Twitter for extended reading
This is one of the best things I have ever done for my students and for my own CPD. I have developed a digital archive of subject material and an international network of teachers, lectures and academics and journalists who have shared resources, support, knowledge and expertise - for free!
There are lots of educational forums who support the use of Twitter. See this article for further information on the benefits of using Twitter as a teaching resource:
Teachers on Twitter: why you should join and how to get started | Teacher Network | The Guardian from Joe Dale’s Tweet
Download the Twitter app
How does it work?
I joined Twitter in order to tweet relevant articles, journals, videos, hyperlinks and resources to my A-level students to broaden their subject knowledge and encourage subject related reading outside of lessons. I have built up an archive of materials which is way beyond methods I had used in the past such as cutting out and photocopying newspaper articles.
The secret is to build up the number of people you follow as their tweets will appear in your timeline, enabling you to re-tweet useful or interesting content related to your subject. One of the immediate benefits was it put me in touch with a Sociology teacher who had set up a list of hashtags and she encouraged me and others who follow her to use them. The list of A level Sociology hashtags covers a broad range of topics and specifications which numerous teachers, lecturers and authors have adopted.
When you put a hashtag on a tweet, people searching for content using the hashtag will see what you have posted and the content posted by all users who are sharing the hashtag. This means that students can search by subject and by topic, making it less time consuming and daunting to find relevant extension materials. I also regularly use the hashtags for my subject when setting classwork and homework as it is a great way of getting the most up to date statistics and contemporary examples into lesson content and activities which extends and enhances the content in the textbooks. Every subject you can think of has key hashtags that have been set up by teachers (see top tips below).
You can take a look at my Twitter feed here if you are interested:
Why does it work?
Students use social media frequently and stare into their mobile phones at any given opportunity! Moreover, the internet is my main source of news and contemporary subject knowledge and I access it daily. It is such an effective marginal gain. Some days I only spend a few minutes updating articles on Twitter, but my subject knowledge is improving each and every day. I aim to provide lots of variety in my tweets and cover interesting areas that are beyond the specification. Most re-tweets include a picture to go with the article which makes for an engaging interface. Importantly, I am modelling the expectation that expertise comes from reading beyond the lesson content and activities, so students are embedding this expectation on a scale that I haven’t managed to achieve before using Twitter.
The recent G15 Russell Group university seminars emphasised the importance of providing evidence of reading beyond the A level specifications in the personal statement. This shows an institution the applicant’s desire to broaden subject knowledge and demonstrates a clear motivation and interest in their chosen subjects. The value of extended reading is evident in the extra-curricular educational activities that should follow from broadening subject knowledge, such as watching films, attending plays or productions, going to literature festivals and visiting museums, exhibitions and places of historical interest. This ‘cultural capital’ is highly valued in the personal statement according to admissions tutors as they want to see evidence of the applicant’s capacity for active and independent learning and will explore these examples in admissions interviews. Cultural capital as defined by the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu as the ‘the value of resources gained through educational experiences’ and this concept is consistently referred to as evidence to explain why applicants from independent schools and grammar schools are more successful in gaining places at the top universities when applicants are matched by prior attainment.
Some students are bringing brilliant examples and resources to my attention and they are using them in their work and answers to exam questions with greater frequency, leading to improvements in attainment in the A level assessment objectives: A01 Knowledge and Understanding, A02 Application and A03 Evaluation. The quality of their answers is improving, especially in essay writing and students are becoming more aware of key literacy skills, how to write discursively and how to structure, analyse and evaluate a piece of academic research from a journal or periodical.
I have decided that Twitter works best for my A level students for extended reading in terms of the content of articles and journals. However, I have set up a page on a resource called ‘Scoop-it’ for extending reading aimed at GSCE students using similar principles which you may also wish to investigate. Scoop it can be used to curate a set of interesting articles or videos and I have added the topic and exam paper codes to help students to navigate the content. I have prioritised Twitter at present but I am looking forward to developing Scoop-it for the new GCSE specification. I can’t think of a reason why you couldn’t use it for all key stages.
I have developed a lesson activity for extended reading which I have called ‘Read All About It’. I use it a couple of times each half term to ensure that the expectation for extended reading is embedded for all students (see PowerPoint attached and an example of a student’s extended reading task completed as an extension homework). Students can choose whatever interests them which helps with engagement and differentiation. The level of analysis increases at each stage, some articles will have more to analyse at one level than another but this helps students to hone their analysis skills and decide what content is relevant to the task. Students have the ‘Read all about it’ template so that they can complete extended reading at any time independently.
Read all about it
Top tips for using Twitter for extended reading
- Taking into account the school’s mobile phone policy if you are using Twitter as a resource in your lessons, all students need is a device on which they can access Twitter, such as a tablet, mobile phone or computer.
- Navigate the settings to provide the level of access that you are comfortable with. Students do not have to join Twitter to access the content on my subject feed.
- Suggest that students set up a notification so that they can see when you have tweeted.
- I don’t post messages to or for my students and I don’t comment on other people’s tweets. I have a statement on my profile which makes it clear that “…content may not reflect my own views but may be of interest to students of sociology/sociologists.” Subsequently, I have avoided issues relating to inappropriate comments, internet trolls and other ‘keyboard warriors’.
- There are lots of subject specific groups on Twitter such as: