Guest Blogger: @mr_g_walton
Using Twitter In The Classroom
So we all use Twitter, right? It’s a great place to share ideas, collaborate in a virtual staff room, find out about events, etc. But in the run up to the last set of GCSE and A Level exams, I noticed there were more and more Twitter users posting material aimed at revising maths; @hegartymaths and @corbettmaths being two big hitters which I regularly promoted within my own classroom. This made me think about how I could do something similar, in terms of engaging pupils via social media in a way that wasn’t obtrusive, against the “rules” and where they could engage if they wanted to.
#askwalto – Hashtags are wonderful things!
In the run up to the exams, I decided to run regular twitter revision sessions. I would publicise it around school, by word of mouth and posters and to be honest the look I got from some pupils made me nearly change my mind! But, nevertheless, I went ahead with the idea. At 6.30pm, I would tweet to ensure that people were ready, that they had their maths equipment and questions for me ready, that they had paper and their phone (to take photos of answers) ready. Then, at 7pm, I would post questions out (either by typing them up, or even easier, inserting a picture of the question), wait for replies, retweet the pupil’s responses and answer any questions they were stuck with. The only limitation was that they had to use the #askwalto. The reason for this was to make it manageable. And the software which made it possible for me was Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck enabled me to search only for a specific hashtag and see a live stream of questions / replies / comments coming in. The sessions were meant to run for an hour, but inevitably, they went on for longer! I did make sure that we didn’t work past 9.30pm though.
I did several of these sessions and although they were primarily aimed at pupils from my own school, inevitably, one or two from other schools joined in. It made a change from traditional revision and whilst not everyone engaged, approximately 40 pupils did regularly contribute. More than I could have fitted into my classroom! And that’s the point. This is all extra guided revision pupils are doing “with” a teacher.
Once the exams are out of the way, I am lucky enough to be part of a team that organises a Mathematical trip to Paris for years 10 and 11. In the last week of term this year, we took 60 pupils on a Mathematical and cultural journey around Paris. Every year, they always say what a brilliant time they had, but I wanted to use social media more to be able to share these experiences, with the rest of the school as well as with parents. Everyone we took had a smart phone and nearly everyone had Instagram. So, when the pupils were on the bus they were presented with a little business card which showed them how to share their memories of the trip with us using the #mathstagram and #paris14.
This meant that I didn’t have to “follow” any pupils and they didn’t have to follow me. Anything they wanted to share, they could and anything that was just for them and their friends could remain that way.
During the trip, I wrote a daily blog. This was especially aimed at parents who don’t get full accounts of what went on from their teenager! The feedback from this was exceptional with hundreds of views each night! Something I will definitely do more of as parental engagement is something we are striving to increase at my school.
Once we retuned, I was able to put all the #mathstagram pictures together in a little video (again for parents as much as pupils) as a memento of the trip.
With the new academic year in mind and the change in OFSTED focus to be looking at a longer term view of pupil’s work, a more permanent version of mathstagram has been installed in my classroom. With a bit of thought and careful cutting, I made this…
The idea behind it is that when a particular pupil has done some work worthy of display, I can photograph it, blow it up to A3, laminate it and “post” it on my board. This is a quick way to get exemplar work displayed and should, I hope, make for a vehicle where we can share best practise in the classroom continuously. This idea has yet to be implemented, so #fingerscrossed!
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