In an attempt for our kids to better understand the power of social media, I decided they would host their own Twitter chats as part of our Spanish class. A Twitter chat is a conversation that takes place online, in public, around a unique hashtag usually over Twitter. Twitter chats usually last an hour and have a host or moderator who prepares questions prior to the chat. Because building a positive digital footprint is a goal for our Spanish Technology class, I thought this authentic experience would be helpful for them to learn to participate in online conversations while also using their Spanish to discuss issues of interest. Our chats last for 30 minutes and take place under the hashtag (#) Amigoweb. Amigoweb is hashtag (#) I saw floating around the Twittersphere for years dedicated to, I believe, students studying Spanish. My class has been using the hashtag for the last few years to share our learning and connect with others passionate about español. The purpose of our organized Twitter chats is for students to lead a chat --where they would produce content and not just consume-- and to help other classes and students studying Spanish.
Here is how we get started:
- Groups of students (two-three) choose a topic of interest such as food, music, sports, weekend activities, etc.
- Students generate five questions for their chat and write each one on a Google slide.
- Students download each slide as a jpeg and schedule their tweets at five minutes intervals on their particular day.
- Students also keep a list of images or articles they could add to the conversation on the fly. They typically keep these links handy in an open Google document so they can be inserted quickly into the chat.
- Prior to the chat, students promote their chat using #amigoweb, #langchat or even Whats App to invite friends from other places.
- Time to host! Hosting duties include welcoming the audience, responding to answers with comments or additional questions, and then profusely thanking the audience for coming. Animated gifs are usually flying during the last few minutes of the chat.
- The rest of the class plays the role of the audience. They must respond to every question and keep the conversation going.
- We reflect after each chat. We ma use paper, a blog, another Tweet or even Storify. Storify is an online application that helps summarize a Twitter chat.
Learn from my mistakes:
Triple-check your school calendar for potential conflicts in your schedule. It's a challenge when your class period changes and kids have to alter their time or even date of their scheduled tweets. Of course, it can be changed, but it's frustrating when the time changes and you have contacted other schools to participate.
Encourage students to cast a wide net in terms of both topics and questions. Not everyone loves theater and some students work during the summer and have limited travel opportunities. The idea is that the questions can be answered by the majority of students participating in order to keep the conversation engaging for the entire group.
Promote their chats with your colleagues via Twitter, Facebook or even a personal phone call to guarantee you have some outside participation. One or two people from outside your class make all the difference. Students love seeing one of their other Spanish Teachers, Silvia, pop on for a few minutes.
Remind students to embed culture into their questions. Some will do so automatically but others may need specific examples of how to embed it into their chat.
Remember, it's a scary to put yourself online and your students feel the same way. Be kind and go slow. Discuss the reasons for building a positive footprint and how tweeting can help. Here is our rubric (student created) for our general tweets. My kids are more successful when we discuss the why and we review expectations prior to a chat. We had one example last year of a student from another class who called his classmates "estupidos". My class was pretty hard on the student's tweet at first. Then we talked about how we had no idea what kind of conversations their class had had on why and hot to build a digital footprint but it was our job to help out. Cassidy responded:
Lastly, if you are a Spanish teacher, be prepared for the occasional 'Yo me gusta'. It's not a representation of you, it's the definition of intermediate level discourse. Kids are creating spontaneously. It is difficult to think quickly and always type accurately. It is probably not the time to correct the student in front of the entire class in the middle of a chat. That said, practice a bit ahead of time with some of the common languages your students will need to respond. Most of my kids do try to be more accurate in Spanish when they know they have a public audience. I had two students ask last week if gracias had an accent on it.
Please let me know if you get your own Twitter Chat started. My students and I would love to pop in and support you.