Developing a department Twitter feed

This year I have become a little obsessed with Twitter. This began with me using twitter personally, dipping my toe into RT-ing, mentioning others and occasionally taking part in #ukedchat. Other colleagues were doing this at the same time which led us to discuss how we might use social networking in school. A bit of back and forth with SLT and the council on the e-safety of doing this ensued, but within a few days we were given the greenlight to create a department twitter feed, hence @RGSHistory was born (along with @RGSDeutsch and @RGSMusicDept).

Screen capture of @RGSHistory twitter feed

As you will see if you follow the link, we’ve used this for a few primary  purposes:

  • Sharing Home Learning – so far this has focused on KS4 and KS5
  • Sharing links to websites that enrich the content of lessons
  • Sharing exam tips
  • Posting from school trips (see previous blog post)
  • Retweeting other interesting posts that might interest students

How successful has this been? This is difficult to say as we lack quantitative data to prove any success. We have nearly 100 followers now, but most students seem to not have twitter accounts so are merely checking by visiting the URL (another benefit of twitter over other social networking sites).

However, where quantitative responses have been limited, qualitative responses has been great. Sharing Home Learning has been a big winner. Students have loved that they have their Home Learning fed to them in one location, especially great for Post-16 who have set up their smart phones to alert them. This has even resulted in some students who missed lessons turning up with completed Home Learning (as “twitter told me what it was”). Parents have also loved it as they like the transparency of this process and the fact that they can check up on little Johnny. Sharing exam tips has also been good with many KS4 students actively following the tweets and coming into class discussing them. As previously blogged, tweeting from a school trip has probably also been the biggest win, but I won’t bark on about that again. Providing students with enrichment material was one of the primary objectives of setting up the feed and disappointingly this hasn’t had much impact, probably as the things I tweet are my interests (space history, Russian history etc.) which may, funnily enough, not engage the students as much! However, a handful of students read some of the tweets and stopped me in the corridor to discuss it, in particular the things from the ace Howtobearetronaut which are generally hilarious, so not a total failure.

So far so good, but more can be done. This project is so far very one sided, I provide the information and students / parents take it. This isn’t a social network, its simply a communication tool, albeit a good one. Next year I hope to address this. I am going to force my Post-16 students to create accounts as Home Learning in week one and then try to get them to engage with material, tweeting @RGSHistory their ideas. I am, however, unsure of how to actually do this, so please share any ideas below! Additionally, if anyone else has done this sort of thing I would be interested in hearing about it or stealing your ideas!

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6 Responses to Developing a department Twitter feed

  1. Dave Stacey says:

    Great idea. Haven’t really done this, but it’s another one on my steal list from this blog!

    From my (sometimes unsuccesful) attempts at student blogging, my advice would be two fold – firstly do it often, and secondly do it with a purpose. Maybe set a weekly challenge? Tweet a reaction from someone being studied to a particular situation. Tweet a link to a site they like. Tweet a summary of a topic in 140 characters. Tweet a question that you’d like answered about something from class.

    Hopefully if they’re following each other the network part should kick in and it should become self supporting.

    Love to see how this takes off. Thanks for the idea :0)

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  4. Dave Gale says:

    Hi,

    Liked your presentation about this at #TMClevedon

    This is something I am very interested in but I am going to try student blogging with my yr12s first.

    I too am thinking about how do I get them (force them?) to engage and my plans are to put lesson notes on the blog and invite comments/questions about topics. I intend to make some of the blog posts audio, some video and most will be pics of my Smart notebook files from the lesson.

    One thing I am going to do is assign reading homeworks (I teach Statistics so this is fairly unusual) and make posting a comment on the blog about it part of the evidence that they’ve read it.

    Happy to keep you informed how it goes but I have yet to get over the e-safety issues too. Any advice with that?

    Dave
    @reflectivemaths

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