Is social media planning my lessons?

It’s now happens on a fairly regular basis. A look through a twitter timeline and out pops a useful comment, link or image. The next thing, I am referring to it in a lesson.

Is this bad planning or opportunistic luck or is this a new wave of that takes the famous 5 minute lesson plan to new levels of speed?

Of course, this is all a bit sensationalist. I am not going to claim twitter as the source of all my information, which should be a relief not only to my employers but also to my students. However, following the right people will give a lot of very interesting and relevant information.

From usbstickto iTunesU

So, why is this a big deal? Over the last couple of years, I have moved all my teaching resources over to digital format. To be fair, this didn’t take much effort as it was pretty much all digital anyway but it was scattered over the usual pile of USB sticks, hard drives an, inevitable the store of all information – the computer desktop. The point is that now this information is all shareable with colleagues and with students using Google Apps for Education.

iTunes U has also been a great asset, especially for structured revision materials with some of the older classes (IB Diploma) and as a framework for resources and activities for my year 9 (8th grade) class.

This is where twitter has been a winner. To be more precise, it is not twitter that is the key, it is rather having a source of real-time information that can easily be placed into a lesson, popped onto the screen in the classroom, placed into student folders for access and discussion.

Because the rest of the lesson is resourced without need for passing around handouts or waiting around at the photocopier it is now practical to slot in other materials for productive use. The added bonus of twitter (which is happening increasingly more frequently) is that it is possible to have a quick discussion online with the person who sourced the information, posted the image or made the comment.

Two examples of live information – one from email and another from twitter.

1. Class were using the iTunes U course  which includes some photographic analysis of development issues. Knowing a contact in Hong Kong, I dropped a quick email and was delighted to receive a swift reply which included a photograph from his office window.

IMG_0749

This was included in the lesson discussion – so much more powerful to say “this is what is happening now” compared to “these are some images I have found”.

2.  Spotted an article on twitter feed from @jonesy2008Depictions of Architectural Density in Hong Kong” with a link to

original source, Michael Wolf: http://photomichaelwolf.com/
original source, Michael Wolf: http://photomichaelwolf.com/

This produced some great images that could be used in discussion of quality of life in parts of China (my Year 9 class is currently studying development transformations in China in their geography lessons). Students focused on considering what it must feel like to live in these sorts of locations – what emotions would be affected by development like this that is so alien to their own environment. This would have been much harder without the resource. It all contributed to a Padlet discussion board, constructed by the students live in the class with their iPads.

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What does this all mean?

  1. Well-curated resources allow the seamless integration of other materials without disrupting the flow of the lesson.
  2. Overplanned lessons are unhelpful. Working to a pre-determined script is going to stifle genuine investigation and learning.
  3. Real-time information may well have a higher impact – it speaks to the the reality of the here and now. Twitter is a great way to get to this information, providing you are following some good people!
  4. The journey is more important than the destination. The process of learning and discovery is what will stand the test of time, well beyond the specific knowledge content of the lesson. This doesn’t mean that knowledge is unimportant.
  5. Showing that teacher is a learner in the discovery of new information is really important. Bringing in the new resource of being able to respond to the question with an imaginative range of resources is what we want of our students so we need to model this as teachers as well.
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