Thursday, 11 December 2014

Twitter and Summarising

I wanted to write a post on using Twitter in the classroom. I think I should preface it first by saying that I am hopelessly behind when it comes to using any form of technology in teaching. I've really only started using Twitter in the last couple of weeks and am struggling with the etiquette (should you email someone to ask if you can follow them?), the fear of missing something interesting if I don't check in hourly and the surge of joy when I get a new follower (up to 7 at the time of writing!).

There are plenty of other blogs with very interesting things to say on technology. Eltmakespace has some nice stuff on using Google Maps and pronunciation. 4C in ELT is always worth a visit. And I've only skimmed their webpage, but TheConsultants-E have a nice resource bank of technology based lesson plans.

So in saying all of that, I've tried to approach this post on Twitter with two things in mind. First, that there might be other teachers like me who wouldn't really be all that tech-savvy, but who might want to try something new. Second, to see if Twitter could offer anything of value in the EAP classroom.

I should mention that I was inspired in putting this lesson together by my colleague who teaches Mathematics - he uses the approach I am going to suggest, but with sums.

Recently, my students have been working on a project that involves them listening to a 20 minute lecture and performing various tasks. One of these is to write a summary of the lecture. In fact, so many of the tasks that they are required to do involve summarising. This is something that many students struggle with; the default setting being to include an excessive amount of detail so that the summary ends up not really being a summary. As a result, they may miss out on the global sense, the main idea that the text is trying to convey, seeing it instead as a long list of facts that they cannot engage with. Essentially, they get bogged down in the details.

Perhaps this is where Twitter could come in. The limitation of 140 characters makes it ideal for summarising.

Possible lesson

1. Provide students with the text that you are working with that day.
2. Their goal is to read the text and tweet a summary of it in as few characters as possible.
3. They use a hashtag that you create (e.g. #'textname'sum). That way, you can see all the summaries on your feed. Also, the students can see each other's.
4. To make it competitive, they have to click favourite of the summary that they think is best. The one with the most favourites, wins.

This could be done in class or as a homework assignment.

Potential problems (and some get arounds)

1. Some students may not be on Twitter. Might be worth checking out if they are before rolling in with this lesson. If some people are not, then perhaps it could be a group exercise and the one with the Twitter account tweets her group's summary.

2. Difficult to define what a "best summary" looks like. Perhaps if there is a section of your lesson on the features of a good summary, they might feel better placed to judge each other's work. Also, if you gave them specific instructions for the summary, the "favouriting" would be less subjective (e.g. avoids repeating phrases/language chunks from the text; is most concise; is clearest....)

3. You would have to have wireless in the classroom. Bit harsh to expect students to use up their data when they're already paying to be there. If no wireless, set it as a homework to be completed in the vicinity of a ubiquitous coffee shop.

4. The student voted the best may want something, other than the satisfaction of writing a good summary and the admiration of their peers. A bag of Maltesers should do the trick.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the mention. :) Welcome to the twitterverse! Just to address a couple bits for you: no, you don't have to email people to ask permission to follow. Yes, you'll miss stuff after you realise you can't watch Twitter feeds all day long. It's ok. Yes, you should search for the hashtags #tleap and #eapchat--probably relevant for you. #tleap is also a Google+ community (

    Good luck and explore!