How do you use social media in the classroom?

We’ve been using Twitter in school for a while now. Our main school account @stjohnswaltham is there as a way of posting blog posts. Every log post from is automatically tweeted out to our 500+ followers. We don’t use this for news or important information, but we do occasionally post links to the school website. Importantly, anything that is sent to Twitter is already on our school newsletter and/or website.

In class, it’s a bit different. We are followed by 350+ people including teachers and other schools and classes. This account also posts blog posts from our class blog but it is there as a way of us sharing our learning in a more instant way. Blogs are great and we blog a couple of times a week, but using Twitter, we can post a short snappy update in seconds. We have a Chromebook that is always available in class and this has the Twitter application loaded. The children can use this at any point in the day to share a message with “the world”.

We use various sentence prompts, inspired by Simon McCloughlin’s blog post and these help to focus our tweets. Sometimes we get replies and we can then form a bit of dialogue with the person we are messaging. Often, our tweets are just little moments in time that a child wanted to share.

I don’t think that these children would always share these nuggets with me, but they are happy to share it with Twitter. Not everyone tweets, but they can if they want to. Certain children, such as Finlay, will tweet a few times a week as he wants to share what he’s been up to. Others tend not to do it at all, which is also fine. The only rules we have are that we have to (try to) remember capital letters and full stops and that someone has to check the tweet before it goes live. This doesn’t have to be me, it could be another child. Also if they see a reply that they are unsure about, they tell me. But then this is the same rule for their school email or any website they might be using in school.

So how do we keep it safe?

I am often asked about the safety aspects. We are followed by a range of different people and I do scan through these now and again (by clicking “followers” on and I would block anyone that I thought looked inappropriate, but I don’t want to limit our followers to just our parents and teachers. The replies we get are often from teachers and classes in different parts of the country and this is an exciting moment for our children. Why do these people reply to us? Who knows! One person is an ex-teacher and wants to stay connected to the classroom; others know that a reply might spark a line of discussion and enquiry.

I would say that using Twitter in the classroom hasn’t been a revolution and it hasn’t changed the way I teach or the way the children learn, but it is an interesting addition as it gives the children another avenue with which to share their learning with others.

So give it a go, follow @stjohnsclass8 and say hi to my Year 3/4 class!

For more inspiration and ideas, Teacher’s Pet~ also have a set of display resources based on Simon’s prompters.

Written by Ian Addison on April 23, 2013 08:47

E-safety across the curriculum

Teach and pupil at computerOnline safety should be taught through all curriculum areas and become part of the routine conversations teachers have with students. Following on from my article relating school internet safety to the Unicef Rights of the Child legislation, here are a few practical lesson ideas to engage students with e-safety topics.

English lessons
Students collaborate to create a new social networking site, having to analyse advantages and disadvantages of online learning and social media first then design the safety protocols for their new fictitious sites.

Students created RSA animations for revision to summarise case studies, having to consider how to protect their identities during filming so that the material could be shared online. See for more information on the project.

Get involved with journalism projects that force students to assess the processes of information gathering and sharing, and the difficulties of protecting identities and avoiding inappropriate media while blogging and filming for broadcast.

See for more suggested activities.

Written by Jo Debens on May 16, 2013 14:20

How to use Avatars with children

One of the benefits of working and communicating online is the ability to share information with others, but children (and adults) need to be careful about what they share and with whom. Some sites that they use, even child-friendly sites like Edmodo, will give children the chance to add a photo or picture of themselves to make their profile more personal. Now we don’t really want children uploading photos of themselves with their name displayed as well so it is useful to find an alternative solution and that is where the avatar creation tools come in.

An avatar is a graphical representation of the user and this can take many forms. There are sites that pop-up all of the time offering simple avatar creation and I have looked at a few below. Children will probably be aware of these tools already and will have found a variety of different sites already, so ask them for examples and ideas. They will probably be familiar with the idea if they have ever played on the Wii as they are asked to create a ‘Mii’ character to join the games.

Avatar Generator Tool
The first place to start is the Primary Technology Avatar tool which is simply a page that links a number of avatar tools together in one place. Both of the examples below are on this page as well as around ten others too.

Clay Yourself
This is an example of a simple tool to use. You simply work through the options choosing skin colour, hair type and clothes and then press finish to see your finished work. This can then be downloaded or saved to use elsewhere. An example is here:

Build Your Wild-self
This tool takes it a little bit further and lets you choose not only hair and eyes, but also wings, a tail and a whole host of other creepy features. Wild-self is an example of a tool that makes it a little harder to download your finished creation and to save it; there are a couple of steps. Firstly, once you are finished you will need to choose the Print option. There isn’t a download option but the right-clicking on the image will allow you to save it. From here, you may need to crop it to get the parts that you need.

There are many other tools out there but they all work in a very similar way.

One way of using these in the classroom is to explore a variety, maybe 5 different sites, and get the children to download their images to their computer. They can then create a gallery or composite photo of their different avatars. This will help to re-enforce many skills such as saving work and cropping and editing images.

Although this blog is aimed at the e-safety aspect, the avatars can be used in other ways too. Why not create some characters to use in a story or design a creature using Wild-Self and describe its diet or habitat?

These tools are usually free and take seconds to use. So give it a go, create some avatars!

Written by Ian Addison on March 25, 2013 14:58

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