Today I took part in a citizenship lesson: via Twitter

This morning I was invited to participate in a school’s year 10 Citizenship class: via Twitter. I’m not sure how well it worked, but it was an interesting experiment. Here I outline some of the challenges I think it presents as a model, which I’m keen to help iron out.

The lesson was on the topic of climate change, and the teacher had set up a Twitter account from which she tweeted questions on behalf of the class.

Because I wasn’t in the classroom I have no idea how the lesson progressed, which in turn made me feel somewhat isolated. That may not be a bad thing, although it was impossible to know how much commitment was required during the lesson (and, in fact, how long the lesson was to last).

Even though the external contributors like myself were few, the quality of replies was sometimes questionable. This is not a problem provided we were being treated the same as any other source, and not as experts.

I think the main stumbling block was actually the questions; they were too wide for us to answer with any authority, but appeared to expect us to.

These are not criticisms though. It was a bold experiment, and I hope it’s repeated. If it is, my suggestions would be:

  • be clearer at the outset of the topic in hand (ie I was told it would be on the citizenship aspects of sustainable development but the questions were about the effects of climate change);
  • perhaps, instead of asking questions that expect answers, actually conduct a discussion on a specific question; or invite questions to the class instead (which challenges them rather than offers them easy access to answers);
  • provide the external participants with some context; maybe via a live blog of the lesson, or pre-published notes.

I’m no teacher though, so any comments gratefully received. I think this was a great initiative, and hope the teacher in question will continue to explore it.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

2 thoughts on “Today I took part in a citizenship lesson: via Twitter

  1. Hi Michael,

    Thanks so much for today – I was the Citizenship Teacher using Twitter and can I thank you on behalf of all the class for your Tweets. They had never used the platform before but it went really well and they engaged with the topic despite the ‘novelty’ factor. They did, as you say, go off topic a little but I think this was as much to do with the way I planned it as it was to do with them.

    Speaking of which, thanks also for your suggestions and comments – I am currently writing up the lesson myself so will forward it to you from misscitizenship@googlemail.com and I hope we repeat the experiment again soon.

    Thanks again for all your help.

    Emma Chandler
    Citizenship Teacher

  2. I use ‘conference calls’ a lot in my citizenship teaching — which I guess is an old-fashioned version of tweeting! How I wish I’d had your tips above when I first started as you’ve said the things I’ve learned.

    Students do ask questions that are *way* off the mark sometimes, but at least I now warn participants of this and ask them just to do their best. The best thing about kids is that they ask questions others never think to. My favourite question to an environmental officer was “What’s the environmental impact of fast food?” The guy had never thought about it before but his answers were fantastic.

    You’re also right about the discussion element. I’d never noticed before, but thinking back now, the best calls have been those were the participant asked the *students* questions and genuinely listened to their answer. They were more a ‘discussion’ than an ‘expert’ answering session and more fulfilling for everyone.

    Thank you for this valuable post 🙂

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