David (my class and Twitter) and Goliath (district)

Many of you who follow me on Twitter know that my classroom also has their own Twitter account.  I first got the idea to even use Twitter within the classroom when I realized that the ‘new learning’ my students shared with me wasn’t being heard.  In order to remedy that, I started a classroom account. My district’s firewall allowed me to access Twitter and there were no rules that stated we couldn’t use it, so I did.  I did implement some additional safety precautions to ensure that the students would be safe in doing this, such as:

– I maintain personal control of the classroom account username and password.  The 2nd grade students do not have access to this information, nor do they have their own personal accounts.  We only have a classroom account.
– The classroom account uses privacy settings on all tweets, so only those who follow our account can read.
– All people interested in following our class must be approved before having access to our tweets.
– Twitter is used in a whole group setting on the Smartboard where students share their information with me while I type, which also allows for additional filtering for what is posted.
– I view all things posted on our newsfeed before displaying on the Smartboard to students.
– All parents are aware of the classroom account and have approved of their child participating in the classroom activities with Twitter.

My kids have genuinely become obsessed with using this social media tool to share new things that they have been learning on a daily basis with the world.  At the same time, this has also provided a means for me to hold my students accountable for their own learning.  Their job is to be able to tell me something new that they have learned in the past 24 hours.  It could be something that they learned while in school or at home, or by watching the news, reading a book, or using any other type of information medium.

In order to be able to tell me something that they learned, students obviously had to seek this information.  They had to consume the information, synthesize it to reach their own understanding as to what it meant, ask questions about it, be able to tell the class what they learned in their own words, and then contribute that information to the world in a tweet.  Look at the higher-level thinking that is required to do these things.  Now, some of the things that have been learned are not that great, or even of great importance.  But they’re still excited about sharing and passing on their learned information with others.  I’ve created passionate learners just by using Twitter.

Now that you have some insight into how I’ve been using Twitter, you’ll understand why I was heartbroken to receive an email from my district this week in regards to my classroom account.  As noted above, I have taken extra safety precautions, I have parent permission, and I have my administration’s support to use Twitter.  But that was not enough to help my case and keep its use alive and well in my classroom.  Instead, I have to face that fact that our days conversing with our followers are coming to an end.  I have to give up this amazing tool that has helped inspire my students and connect them with people and places around our country and world.  I have to sacrifice their passionate learning because of bureaucracy.

So, I am faced with the challenge of telling my students on Monday.  Do I let it go because this Goliath can’t be defeated by 15 2nd grade students and a strong-willed teacher?  Or do I turn this into a “teachable moment” and discuss democracy and the citizen’s rights within such a system when they’re unhappy (i.e. calling and writing congressmen, senators, governors, etc)?  Should my students make their voice heard, or at least try, by writing persuasive letters to the superintendent?  I haven’t decided completely, but I’m thinking I’ll pursue the latter.

Thoughts, ideas, suggestions, words of advice??

15 thoughts on “David (my class and Twitter) and Goliath (district)

  1. What a great idea! I could see the kids really loving that and totally getting into it :). I’m sure whatever you decide to do will be the right decision…sorry you can’t continue at this time :(!!

    1. They said there’s too much risk of exposure to inappropriate materials. I would like to argue that Twitter doesn’t involve itself in third party advertising like Facebook or MySpace, but it doesn’t matter. This came from the head of our Info Mgt Systems dept.

  2. I think Twitter for 2nd graders will be a hard sell and that is so unfortunate given the extraordinary success you are having with your class. I would encourage them to voice their feelings about it through the essays you mentioned. Giving them a voice is important. They could also express themselves through an online medium such as VoiceThread where you could record their voices and publish it online for the global community. Even though the odds are against them, it’s important to be heard.

    Maybe a place for the supporters of your students to be heard as well? On the VoiceThread or through another medium to bombard the “powers that be”!? Put it out on Twitter and there will could be a great response!

    How about moving over to Edmodo next? It’s more of a walled garden that your school might take to giving permission for.

    Good luck with whatever path you take. Your students are brave Digital Explorers!

    Christina DiMicelli

  3. Shame on your district!

    This sort of reminds me of a situation I had as an elementary school student, in fact, I believe I, too, was in 2nd grade. One of my classmates smeared ice cream on the windows facing the hallway from our cafeteria. The following day, the decision was made to remove ice cream from the lunch menu. Well…we didn’t think that was fair, so we, as 2nd graders, organized a boycott of school lunches. We chose a day and only 3 kids out of many hundred students purchased lunch that day. It cost the school thousands of dollars in unused food. The next day, we had our ice cream back. Twitter is your students’ ice cream. I know it’s on a smaller scale, but let your students’ voices be heard. It’s time administration started listening to our students and what THEY WANT from their education. If possible, have your students present why Twitter is so important to their learning. Invite the media, invite parents, use any method possible to get the word out. Too often we adults make decisions based on no information or misinformation…this sounds like one of those situations. Good luck to you…let your students speak…

  4. I would take the opportunity to quickly gather the tweets you’re class id has used, the responses and the parents responses (again, perhaps gathered quickly) to share with your adm. At this point the children do need a carefully worded explaination that sometimes efforts to keep “everyone” safe and protected sometimes mean very good things are stopped. It IS a teachable moment. I would personally tape the children (with parent permission) and have them explain why Twitter mattered to them…what they learned, etc and share it with adm and parents. This is a parent help topic and community can change policies.
    Congratulations for being an innovative encourager! I am happy that your children have a teacher who cares about their thinking as well as their ability seek information!

  5. Look for the support of your kid´s parents, and ask (with respect) the reasen of the prohibition. Who knows, may be after a reasonable and respectful discusion everything fits well =)
    Did the district gave you some reason for the prohibition?
    Don´t give up, but most of all, tell your kids the truth about the issue.


  6. Have heart, there are many other web tools out there to connect your class to the world. . You know your goal; your ultimate destination for your class. Just because someone closed one avenue is no reason for despair. There are many other routes you can take to continue to bring education into the 21st century. This includes blogging, RSS feeds and Wikis just to start…

    Here’s a nice visual you can use that helps to match internet web 2.0 tools with outcomes. http://post.ly/QePM

    And yes, parent & student support is what drives school board decisions. Remind anyone you talk to that blocking does not work, and that teaching appropriate use of the internet is a true and necessary education for today’s students

  7. Think carefully before you take any steps. Ask yourself a few questions (these were my immediate thoughts):

    *Is this a cause for which you will sacrifice your position and leave students without your creative guidance?
    *Is it ethical to use 2nd grade students to carry your message?
    *Will your superintendent look kindly on an employee who rather than persuing proper channels and working with a system is unwilling to be part of the team?

    I by no means concur or agree with folding and not continuing your plans for creative integration of Twitter. I recommend you not be devious about this issue and go through the proper channels while stating your instructional goals. Focus on the students. Be positive, be prepared, and be professional.

  8. If you are monitoring who your class follows, aren’t you already monitoring the content coming in? You have control over who posts on your student’s Twitter page…something you can’t control on 99.9% of other websites students go to.

    The fact that your info management systems doesn’t understand the curriculum enhancement brought by sharing on Twitter absolutely infuriates me. I understand that I’m very blessed. I don’t have a tech department that tries to play god.

    I agree with Christina that VoiceThread, Edmodo or Twiducate might be some alternatives. Shout ‘Em is another. But that’s not the point. Those are closed. You are teaching your students how to properly share information in this controlled environment. Kids are going to see those awful, horrible things that come across your Twitter page (that’s sarcastic) when they go home….WHY CAN’T YOU DO YOUR JOB AND TEACH THEM HOW TO HANDLE THOSE SITUATIONS?!?!?! Mom and Dad aren’t going to teach them how to share/post responsibly. This really just annoys me.

  9. Your 2nd graders have been communicating in a very real-world environment. I would give them a chance to respond in a very real-world way to the IT department. Write essays, letters, etc. They could rally their parents and other supporters – this is what happens in the real world too.
    Good luck.

  10. What I’ve come to learn this last year – at least for us – is that it boils down to your community feeling comfortable with what’s happening. In other words – educate the community – on only the positives that are happening. (ie: don’t complain to them about what you don’t have but rather the possibilities if you do have) We get so caught up in fear and negatives… if we could just turn that around..

    We are gathering video clips from each school – sharing rich (as opposed to bling) web access that is happening.. posting it on fb and each school site and the district site.

    If parents/community could see – I mean really see – what you are able to accomplish with twitter – ple’s – expert tutors – global communications – etc – they will be your best and most influential advocates of change.

    gosh – wishing you quick twitter recovery. (we love it.. we have 3 separate twitter feeds on our ning.)
    but you seem to have the essence down… each pitfall is another opportunity to share learning with your students..

  11. My gut is telling me to get your admins, students, and their parents to help you write to the district personnel and try to fight for the right to tweet. Even if they are not able to do it, at least their concerns can be heard, and perhaps it will make a difference for parents and admins to share it’s with their blessing and offer some sort of testimonials based on the learning that has taken place. It seems a shame to let it go without a fight, although I understand how that might feel like a risk.

    I just don’t understand the district’s argument when you have done everything to secure the safety and privacy of your students while still allowing them this avenue for sharing their learning.

  12. I absolutely agree that you should fight to be able to use it! I use Twitter in a very similar way in my own 2nd grade classroom and the reasons your district give for not allowing it, just don’t seem justified. Obviously, they do not understand the safety precautions you have in place. I have students in second grade that request me as a friend of Facebook all the time. Students are starting to use these sites so young and what better person to teach them how to use them responsibly than their teacher?!?! I’m interested in hearing how this turns out for you. Good luck!

  13. What happens if you don’t stop using it? Is it blocked already? Could you use a “for education” service w/ closed networks like Edmodo to accomplish the same learning and get some breathing room from the powers that be? Can you mobilize your administrator, a division tech leader, and/or parents on students’ behalf?

    How about compare/contrast pictures of before & after Twitter from kids to admin? To school board? Is it school board policy or a district admin blocking you? From whom can you seek mediation?

    I hope this works out for you and your students and their learning.

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