Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Teaching with Twitter in #Afrikaans

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This is a guest post from Tiaan Lotter (@MrLotter), a Google Certified Teacher from South Africa. Tiaan is a very innovative Afrikaans teacher from Parklands College and he frequently presents at conferences around South Africa. Visit his website at bit.ly/MrLotter. In previous guest posts Tiaan shared about his experience at the Google Teacher Academy in London and also Gone Google? Now go Advanced...  Thanks for the great sharing Tiaan and Parklands College.


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Two years ago, as a teacher entering the realm of technology I set up a Twitter account by accident. Meaning, I didn't really know what I was going to be doing with it, but somehow I felt it was important. I proceeded to put it on my board and advertised it to the kids, again not quite knowing what for. The kids, duly ignored it. Being at the amazing school that Parklands College is, we quite fortuitously were trained in the use of Twitter a few weeks after - #rightplacerighttime
Still, I was adamant on using it. We subsequently had an “e-day” which are days set on the school’s timetable where learners run their school day from home. Teachers set work, distribute it to learners through an array of virtual platforms and should be available online to their learners at the time that would’ve corresponded with their lesson on the timetable. The task I set learners on our Afrikaans Intranet portal was to watch a music video and tweet a review about it and @ me in. Learners responded and received this as a new and quite refreshing way to respond to work.

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Not the most exciting sentences to write, but getting a homework assignment to complete over Twitter… a little less monotonous than pen and paper or even Word and E-mail.

Hatch your egg, follow and Tweet!
I didn’t see this as a great success. Indeed my eyes were shut as a little baby bird peeping out of its shell for the first time. It took me about another year to become an active member of the Twitter community. Mainly using it to follow people who have something to say. Many times I unfollowed those who just ranted about their personal lives, indeed that is what Facebook has become known for. I decided my Twitter experience should be different. Following various organisations and people I stumbled upon a few of the right connections and I grew my network of Tweeters that had things to say that I wanted to read.

Following this, my adoption of other technologies in the classroom and my growth to Google Certified Teacher and beyond, I decided it is time to take Twitter further have been an active Tweeter of educational technology over the past year. Sometimes I retweet something interesting or I tweet something that I found that I find interest, hoping others would also find it useful. I also started creating content and spreading it through this medium. I created Prezis for the entire Grade 12 Afrikaans first additional Poetry syllabus and tweeted each one as I finished it, hashtagging and mentioning anyone that came up as suggesting tags.

Spread your wings and #fly!
The time arrived to revisit using Twitter as more than a reading and micro-blurbing tool. So introducing myself to my new class of grade 7 boys was the prime opportunity to put this to the test. I had them get out their cellphones at the beginning of a lesson - which never goes down badly! - and had them tweet the following:

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This way they learn how to Tweet, hashtag and mention - yes some of them had no idea how Twitter works. Learning the sentence was also incentivised using potential bonus marks if written correctly at the end of a test. Next, came the part that the boys absolutely fell over to get and do right. They had to divide into teams and one was allowed to be the Tweeter, but he was not allowed to speak at all. The other members of the team had to feed him Afrikaans sentences to tweet to #TwitterResies (#Twitter Race) and their class (e.g. #7PSpan1 i.e. #7PTeam1).



They didn’t want the other teams to hear so they were quiet as mice! Also running between the board where I was showing the # stream live from Twitter (you can also use one of the multiple web tools to display # streams) and their seats. The highest number of sentences I received in 10 minutes of Twitter Racing was 26! I obviously had to curate these sentences to make sure the language was okay and that they didn’t just tweet nonsense. Competition + Boys = Win, which combined with teaching results in grade 7 boys writing 26 Afrikaans sentences (remember this is their additional language) in 10 minutes in the last lesson of the day. In my opinion: #lessonmadeofwin



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I would have loved to reinforce the wins or the amount of sentences with a gem of positive reinforcement called Classcraft, but the short nature of term 4 has forced me to postpone its use until 2015.










It didn’t end it there. In their next lesson I taught degrees of comparison (again having them moving around in a different game) and their homework was to tweet as sentence using the comparative degree as well as the superlative/. #TmetT for “Trappe met Twitter”





My conclusion
Ultimately, using Twitter is a way of getting kids to use some of the tools of the 21st century. I need to mention that most of them said something like: “Oh, its almost like using Instagram,” which pointed out that Twitter has been around for a long time and that today’s generation is being increasingly engaged by the visual medium. This is nothing new. However, used in an engaging, fun and purposeful manner something text based - like Twitter, Facebook or even an eBook can become fun and an awesome learning experience.

SchoolNet says: Thank you very much Tiaan for this explanation of how you are using Twitter in Afrikaans. So exciting!  We really appreciate you sharing your knowledge via the SchoolNet blog.  


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