Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tweeting with Twiducate

We had newscasters tweeting out as channel News1860, and citizens from all walks of life participating... Today we used Twiducate to simulate a social media experience in Canada in the 1860s.
The students showed me vividly that they had a basic understanding of the factors leading to Confederation, but more importantly, they asked great questions about the politics of the day, extending their learning in a way that doesn't really happen in a regular class. I also feel that using Twiducate was more effective for this aspect of the unit than an actual debate might have been. They could pause, discuss, question me, look up information, and still return to the online environment to participate.
Working in pairs they randomly drew roles to play, ranging from a soldier in Canada West, to a farmer in PEI, to lumberjacks, fishers, store owners and more. We had previously discussed the key factors leading to Confederation, and also how regional attitudes varied.
I had set up one tweet in advance, about "Reports of Fenian troops approaching the US border." This gave the students something to work on while the newscasters prepared more tweets. The students were asked to respond to the Fenian report and also to post one tweet about their day to day life in their roles, to begin with.
As models, we viewed several actual Twitter feeds where history buffs have posted day to day reports in the present, about the past. I have found four of these so far and am absolutely in awe of these writer/historians. We looked at Twitter sites for World War II, the Titanic, the American Civil War and JFK's thousand days in office. We viewed these sites on the Smartboard, and read out several tweets from each one to get the idea of style and content.
I only discovered these Twitter history feeds after thinking up my grand plan for this culminating unit, and am so excited to have found real life examples to show the students. I had no idea they existed, and they have made it really easy for me to explain to the students about how and even why this is an authentic way to wind up our Confederation unit.
One key moment for me was when one young man who is a top student stood up and said quite loudly, "Where exactly is the border between New Brunswick and Quebec, and also the United States? Can I go back to the classroom and pull down the map?" So this led in a natural way to others getting up, talking to me, checking the map, and creating their responses.
While I had hoped for a basic demonstration of knowledge and some elementary role playing, the results more than surpassed this. Many of the comments are extremely creative. One group of three, instead of posting as one soldier, made up three military characters of differing ranks and explained their experiences. Others showed great insight into the daily lives of people at this point in our history.
Can't wait to get back to News1860 tomorrow afternoon!

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