I can still vividly remember looking at the syllabus for my Graduate School class back in the summer and seeing that I was required to make a Twitter account. I thought back to high school and college when I had a Twitter account and used it to post updates on my day, sent out quirky messages to friends, and tried to post funny things and rack up as many likes as I could. I had no idea the relevance that it could possibly have to a graduate class.
I tried to resurrect my old account, but after multiple attempts at a password and forgetting how to access the e-mail account it was linked with, I threw up the white flag and created a new one.
It started off slow for me, and I was apprehensive about being a designated tweeter in class. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to narrate the class in a way that engaged my peers. After watching it unfold that first week, I decided to give it a try. Class Tweeters have to live tweet during class about thoughts, questions or comments related to the lesson. What I noticed was that I was much more focused. I was synthesizing in my head what others were saying, and trying to pick out the key parts of the discussion that I wanted to send out in the world.
Twitter is a great tool to communicate between peers in a short, concise way. But I realized that it can be used for so much more than that. My school is trying to integrate this more, and I figured I would kill two birds with one stone by using it more frequently.
Last week, my principal came into the classroom to do a read-aloud on Peter and Paul Reynolds’ book Going Places. This is the theme of our school this year. As she was reading, I thought it would be cool to tweet it out and tag her in it so she could see herself reading to the students. I happened to think “hey I wonder if the authors have Twitter accounts that I could tag them in?” I did a 30 second google search to find their handle names and tagged them in the tweet as well.
As I expected, my principal retweeted it within minutes of leaving the classroom and said she loved seeing my tweets on Twitter. A couple hours later I glanced at my phone and noticed I had another reply on the tweet. I looked closely as the picture was not one I quickly recognized. Then I realized it was Paul Reynolds himself responding to me! You would’ve thought I was having lunch with Justin Timberlake I was so excited.
I didn’t want to get too greedy, but I also couldn’t resist sending him one more tweet. This time, I asked him if he would be willing to Skype with my class. Continuing my astonishment, he replied and said yes!
Twitter truly has opened my eyes to just how many opportunities there are out there. A generation ago, if I wanted to contact an author it would’ve been a letter to put in the mailbox and I would wait weeks to get a response, if I even did. Now, in 2016, I can send a message to someone I’ve never met before and hear back within minutes. It gives my students more opportunities for authentic experiences and it makes is easier for me to set them up. I am so thankful for this experience and cannot wait to Skype with these famous authors! Stay tuned for that blog post!