With Twitter, it’s easy to get distracted by the superficial. Yeah, it’s fun talking about #lebronjameshairline, or commenting on the trials and tribulations of the #BasketballWives. And now, the big news is whether a Congressman did or didn’t send pictures of his private area to a woman via Twitter.
But what if we moved from the fun and scandalous, and actually used Twitter to do something useful, particularly around the area of education? Turns out, it can be useful, if you know how to exploit the possibilities.
The key is to remember that Twitter is social media, meaning that by design, it helps people connect easily. That means teachers can connect with other teachers, students with other students, teachers with students and parents with everyone. And with an estimated 25 percent of Twitter users being African-American, by far the most popular social networking platform for blacks, there’s a unique opportunity for black parents and teachers to to share resources, regardless of income or level of education.
But also understand that Twitter is not the only solution, nor is it some magic panacea for all educational problems in the black community. It is a tool that can be used effectively to make at least incremental changes, and could quite possibly change the lives of students, parents, and teachers. We just have to think about different ways to use it.
One of the easiest ways to turn Twitter into an educational resource is for teachers to work with parents and students on a daily basis via hash tags. Hash tags on Twitter are simply messages which are grouped together by a subject preceded by a pound sign. These hash tagged subjects provide a way to have a real time conversation around specific topics, and as a result, multiple people can read and respond at the same time.
While email and phone calls can overwhelm a teacher who has classrooms with between thirty to sixty students, Twitter is the perfect platform to quickly and succinctly ask and answer questions about nightly homework. Teachers can schedule a regular time period each night, and assign a regular hash tag, say #janeteacher, and parents and students can simply ask questions using that hash tag. And as questions are asked and answered, the hash tag itself becomes a sort of frequently asked questions log, which can be recorded and distributed.
Twitter is also great for helping redistribute knowledge.
Currently, most black students are stuck with whatever resources are in their local district. If they have terrible math teachers, then the student is just out of luck. Twitter can’t replace the daily in-classroom instruction, but if teacher create a teachers pool, one where any child can access for either information or instruction, then suddenly, a child in an economically poor neighborhood or an educationally poor school can have the same access as a child in a higher resourced area.
Parents should also take advantage of Twitter, not just when it comes to supplementing their children’s education, but also when it comes to organizing. Whether we’re talking about relaying real time information about school activities, or organizing to protest school policy, organized parents are effective parents. Twitter acts as the clarion call that can be sent not only to computers, but accessed via mobile phones.
African-American students should create regular Twitter hash tags that moves information from their campus, to around the world. How many times has scholarship information sat in an unread email, or been not forwarded to the people who can use it? If you set up a hash tag system for scholarships, Twitter can be an effective way of spreading the word, especially if you combine it with retweets.
These are just a few ideas about using Twitter. Other ideas include encouraging teachers to use Twitter to have students brainstorm around ideas and lessons. Expanding the classroom is going to be the key to the future for black students, and if used right, Twitter might be a great resource that moves them forward educationally.