Connecting pupils, teachers and parents via Twitter fun

Paula O'Hare

Paula O’Hare has worked within North Lanarkshire and Falkirk Council at a variety of stages. She also lived in Dubai for three years. She has experience in both the Curriculum for Excellence and the British Curriculum. Paula has the responsibility of building a positive communication environment within the school, and also in implementing the play-based learning approach in Early Years, alongside her colleagues. She is currently teaching Primary One and Nursery at Nethermains Primary School (@NethermainsPS).

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It’s very difficult to put into words how incredibly important Twitter has been in our practice this year in Primary 1. It was a very new approach for me at the start of the academic year, and I was gently persuaded by my colleague to climb on board the ‘Twitter Train’. Little did I know the impact it would have, not only on the pupils, parents and school, but also on my life! I try to use my camera every day to capture moments of pure educational magic and then spend half my night uploading them with creative hashtags. In fact, I’ve been told by some family members it might become an obsession… and it has! However, it has to be said that this Twitter addiction has had a positive effect on my teaching practice and has allowed me to access areas of communication and learning I hadn’t reached before.


It all started very quickly. Photos were taken of every movement of the Primary 1 pupils, and we encouraged parents to sign up and follow their child’s daily learning experiences. We received positive feedback from the parents who just enjoyed seeing what their child had gotten up to that day. Some had mentioned that their children came home and often grumbled that they had learned nothing interesting. Here, we gave the parents a starting block to say “Well, I think you might have learned about so and so.”


Twitter and programs such as ClassDojo have also allowed us to effectively communicate with parents. They are aware of the learning that takes place, topics and information regarding events. Although the parents continue to receive a paper copy of the school bulletin every month, they are kept up-to-date with daily messages. It also gives the parents and carers the experience of our ‘open door’ policy. We want them to feel comfortable enough to talk to us about certain issues. Although, we are very clear that we do not discuss any serious issues or concerns via messaging, we do allow the parents to ask questions which are duly answered by either of the teachers.


Over the months we have steadily gained more and more followers through word of mouth or even some of our inventive hashtags. This has led to a more varied audience, ranging from parents, grandparents, teachers from other schools, practitioners and even companies such as Fitbit and Cbeebies. Currently we stand proudly at 639 followers!

As time has gone on, we have turned Twitter into an undeniable power tool for Primary 1. We use it to promote achievement made outside and within the school environment. Parents and carers are urged to post pictures or videos of their child achieving something they may not have done before. We set a ‘Weekend Challenge’ every week and give the children the opportunity to earn five Dojo points. This ‘Weekend Challenge’ often relates to our 1+2 approach; encouraging the children to upload videos of them practising French or Spanish vocabulary. Links are also pinned to the top of the Twitter page for adults at home to access. These links provide access to videos which we use in class for phonics, numeracy, languages or even physical education, this has proved to be an exciting resource and engages the children with their own learning journey.


It has been a very beneficial process in terms of being a professional. It allows scope for new ideas and initiatives being taken throughout the country or the rest of the world. This is an exciting time to be a teacher, where we can use social media or the internet to create interesting and outside-the-box thinking with regards to teaching and learning. This ‘borrowing’ of ideas permits us to be better professionals in the long run. Being able to communicate with leading professionals and creators of projects such as Big Writing and Big Maths allows tremendous scope for not only the teacher, but the entire school. It allows the innovators to see how well things are progressing and evolving within the classroom environment.

As well as the children being involved in the Twitter communication, I have also found that I have a ‘Twitter voice’. I allow the children and their families to see a different side of my life. I often upload photographs of where I am at the weekend (if it is really exciting!), trips to different countries, inspirational quotes, pictures of objects that link to sounds we are learning and trying to relate pictures of horrible hairy spiders I have found in the bathroom to stories read and discussed in class! It also gives us a chance to be appropriate social media role-models; teaching children that the use of social media can be advantageous and positive, and not just used to upload the latest trout-pout selfie. The children are given the opportunity to promote their achievements, to engage with their teachers and most of all, develop their communication skills for the future.


Some parent feedback we’ve had includes:

  • “The Twitter page is fab. It lets us as parents get a wee look into what our children are doing in class. Quite often when I ask the reply is 'I can't remember ' or is unable to explain, so Twitter gives a great insight. ”

  • “The regular updates on Twitter has allowed me to stay informed of my child's learning experiences on a daily basis. This has given me the opportunity to talk to my child about specific photos each day. It also lets me see how happy and settled he looks at school.”



  • “Olivia starting school was very daunting for me as a mother. Sending my first daughter to school when I had been the one trying to teach her up until this point and trusting someone else (no matter how wonderful her teachers are) was tough, but Twitter really helped with this at the start as we could see how she was doing and she was excited to look at it with me. Now that we are further along it is great as it has turned into our bible. We can see everything that is happening in class and Olivia loves sharing her homework experiences etc on Twitter. It keeps what we are doing at home and what you are doing in class married up nicely. It also is great for those days Olivia tells us she did the great "nothing" at school. A wee look at Twitter and she gets all excited remembering what they had done in class.”

 

  • “I find it really good for the parents as well as the kids. I feel it is great because Molly would never tell me what she does at school. It's great that we get an insight with pictures of their day’s activities. It also lets us see what the teachers are doing and what our child gets up to at school. All in all, a great way of updating teachers and parents!”

  • “Following P1 class on Twitter has been amazing. I can see all the progress and daily updates on what my daughter and all the class are learning. This then allows me to discuss all the topics and work when she comes home. I feel It helps me keep in touch with all aspects of learning which we can then discuss and help with learning at home. I look forward every day to see what the class have been up to. My daughter loves to explain what's been happening when I show her all the pictures and videos. Amazing work and dedication from the teachers putting in all the work to help update us. Thank you so much!”

  • “The Nethermains P1 Twitter account has been like a window into our wee girls’ classroom. I work long hours and it gives me a chance to see how her day has went and how she is progressing, whilst still at work. Getting her to part with information on how her day went isn't always easy, so it's very much a blessing. The weekend challenges are fun and also remind her that learning doesn't stop when she leaves the classroom.”

Do you use Twitter for teaching? Share your tips (and @handles) below!

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