Not entirely related to the iPad 1:1 but also not entirely unrelated. We of course have a course management system, ItsLearning, which I like (for the most part). I love having a secure area where students can submit assignments, both big and small, and that checks for plagiarism violations (with enough reliability that I only have to double check on occasion). On the other hand, I find many of ItsLearning’s simpler features a bit too cumbersome to use. For instance, to post a bulletin on my course page, I have to log in (usually it will have logged me out by then), navigate to my course, click on new bulletin, type, save, and there it is. I find this quite simply to be too many steps for too little return.
Over the holiday break on the drive down to Philly (where I’m from and where we frequently visit) I was mulling this over, trying to come up with a solution. Of course I want a quick, easy, painless way to communicate to my students / classes, but I don’t want one that requires the kind of momentum that ItsLearning does. I alighted upon Twitter as a potential solution. Here’s the rationale: it’s instantaneous, it’s short, it’s to the point, and it finds them (my students have to go to ItsLearning to see a bulleting that I’ve posted). An added bonus that I discovered after setting up the account is that Twitter almost never logs me out, so even that step is removed.
So here’s the deal. I have an account (@dehlatinteach) to which students subscribe (I have 26 followers on Twitter). If students don’t want to create a Twitter account, they can follow on their cell phones by texting to 40404 ‘follow @dehlatinteach’ (of course no quotes in the text); I’d say about an equal number use this option (though Twitter doesn’t track that). The Twitter feed is strictly business. My students jokingly hoped that they would receive mini-doses of my caustic humor when they least expected it but, alas, not the case (nor do I have a personal Twitter account with which to assail the world with mini versions of my rants).
I tweet the daily homework assignments (and with my computer hooked up to the projector, I can type the tweet into the screen, counting as both writing it on the board and sending it out to them), I tweet reminders about things (tonight I tweeted reminders about the on-line review sessions later tonight), or any notifications.
I do not have separate accounts for each class. Rather, I precede each Tweet with a hashtag (#) specifying which class it’s about. Everyone gets the tweets, but it’s easy to see whether or not they should ignore it because of the hashtag.
So far I’ve gotten good reviews. The kids seem to like it (however weird it was at the beginning for them to sign on) and I’ve found it the perfect combination of contact and lack of contact, i.e. my class is within reach when I want them to be but that is mostly a one way street.
Here is a selection of my Tweets so far (can you find the one mistake I made? I used an @ instead of a # and it never went through). So don’t be afraid. Let Twitter simply your classroom communication life (if it needs it).