Saturday, December 10, 2011

So you want to tweet with kindergarten...

Welcome! Please visit the updated version of this post here:

So, based on the response I have had to my recent media exposure, it seems that another how-to post is in order. Many people have asked me how to get started tweeting with young students, and honestly, the responsibility of guiding you through this is sort of daunting. To simply tell you: "Set up an account and go!" is woefully inadequate, and possibly negligent. As I have described in previous posts, my own decision to tweet with kindergarten was slow, thoughtful, deliberate. Your decision should be, too. With that said, this is my attempt to walk you through Twittergarten (as it has been coined by a reporter I know...). This process remains equally true if you are tweeting with any grade level, by the way, so don't be turned off by the frequent kinder-references. Also: I stand by my statement that this is not a how-to blog. I don't think I tweet with kindergarten any BETTER than anyone else.  This is just how I do it, and this is the only way I can, in good conscience, advise you to do it.**An opening sidebar: The process below is meant for teachers who are looking to tweet with multiple other classes, using connections they have made for themselves. If you are tweeting with just one other class, in the context of Kindergarten Around the World, I'm not sure that ALL of these steps are strictly necessary, and some of them have been done for you, by me. In fact, Kindergarten Around the World would be a great way to start tweeting with your class, and then move on to tweeting with multiple classes. End of sidebar.**

Step 1 - Get on Twitter yourself. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are not active on Twitter yourself in a professional capacity, I'm not sure that it is responsible for you to start tweeting with your class. From perspectives both technical and ethical, I believe it is important in this situation for teachers to KNOW the medium. Create a personal account, start building a network. Start with me, @happycampergirl, if you don't have anyone else to start following. Other good choices are @hechternacht (my partner in #kinderchat crime, more on that in a  second), and other #kinderchat stars: @matt_gomez, @mr_fines, @mathmurd @tori1074, @havalah. Follow us, interact with us (we're nice, I promise), get a feeling for who is who and what is what. Follow links, read some blogs (and comment, too!), make some friends. Participate in a chat or two (the Newbie's Guide to KinderChat is here, and holds true for other chats, too). This is important for several reasons: a) you will learn HOW to interact on Twitter; b) you will develop some instincts for who your "people" are, and when something is just not right; c)people will get to know you and trust you, which you will need once you start tweeting with your class and are requesting to follow other teachers' classes. Let's put it this way: I do not accept follow requests for my class if I have never interacted with their teacher, and (to be completely honest) my class interacts more with the classes of teachers I know well.

(And, all of this aside: even if you do not want to  or cannot tweet with your class, get yourself on Twitter. It is truly the greatest, free PD you will ever find. If #kinderchat doesn't float your boat, find a chat that does. There are chats for most grades and subject areas. @cybraryman has a great guide, here.)

2 - Think through the logistics and reality of tweeting with your class: When will you do it? Do you have the technology? I honestly can't imagine tweeting with my class without having an Interactive White Board. If you don't have one, how will you facilitate students' interactions? (A good PLN can help you figure this out, by the way.) When in your day can you work it in? Twitter is only meaningful if your kids are building relationships with other kids, and that means tweeting regularly. Are you, yourself, completely sold on this medium as a meaningful tool for young children? (Obviously, I am, but you need to draw your own conclusions on this). Read some of the criticisms, here, and here, and think about them, please. 

3 - Figure out your curriculum connections. What are your goals for tweeting with your class? These will provide you a road map for how you will use twitter in your classroom. Are you focusing on geography and social studies? Literacy and literature? Second language development? Math and numeracy? Intercultural awareness and internationalism? It is okay if your answer is "all of the above!", just be sure you know where you are going.  Again, there are teachers around the world who are using Twitter for all of these things, and being active on Twitter yourself will help you find them.

4 - Talk to your administrators. I want to be clear that, while tweeting with kindergarten seems  to be considered cutting-edge, and, in some eyes, makes me some kind of rebel (if I figure out what exactly I am rebelling against, I will let you know), my boss (and her boss) has always been completely, 100% aware and supportive of what I am doing. Another good reason to be active on Twitter yourself is that it will help you build your case with your admins. Long before I wanted to tweet with my class, my boss knew about all the great ideas and support I was getting from teachers I knew through Twitter.

5 - With your boss's help, think through privacy and security questions. Will you tweet photos/video/audio that shows your students? Your classroom? Your school? How will you identify your students? Full names? First names? Initials? Can you/should you name your school and/or city?  Will your class account be private or protected (I highly recommend private to start, but I know of classes for whom a public account best meets their goals, and I know their teachers are handling safety and privacy very well.) Who will you follow? Who will be allowed to follow you? A good PLN can help you think through these things, and share samples of their own policies/consent forms (are you starting to notice a pattern, here?)

6 - Talk to your students' parents, preferably face to face. Even if your school already has a photo/video/online release policy that covers the use of Twitter (this is pretty unusual, by the way), talk to parents and get their written consent. My students' parents KNOW what we are doing, they signed written consent forms, and about 1/3 of them are following our class. Before I created my class account last year, I added twitter to my agenda for our November parent-teacher conferences. I explained it to parents, encouraged them to talk/think about it, and to follow-up with me with any questions or concerns.

7- When ALL of this is done, and (as my grad school advisor would say:) all of your ducks are in a row: create your class account. Share your screenname with your admins and your students' parents.  Use DMs (a DM is a direct, private message on Twitter) to share your class screen-name with teachers you know and trust through twitter, yourself. My class's screenname rarely appears in the public stream on Twitter, because I don't want to field follow requests from spammers or people I don't know. I share our screenname only via DM. With your students' help and input, write your twitter bio, choose an avatar, and send your first tweet. 

With that, you are off to the races. I trust that you are all competent teachers, and capable of creating your own activities, organizational systems, and management tricks (although I'm happy to share my own, if you ask.) If all of this sounds a little confusing, and you are wondering why I kept putting a "#" in front of kinderchat, and you're still not sure how a DM is different from a regular tweet, well.... I would suggest you are not ready to tweet with your class. There are lots of situations where I am completely in favour of learning alongside our students, but, given the attention span of 5-year-olds, and the (manageable, but still present) risks of a social media environment, my position here is that Twitter is not one of those. 

For perhaps the 347th time: If you want to get your class on Twitter, you need to get yourself on Twitter, first.


  1. This is a great post, and I'm so glad that you shared what you do and how you do it. As you know, I tweet with my Grade 1/2 class as well, and I have some things in common with yours (in terms of informing parents and administrators and being heavily active on Twitter myself) and other things not in common (I have a public account, but check out all follows and block as needed, and my students tweet individually and in small groups from this count, but I do all of the logging in). I think that my set-up would be much more similar to yours if I was in Kindergarten still, but I've figured out something that works for me and for our class. Parents and administrators have been very supportive too, and that's great! I hope to see even more primary classes tweeting after this blog post of yours!

    Aviva (@grade1)

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with you on the "Tweet yourself before you Tweet with the class" idea. Knowing the medium is key. Twitter, like any other tool, is JUST a tool. Teachers shouldn't decide to use Twitter "just to get the class online". We must think about the learning outcomes, even if it's just as simple as "Boosting Parent-School Communication" or "Modeling Safe and Effective Use of The Internet." Thank yo for this post.

  3. I've said before, I love the idea! Social media is a great resource, and I think its great to get kids started using it in an educational way, to learn about the world and communicate with others, way before they start using it just to chat with their friends! ;)

  4. Thanks so much for posting this! I appreciate how much you emphasized being on Twitter yourself before you start using it with your class. It's a very unique tool, learning space, and group of communities that takes time to understand. I keep talking to more and more educators about the power and potential of Twitter both in the classroom and as a part of a PLN but it's always tough to explain how to get started. I will definitely be passing this on a resource for other educators!

  5. Great post! You share some important information to make sure twitter is a positive experience.I'm sharing this article on my fb page... along with the info that if readers need to know the definition of #hashtag or DM, they might want to join the we teach: we're bloggers group on we teach! We have lots of free tutorials on the basics of social media.

  6. Wow. I am new to twitter and this is the first time I have thought about tweeting with my class. Thanks so much for writing this post!

    Apples and ABC's

  7. perhaps what I need is a good PLN for twitter, I still haven't figured out all of the privacy settings, etc... I am eager to start next year, with a focus on math metacognition & science. So perhaps you could recomend some places to learn about twitter, and some sample consent forms? (I have 4 months to get good at this...)