Unterricht im Kontext der Digitalität

TWITTER in class

What is twitter and how does it work? [1] 
Twitter is a micro-blogging platform (twitter.com) that is widely used among professionals such as scientists, researchers, politicians, journalists and all sorts of celebrities but much less used for private purposes. It is not very popular among German Internet users who prefer whatsapp and Facebook, only 1% uses twitter daily[2] . The ideas of twitter is to network, to share opinions, ideas and websites with your followers in mini-messages consisting of not more than 140 characters. You can easily create an account on twitter.com and you only need an email address for this. You don’t need to give your real name.
You acquire followers and spread your tweets by using the special twitter syntax. A hashtag # is used in front of a word (no space between the # and the word!) to turn it into a search item. If you put write a message like the following one:

My English students have fun using #popplet. #digitaleslernen

People looking for the hashtags #popplet and #digitaleslernen might find your post.

The second important feature of twitter syntax is @. If you put this in front of the username of another twitteruser e.g. @MrBrauweiler, this user will have this message on his/her twitter wall.

@MrBrauweiler My English students have fun using #popplet. #digitaleslernen

With this tweet MrBrauweiler as well as people looking for the hashtags can find your tweet.

Whereas at the beginning of your twitter career you might have no or very few followers, by cleverly using hashtags and @ you will soon win followers and you can of course search for hashtags yourself and follow people whose tweets you find interesting.

If you want to share web content, you should use bitly.com to shorten the often quite long URL of web content to make it fit a tweet. Just copy and paste the long URL In bitly and then copy and paste the shortened URL into your tweet.

Professional twitter users use the very comfy and user-friendly page tweetdeck.com where you can categorize your tweets in categories and lists.

Never forget: Everything on twitter is public! You can use direct messaging with your followers but this is not the original idea of twice before you post and publish.

What about data protection?
As with many US-based companies such as Facebook, twitter makes you accept the permission to use your information (basically tweets and account info such as your email-address) and to also hand it to third-party institutions. No further explanation who these guys might be.
Twitter uses your tweets to collect information about you for advertisement purposes. It might show you tweets that fit your interests as well as send you advertisement emails via the email address you provided to log in.
As for child safety, you are allowed to use twitter if you’re 13 years or older.
To be on the safe side legally, you must ask for the consent of the teenagers and their parents if you want to use twitter (or any other app /tech for which you have to set up an account) in class. Tell them about your learning aims and the reasons for using twitter. If you do not get the consent of  a student and / or his/her parents you might offer this student an alternative to participate in class other than using the desired tech/app.
One possibility for twitter would be to set up a class account and to let the students twitter over this account.

How can I use twitter in the classroom?

There are several possibilities to use twitter in the language classroom. Here are some ideas:

A) classroom discussion
Create a unique # for your class (search for this # to make sure that it is not already in use) and make your students twitter their answers to a discussion question. You can visualize the answers by projecting your computer screen on the classroom wall or use an Interactive White Board. Afterward make one student summarize the answers.

B) research political opinion
As twitter as great platform for political discussion, one could exploit exactly this. Search for the # of a political issue (e.g. #Brexit #EUreferendum #Parisattacks ….) and scan the results. What might be important aspects, questions, positions concerning the issue? Order them, make lists, …
In a second step, the students pick one tweet and research on this one. Who posted the tweet, what does this person, institution… stand for? What is the argument concering the issue at hand? Is it valid? Research background info to answer possible open questions.
Follow possible links in the tweet (check that its a safe website by posting the short URL in bitly so that you can see the long version and retrace the source).

C) taking part in a political discussion
The students quite simply react to tweets and post their own opinion using the relevant # on a special political issue or any other topic (e.g. a work of literature). They can reply to a tweet, post their own opinion as such and wait for responses. Many journalists and even high-rank politicians regularly answer to their tweet replies (even if it’s surely ‘only’ some back-office assistants). The students will feel heard.

D) extremely short summaries
When dealing with literature the students could try to summarize a novel or a short story or actually any kind of text in a single tweet. Here you could either make it quite public by using the title of the text / film as a # or you create a unique # for the class project.

E) twitter in role
The students adopt the role of a character in movie, novel, play… and twitter their ideas, thoughts, feelings they develop in the course of the story to trace the characters’ development. Here you should definitely create a unique # for the class project, as public twitter users might not be able to see that a twitter user is speaking ‘in-role’.

Here you can read a possible lesson plan for using twitter in class:

twitter in class

The texts for this lesson can be found on pp. 33 – 36 in Pathway Advanced. 2015. Braunschweig/Paderborn/Darmstadt: Bildungshaus Schulbuchverlage.

Focus on… reading! 

As with all receptive strategies, reading comprehension is an interplay between bottom-up and top-down processes[3] , meaning that in order to understand a text you have certain expectations and prior-knowledge (top-down) that you apply in the understanding process whereas you then make sense of what you read and how it fits that prior knowledge and what new information you might get (bottom-up). This being said, it is obvious that a text should not largely exceed the students’ linguistics abilities (vocab, grammar, background knowledge) nor should the text itself present material that is too far away from what the students can understand. This is now the job of the teacher (though most textbooks might have done the job for you) to choose the right level of texts. However, texts should after all present something new to the students linguistic- as well as content-wise in order to learn (see Vigotsky’s “zone of promximal development”[4] ).
As one can see, reading involves a number of subskills[5] :
linguistic skills – making sense of the words / the word order / the grammatical forms
visual skills – making sense of the different forms of text (pictures, texts, statistics…) and relating them to each other
orthographic skills – forming words out of the different orthgraphic forms one percieves
semantic skill – getting the meaning
cognitive skill – reflecting what has been read and integrating it into prior knowledge as well as making inferences and drawing conclusions
Apar from understanding a text is another point to consider is that there different reasons for reading a texts, be it for pleasure, to get a general understand of the topic to see if the text is interesting at all for a certain purpose (skimming / reading for a gist) or to look for a specific piece of information (scanning). You can also read a text to find out the stance of the author to compare it to other texts with the same topic or to have a closer look at the writing style of the author. [6] The purpose of reading a text should be clear to the students and they have to learn to define their reading needs before reading a text.
It is the an intergral part of language teaching to teach students skills to master the before mentioned skills:
Students have to learn to identiy their reading needs and to use their prior knowledge to understand a text. They must use stategies to guess the meaning of unknown words and structures. They must learn to differentiate between what is important (for the reading purpose) and what is of lesser importance as well as to make inferences and draw conclusions.
A typical reading lesson therefore consists of three parts [7] :
pre-reading: activate prior knowledge, set up reading expectations, define a reason to read
while-reading: focus on what is important for the reading purpose, clarify meaning, apply a reading strategy that fits your reading purpose
post-reading: draw conclusions, state your personal opinion, responding to the text

[1]  http://de.statista.com/themen/99/twitter/ <1st April 2016>
[2]  https://de.statista.com/infografik/4100/nutzung-von-social-media-plattformen-in-deutschland/ <1st April 2016>
[3] see Hermes, Liesel. (2007). Leseverstehen. In: Johann-P. Timm. ed. Englisch lernen und lehren: Didaktik des Englischunterrichts. Berlin: Cornelsen, 342 – 52.
[4] see http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/english/proflearn/Pages/velszopds56.aspx <9 April 2016>
[5] see Grabe, William (2011). Teaching and Testing Reading. In: Michael H. Long & Catherine J. Doughty, eds. The Handbook of Language Teaching. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 441.
[6] see Coucil of Europe. 2001. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Cambridge: CUP, 69f
[7] see Grabe, William (2011). Teaching and Testing Reading. In: Michael H. Long & Catherine J. Doughty, eds. The Handbook of Language Teaching. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 455f.