Tweeting in the Math Classroom

If you've never read Steve Wheeler, check him out. He has a lot of great ideas about digital education, but he recently wrote a post on next generation learning that alludes to web 3.0 interfaces and what that might look like. It blew me away.

He uses a term that I had never used before which he calls "Rhizomatic" which be definition is a root sending out shoots in all directions. As students use various sources to learn from in this day and age, we might instinctively think that learning this way is the new norm. However, what really struck me from the post is the notion that students can create "learning communities"amongst themselves that help them learn. Research shows that students are aided by online collaboration, social media and many students would rather work with another student than a teacher anyway. The question is, how do we develop students to build their own learning communities?

Student Learning Communities Redefined
It's serendipitous that I just finished "Educaction Nation" by Milton Chen last week. Chen also advocates for more digital literacy and makes the good argument that blended learning communities are a good start, but that learning shouldn't start and stop during class time. Real engagement is when students share ideas outside of class and keep the discussion going long after the bell. Some ideas that I wanted to grow to fruitation:
  1. Students being able to access, share and evaluate resources together. 
  2. Students willing and able to help other students, not merely from our own classroom.
  3. Develop partnerships with other students to share ideas and resources.
Enter Twitter
Our school uses Google Apps and a number of 2.0 tools, but they're constricting to the mere students in the classroom. I gave a good lesson on Twitter Do's and Don'ts, Hashtags, and inappropriate and appropriate us so that we might "branch out" in a Rhizomatic fashion to teach and learn from others in the world. We cannot choose connections for students, but we can educate them on how to make good choices. Since our students are already Facebook fiends I gave a two minute spiel on using social media for learning.

Students give thanks to their group leaders that helped clarify and reteach after a warm up.
Students hypothesize a conjecture about whether a number with a negative exponent can ever be greater than 1

Students tweet about a lesson as formative feedback to others and the teacher

The Response
The response was great. Since implementation, we used Twitter for a variety of formative assessments at the beginning of class and I must say that the exchange of verbal and kin esthetic learning with a steady stream of tweets underlying the learning made for a very rich learning environment which students could draw on and enter at their own risk. Twitter allows for making a customizable widget which can be embedded onto a blog. In the following case, I embedded the conversation widget that we have in the back channels in math onto my classroom blog site. Parents can see little snippets of their child's conversations, resources shares, and general feelings about the subject at hand. There are settings within the filter that do not allow profane or obscene language to be posted to the timeline.

Continued Applications
Twitter will not teach my students math. However, it's shown to be a valueable tool in talking about math, asking for clarification, offering help and asking for it too. Is that not the predecessor to learning?

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