And if you are now thinking how am I going to find time for this, it really doesn’t take more than a few minutes a day. We check our twitter account (@MsMecksClass) during snack time. And surprisingly, or maybe not, I’ve never had to edit or admonish anyone for anything inappropriate. Already, my students understand what it means to be a safe online. Digital Citizenship is taught explicitly. Common Sense Media definies digital citizenship as the ability to “think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in the digital world.”
I am very passionate that every student should be learning how to use technology and social media in school. My own kids (now 18 and 21) were the 1st generation of kids to grow up in this new digital world and they were navigating social media with very little support from adults (I thought I knew what they were doing ) and absolutely none from their teachers. In fact, students were banned from bringing technology to school and were only told what they couldn’t do on school devices. I believe that the students that are in our classrooms now will be more thoughtful and positive on social media. And that they will not only be digital citizens but digital leaders who will use technology and social media to create positive social change. This today from one of my 1st graders who wanted to share her feelings about the thousands of students who walked out of schools everywhere to honor the victims of gun violence.