With my interest in using ICT to support the teaching of literacy I have looked at the use of blogs, wikis and Twitter in classes with interest over several years. I approached this term with the intention of working with a range of classes in developing the use of these tying them into recent developments to support teachers in the teaching of writing in England released through the National Strategies – Support for Writing, Talk for Writing and APP.
Nationally it is estimated that more than 75% of Primary schools have Improving Standards in Writing as a priority on their Development Plan. In many cases this is specifically the standards of writing for Boys or the gap between reading and writing.
It does mean that there are many approaches which are being presented to schools to support themÂ in tackling writing issues – some of these are developed by Local Authorities, some by national organisations and others by commercial providers. In each of these cases the common denominator is that CPD is required to develop the subject knowledge of the practitioner. In many of these cases it is about a new approach to writing or making changes to classroom practice. In some these significant changes are required whilst in some classes teachers actually need to have the confidence to embed present practice and develop intelligent and creative approaches to audience and purpose.
I am working with teachers who are introducing the use of Twitter as a writing tool in Key Stage One classes. It is far too early to be able to report on the impact of the projects but the work is already posing some questions which I have been considering this week.
The use of Twitter seemed to be a sensible addition to a teacherâ€™s toolkit rather than a total re-equipping of it. It is important to say that the classes are not ones where the use of technology has had a great prominence so there is a interest for me in how ‘real world’ technologies can add to the ICT practice in the class as well as developing the profile of writing.
I am working most closely with the Giraffes www.twitter.com/@giraffeclass who have attempted to tweet every day as part of their morning routine. The Year 1 children are adapting to life out of the Foundation Stage and the teacher is trying to create a learning environment in which writing is valued and meaningful.
The use of twitter has been tied in tightly to the application of phonic knowledge – this is an area which has been identified in Year 1 where children are not given sufficient opportunities to practice and apply the phonic skills they have learnt.
The teacher and teaching assistant ensure that the class tweet daily with the “star of the day” choosing a writingÂ buddy to join them and the TA in developing the tweet through oral rehearsal and then typing. The teaching assistant ensures that the children orally practice the spelling of each word considering the different options they have learnedÂ but she does not correct or change what has been typed.
The class have now started adding twitpics to develop their use and to show what they have (on an e-safety note this has meant that the children have learned that when they take photographs they have to ensure that no children are in the shot so that they may be published.)
The teacher reports that she believes that they have passed the tipping point in terms of pupil acceptance and use – when it gets to 11.30am the children know that it is ‘twitter time’ and start thinking about what they want to tell their audience about and who is going to write it. The class are also now receiving questions through Twitter from some of their followers which the children love. This provides the real world link which develops their understanding of why they are tweeting.
The twitpics from the class show what they were working with such as this photo of the toys they had all brought in for curator’s activity.
The extension of this is twitpics of their work celebrating their achievements and sharing them with an increasing number of followers â€“ these now include parents and other relatives.
The teacher is excited by the prospect of sharing of more work from the class and is now planning to include work from all areas of the curriculum.
The teacher is also exploring the potential for using Twitter to support Assessment for Learning. This includes developing the childrenâ€™s self assessment with them choosing to submit a piece of work, of which they are proud, to be posted using twitpic. In addition, she is keeping a record of who has posted each day to aid the collation of evidence of writing for APP.
There is no assumption that the use of twitter is necessarily cutting edge technology but I think that there have already been some key points of interest in this half term of work with the Giraffes.
It strikes me that Twitter is perfectly designed for supporting writing in Key Stage One as it is one of the few mediums which requires the child to be brief and gains an immediate response.
It is also is gaining interest from parents some of whom had never heard of Twitter and the teacher is hoping that they will be soon commenting on the work their child is doing.
The sustainability of a project like this is absolutely about embedding the use of twitter in daily practice – other users appear to be more inconsistent in their use of twitter and as a result they do not appear to have reached the same tipping point with children seeing it as part of their regular practice.
I suspect that it is easier to organise groups to tweet in the slightly less congested or siloed Key Stage One curriculum than in Key Stage Two. This does not preclude its successful use in older classes but I suspect that this will be more around note making, writing summaries, using twitpics to show work, seeking advice or opinions and making links across the globe.
So where will the Giraffes go from here?
They are preparing for their Virtual Ballon Race in which they are hoping to make links with classes all around the globe by email or tweet. This will then inform their weekly geography researching and talking about the countries they have heard from.
They have located some classes across the globe but are very keen to find new partners who are happy to swap emails or tweets.
If you are interested in making links with them please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org)