Friday, July 15, 2011

The momentary temptation of the walled garden

This summer I have been super-excited about using twitter in my classroom with my 11th and 12th grade philosophy students. I have in mind asking them to use twitter to comment on class discussion, to backchannel during class, to have a twitter chat or two outside of class time (which could be useful if political turmoil forces school to close), and to have my students follow one or two philosophers of their choice. I want my students’ use of twitter to mirror real world development of a PLN as much as possible. 

Until last night.

I have had a few spam tweets, but last night was quite discouraging as I received my first highly offensive twitter spam. I should have known better than to open the message from someone I don’t know, but having participated in so many chats lately….. I thought perhaps someone was sending me something relevant.

So last night I put out a call to #edchat to get inside suggestions for twitter for education clients. Some of these I have seen, but some I have not. There is a part of me that takes assurance in the thought that my students might use twiducate or chatzy, I’m discouraged by the functionality I might lose. I don’t think Peter Singer (a philosopher who is actually alive) posts on twiducate. Chatzy has the function of a chat room, but the brilliance of twitter is to develop a network beyond our current walls and current connections. Twitter allows this easily.

Furthermore, I was planning on making my class room a byod room. That means that students could use twitter clients of their choice on their own devices in the classroom. With twiducate or chatzy, the students are limited.

And finally, I have already started looking into ways to cull statistics about my students’ twitter use. Exporting tweets to excel does not look that difficult. It would be easy to get a glimpse of a student’s use of twitter through a spreadsheet and perhaps have the student reflect upon their learning with this data in-hand.

And so, my students and I will move forward with twitter in the fall. I plan to give parents information on internet safety and giving the parents a choice of alternate assignment for their child if they are truly worried. I’ll also track what I get in twitter to see how prevalent this spam problem really is; hopefully it was just a fluke.

The walled garden will be down in my classroom. Some weed seeds may blow in, but we’ll pull them up as quickly as possible, while encouraging the cross-pollination needed for ideas to grow. And if nothing else, I’ll be happy we are in a philosophy class where we can discuss the ethics or spamming.


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