Each year I reflect on how we can best communicate with our families. Last year we just started to "test the waters" or "dip our toes" into the world of Twitter with families.
We found that Twitter was an amazing way to connect with families and to share some of the magic that happens in our classroom on a daily basis! We began simply by tweeting out little things that were happening, projects that were in process, and experiences that were occurring in our room.
As the year progressed the children became part of the Twitter experience. What an absolutely incredible way to bring literacy genuinely into the program. The children wanted to tweet to their families, their friends, and their siblings in other classrooms.
Within our school a few of the other classrooms are beginning to set up and actively use Twitter accounts which is really exciting! Next year @Howardgrade5 (an amazing example of Twitter in the classroom) will be partnering with our classroom as "buddies". Our goal is to work on projects together to develop relationships in the school and to inspire inquiry. We are really excited to be able to communicate with them in between visits online via Twitter!
When working on our Dance Project - we visited @on_stage_dance in Stratford. We were able to tweet back and forth with them as well!
With anything new there are absolutely challenges to the process. We at first would "forget" to tweet out with the children during the day. It gets busy in the K classroom as you all know and when we are interacting and documenting it is easy to forget! However, with little reminders to each other and eventually from the children we increasingly tweeted.
Another initial concern was...will parents really connect this way and read tweets? Like any other form of communication this is absolutely a question or concern. However, do all parents read the newsletter that you photocopy and send home daily? Some families in our school are unable to read English, so can they even read the text dense materials sent home? Is it easier for them to see photos and have conversations in their own language at home?
We found that some parents followed our account, others simply bookmarked Twitter on the internet and read it a few times during the week. The great part about twitter is that you do not have to sign up to access the Twitter feed.
Of course internet safety was also at the forefront as a concern. However we had conversations with families and admin around how to ensure that it was safe for the children. They access twitter with educators and not independently. Further, all photos are focused on their learning and projects without their faces.
We only "Follow" families, authors, or other accounts that are safe for the children.
Twitter is a very user friendly and simple program to use with students. They can take a photo while in the Twitter app or use a photo from the camera roll. Students can stretch out and record words to express their thinking or educators can support the children by typing with them (both rich literacy experiences). Many of my reluctant writers were more than happy to "tweet" a photo of a structure they have built with a few words attached. They WANTED to write, we didn't have to try to convince them which is amazing.
There are many great websites that will explain HOW to use Twitter which is often a question that I get. I would recommend signing up for a personal Twitter account and just PLAYING around with it. When I first started with Twitter I just followed others, reading their thoughts and ideas. Eventually I started to "retweet" and finally I began to have incredible conversations. It takes time to grow comfortable!
We will use Twitter as a class to tweet out when special events are taking place in the school or when special guests come to visit!
We don't use our Twitter account to connect with other Kindergarten classrooms yet. I am not sure even if this is something that we will have time to do effectively. There is so much going on in the classroom that I am always worried about over extending ourselves. Further, Lilian Katz talks about keeping things local for children (they aren't ready for studies of geography and history) - at 4-5 years old they are not necessarily ready to think of abstract things like connecting with students in other countries. There is so much for them to study locally within their own community and even within their own school. So...I'm not sure about my feelings around that yet!
Goals for next year....
We would like to tweet 2-3 times each day - this will give us lots to share with our families and keep them feeling connected.
Teaching families how to use and view Twitter: during our open house in September and during our orientations we will be showing families Twitter and the simple ways for them to use and connect with us on Twitter. We are hoping this will inspire more interaction with parents if they feel more comfortable and understand how simple it is to use!
We haven't completely moved away from classroom newsletters and calendars, nor have we gone completely digital...however my goal is to continue to move in that direction! We will continue to build confidence with our staff, parents, and children in using Twitter as an incredible way to communicate!