A blueprint for Twitter and cell phones in class from Joe Marquez

Twitter and cell phones can exist in harmony with your instruction. Just ask Joe Marquez, who incorporates social media in his science classes. (Google Hangout screenshot)

Twitter and cell phones can exist in harmony with your instruction. Just ask Joe Marquez, who incorporates social media in his science classes. (Google Hangout screenshot)

“Twitter” and “cell phones” are bad words in many classes.

In Joe Marquez’s classes, though, they’re a way of life.

Marquez, a science teacher instructional technology specialist at Alta Sierra Intermediate School in Clovis, Calif., considers his students’ cell phones as important as textbooks. Maybe more important.

Students record labs and engage in discussions about science in class AND on their free time in the world of social media. Marquez uses a class hashtag — #marquezscience — and students can contribute to the discussion at any hour of the day. They use photos, video and text to share what they’re learning with their classmates and other students who haven’t even had science class on that day.

I met Joe at the Google Teacher Academy in Austin, Texas, several weeks ago. We chatted about Twitter and cell phones in class in a Google Hangout on Air (a live broadcast version of Google’s video chat service).

There was so much fascinating content in that conversation! I’ve summarized 12 of they key points in this post (just below the video), but the video of the entire discussion is included below (also available by clicking here).

Are you curious about using social media in class like I am? Check out 12 ideas to ponder from my conversation with Joe Marquez:

1. Twitter helps Joe’s students easily document what they do in labs. His students take pictures, post information and take videos during class related to discussions and labs. After posting them to the class hashtag, they can create Twitter stories with a tool called Storify to collect all those tweets and display them in one place. “We can put those stories on our website and those kids who missed out can see a two-minute snippet of everything we did in class,” he said.

2. Social media helps some students showcase their abilities to help the class. Joe has one student who is a super tweeter and posts a ton of messages and photos to add to the class discussion. “She won’t put her phone down, not because she’s misusing it,” Joe said, “She’ll tweet all of these different things that she found interesting and all on her own, she’ll turn these videos and tweets into an actual story of the day’s lesson.” She’s able to reach higher levels of thinking and questioning using social media. “That would never have happened if she was just sitting there listening,” Joe said.

3. “They need to know that they are the ones that drive the class, not me.”

4. Students talk science outside of class because of Joe’s social media policy. His school uses block scheduling, so he sees each class every other day. When students use social media to discuss the day’s class on Twitter, other students get a sneak peak at what class will look like the next day. “Is it OK if students outside my classroom are talking about my class? Absolutely that’s a good thing,” Joe said. “Who would have thought that eighth-grade science would become a discussion topic in the lunch area. That’s ridiculous, and it’s pretty amazing to me.”

5. Social media connects classes. Sometimes, Joe will team up with another teacher and one of them will teach while the other helps students and answers questions. Co-teaching isn’t a new concept, but using video chat to bring one teacher into another classroom is a newer concept. Joe uses Hangouts on Air to live broadcast his classes. Hangouts on Air is like standard video chat, except it provides a live feed that others can join and watch, like students who are homebound or sick from school. “Now we have 80 kids all at once getting the same material from two different teachers, being able to ask questions … across campus.”

6. “We no longer have to be secluded teachers anymore. Education is a collaborative game as it is. If you can collaborate in real time, I think that will up the game for educators themselves. We feed off each other.”

7. Sometimes, students don’t use their cell phones enough. When the use of cell phones isn’t prohibited anymore, students start to lose some of that passion for having them out every single minute of the day. “I have to come in and say, ‘Class, I’m very disappointed,’” Joe said. “‘You have to start using your cell phones more during class.’ Their jaws drop and they laugh because they say, ‘We’ve never heard a teacher say that.’ I go, ‘But that’s what we do in this class.’ That’s one bump in the road is getting them to use their cell phones more.”

8. “Technology should always be an enhancement to instruction. It shouldn’t take over instruction.”

9. Be open to using new tech tools in class as the world changes and students’ needs change. Four years ago, Joe’s students told him that texting was the best way to connect with them via technology. Now it’s social media like Twitter and Instagram. As the tide has changed, so has technology use in Joe’s classroom.

10. Some tools make using social media in class easier. Joe uses TweetDeck to view tweets from class and keep them organized. His students gather tweets in one place to display them using Storify. He uses Tagboard to display his class’s tweets on a projector for everyone to see.

11. Social media in class can draw out the most reluctant participators. “Those students who are super shy and don’t normally raise their hand — and that is almost all of them because they’re eighth-grade students — I saw a huge jump in engagement,” he said. His English language learner population especially appreciates using Twitter in class because they can think about how to word questions before posting them.

12. Don’t feel like you have to have all of the answers before starting. Joe considers his class “the test room,” and not everything he tries works out right the first time. “I utilize my students as the guinea pigs to see what technology sticks and what doesn’t,” he said. “What does work I take on to other classes.” The students don’t hold it against him if a lesson blows up in his face, either. “They love trying new things,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, they go, ‘Eh, that didn’t work. We shouldn’t try that again.’”

Connect with Joe on Twitter at @JoeMarquez70.

That wasn’t the end of the conversation! If you watch the video of our conversation, Joe also talks about this:

  • How he understands that they’re going to misuse their phones sometimes and how he deals with that
  • How his eighth-grade students are paving the way for using cellular technology all over the district
  • How his students have been trained to use their cell phones like they use textbook in other classes
  • How wearable technology, like Google Glass, makes classes and discussions smoother

He also talks about this idea of classes without walls, a movement he wants to see flourish where teachers co-teach and share lessons through video chat and sharing video lessons of their classes.

[reminder]What do you think about using social media in class? Do you have questions? How have you used it?[/reminder]

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