Solving Problems Before They Become Problems
One thing I have learned about using a new resource is to think through the entire process. What will the final product look like? What will the rubric include? How will it be collected and graded? How do I prevent my teenage students from getting themselves (and perhaps me too) into trouble using this resource? I often imagine myself back in high school and think of what I might do if I were the laziest, sneakiest, meanest version of myself… and try to build in ways to avoid those problems.
We have adopted a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach to technology in our district, so there are a number of preparatory steps required to ensure smooth operation of the plan. My colleague Emily Reinert and I did not want to jump into a cool Web 2.0 learning project only to have the entire thing blow up in our faces with unforeseen problems.
Problem 1: Cyber-bullying & Safety
Many of our students already have Twitter accounts. And like many schools we are negotiating our way through this new digital landscape we have had our share of cyberbullying. “Twitter war” is a clear part of the vernacular. So how do I use this potentially harmful tool in an educationally responsible way?
Separate the student’s private lives from their school lives. I had my students create a Twitter account using their school email. Our district provides each student with an email address for mass communication from teachers, the district, and for communication with colleges. This separated the personal Twitter accounts of my students who had a personal Twitter, and it drove home the point that this account is only for school use. Additionally, for safety sake, I had the students use only their first name and last initial as their public name. This way I could see who wrote the tweet, but keep the students privacy somewhat intact.
Solution Part 2: Monitoring the Tweets
I showed my students that by clicking on their name in Twitter or using Tweetdeck I could see all of their tweets. With no way to hide their tweets, any tweet in violation of our district’s “Acceptable Use Policy,” which covered such things as cyber bullying, peer-to-peer file sharing, and porn, would be reported to the administration for discipline. A first offense of the Acceptable Use Policy earns the student a Saturday detention. With clear expectations, the students readily accepted the limits of their new school-based Twitter accounts. I do not have to monitor every account, but I do spot-checks (and let the students see me do them) now and then.
With nearly 4,000 tweets generated by this assignment, we needed a way identify for which act and scene each tweet was written. How will we find the tweets to monitor them using Tweetdeck? How will the students find their tweets in Storify?
Solution: Unique Hashtags
I created a series of random letter and number hashtags for each tweet. First was a hashtag to identify the act and scene. Second I created a hashtag for each of our classes to help separate the tweets. With these two brief hashtags, Emily and I could identify at a glance what act and scene the tweet was intended for and whether the student was her’s or mine.
Ready or not?
Emily and I–with some key input from two of our “tech team” teachers, Allison Mackley and Brianna Crowley–felt that we were ready to launch our Macbeth unit. Yet as with all things dealing with technology, not all went to plan…