I was doing a session on playing with author blurbs as a way to study genre for our Writing Project Summer Institute. It was the 3rd time I'd done the workshop this summer and I was struggling to bring the enthusiasm. This is why I always had my classes reading different novels when I taught high school. Doing something the second time helps me work out the kinks, but by the third time I'm bored.
As I launched into my mini-lesson about genre as a site of action rather than a form to be filled out, the room was quiet. I continued on with my metaphor about writing into a genre being like going to a party - you have to know who the party is for and who is going to be there. The room was deadly quiet. People were typing on computers and scribbling notes, but few were making eye contact. Crap. I was boring the heck out of them. I finished up the mini-lesson and moved on to the activity. I picked up my phone to set a timer and found it exploding with tweets. Things like:
"Learning how to be recognized in the discourse and push the discourse with @birdawg"
"you can push the envelope as long as you know how to act at the party" birdawg on genre at this rockin' awesome SI session"
Well how about that! They were engaged in back-channeling about the session. And I'd hit the nail on the head. Not only that, but they were re-framing my words into their own, pointing to the things that were important to them in what I'd said.
I started thinking (again) about the use of Twitter in the classroom. What if students had the access to this during mini-lessons in school? What if they could point back to and re-frame what teachers were saying. It would certainly engage their active minds by having an outlet to communicate with others about what they were learning, but it would also show the teacher what is getting through and perhaps even what is causing confusion.
Thinking back on all of this now, I think this type of tweeting would need to be taught. When I've seen Twitter used in classrooms in the past it's been more about reporting out the agenda for the day . . . "we learned about worms today" These posts go a little beyond that, pointing to salient points in the lesson and lending them a sort of "A-men sister" to what I was saying. It's a little bit of ego stroking for me, for sure and I wouldn't want to turn it into a process of making me feel good about what I was doing in the classroom, but it sure was helpful when I had a break to see that what I had wanted to communicate had made it through and that I could build further on those concepts rather than re-teaching them.
If nothing else, I'm wanting to think more about this. I'm hoping I get a chance to play with this some during the school year.