Something I have been experimenting with lately has been using twitter to supplement our learning. I’ve decided that Twitter™ is a great tool for Field Trips. One of the advantages is that many of our students already have smart phones and nearly all of them have a twitter account. We agreed that each small group of four to five students could work collaboratively so that the students without the latest blackberry, iphone or android device did not have to feel left out.
You can use twitter to;
- connect to students,
- enthuse students,
- ask questions,
- record data,
- record impressions,
- provide a record for parents to follow,
- encourage student to student communication,
- provide real time feedback (to individuals, but also the whole audience), and
- can be followed up later in the classroom.
We have been running this field trip for our IB Biology and IB Environmental Systems and Societies students for the last 6 years. I blogged about it here earlier.The main purpose is to practice ecological techniques such as transects, quadrats, data logging and other field studies, some of which they have already learned about in class. Our plan was to use twitter in addition to notebooks, though ultimately I’d like to think that twitter could replace notebooks on field trips.
Firstly, you need to define a good hashtag, something short (without using too much of the 140 character limit), logical (which makes it easy to remember) and unique. (which keeps it confined to your class or trip).
Last year, when I first tried this I used #Pramuka (Pramuka Island being our destination). However, what I discovered is other twits (pun intended) used that hashtag for their holidays and general nonsense, which then interfered with our flow of information. The second time around I was ready, this time we used our school name and our destination. I made sure to tweet it early and remind all the students that we were using this hashtag.
I then asked the students to tweet any impressions of the area they had and to tweet associated qualitative data that was appropriate for the area, (such as temperature, time of day, meteorological conditions etc) and for those of you that don’t know, Ancol is a ferry terminal and badly polluted part of Jakarta.
I replied back to one or two students in a general non specific way, just to encourage them that I was actually reading their tweets but without correcting them or taxing them academically yet, the plan was to get them using twitter comfortably and unselfconsciously. Some students included photos of themselves on the boat, (holiday snap style) but I have ignored those ones, at this stage.