Friday, February 13, 2009

Twitter and Feedjit - let our powers combine!

There has been a bit of discussion online in the last 12 months about how to use Twitter in the classroom (presuming it is seen as a worthwhile education tool) and none of the suggestions I have read about have triggered any 'aha' response with me yet. Which is not to say there is anything wrong with what some people are doing, just that none of them have meshed with our situation. In the first week back at school for the 2009 year I had the opportunity to facilitate a powerful learning moment with some young students and their teacher. This teacher is starting out in her first ever teaching position with a class of 6 and 7 year olds in a school that has not embedded eLearning in a major way. So the kids in this class were real newbies in the Web 2 environment. The teacher set up a class blog and on their first day of school they co-created the first post and published it. It can be very mystifying to adults, let alone young students, as to 'why you would do this' and 'is there any possiblity it will even be read', amidst the millions of pages of exciting content available online. I had advised her to incorporate a Feedjit gadget into the sidebar of her blog as she was setting it up, to demonstrate to the students and parents that publishing in this way meant that their work had a chance of being read by people around the world. The authentic audience factor again! Of course this can back-fire miserably if you open your blog page with the kids and see that the only red dot on the map of the whole world is languishing in the bottom right hand corner on Auckland, New Zealand - and that visitor was probably your Mum! The next day I had a brainwave! I have often seen people on Twitter ask their network for a shout-out so they can demonstrate to their mates/their conference attendees/their boss how many people love them and follow their 140 character pearls of wisdom. This must make these adults feel great when they get the responses flooding in and presumably supports their objectives. I wondered if my Twitter network would respond in a similar way to support these kids and their fledgling blogging project. From this evolved the idea of combining the powers of Twitter and Feedjit. At 10 am the next morning, while the students were in class with their blog open to "FeedjitLive - Arrivals as they happen", I tweeted asking my network to simply click on the blog URL I supplied so the kids could see where in the world they came from. It was a bit of a challenge explaining the request on Twitter in 140 characters, and in class the students weren't told anything specific about Twitter. Well, the Twitter network came up trumps! The kids were simply wowed by watching the visual demonstration of 50+ people from around the world landing on their blog in the space of an hour. And some of those visitors (without having been asked) took an extra couple of minutes to leave a comment for the kids as they passed through. How cool is that for newbie bloggers? I'll paste a few of the comments the students wrote on their blog after this experience....
Dear visitors, Thank you for the lovely comments on our blog. Please keep on doing it because I like seeing the comments from different countries. From A
Dear Mum and Dad, Thank you for doing comments, you are now a commenter! Have you seen all the red dots there are on the map? It's so cool because people from overseas have seen our blog. I love being in Room 10.
Love from S.
Dear commenters, Thank you for commenting on our blog, thats very nice of you. I feel proud of me and the class. I like my blog. It is awesome. From X.

Thank you to all of you who responded to my tweet and provided a fun learning opportunity for some Year 3 kids and their beginning teacher. Their map went from only having visitors from Auckland to what you see on the left in an hour
Kia ora.

Download the pdf of the Feedjitlive screen after one hour