Archives for category: networking

I do not know if this would be a spooky in-class activity. Maybe the title does seem bizarre, and it should read “Facebook for historical characters” instead. Here is the story: I was a bit shocked not long ago as I was scrolling down my facebook newsfeed and I noticed that there had been a recent status update by a former colleague who had passed away a few years back. I was curious and I went to visit his profile page just to realize that it had been created by his brother as a way to remember him, and to share old pictures and memories with his closest friends. Regardless of my opinion about this approach to remembering a dear one, I could not avoid thinking about all this when I happened to find this facebook template for historical figures. Richard Byrne believes it may be useful to have students find connections between historical characters. I personally think that besides the research which students need to make in order to come up with their dead people profiles, this is an excellent way to promote a fun classroom speaking activity which students can use to practice simple past. Though it may have a number of variations, the way the information is structured allows easily a pairwork activity in which students keep at hand their dead character’s facebook profile and ask each other the following questions: Where did you spend most of your life? What was your marital status? When were you born? What was your hometown? Where did you travel during your life? Who were your closest friends? Did you join any groups or associations? What schools did you attend? Who did you work for? These questions can of course be used for a team interview activity, for a guess who game, and so forth. Students may afterwards practice reported speech forms by sharing their findings about their partners with the class. It is important to realize that the questions proposed are indeed realistic as they might be used in real-life conversational exchanges. As a follow-up activity, students may form a facebook group with their historical characters and come up with this kind of written interactions by commenting on each others’ status updates.  Facebook in the classroom seems to be such a hot topic nowadays, that I believe it is just natural to try to find luring, communicative tasks to use this popular social network tool creatively.

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The first time I ever asked someone what Twitter was all about, I remember she told me something in the lines of “Oh, it is about your life in 140 characters”. I was not impressed. Back in 2008, when I first heard about this website, I did not see the need of opening an account, as I was already using Facebook, and I could not grasp the difference between them. Four years later, I have tweeted three different hashtags and it appears that I count with four followers. Except Twitter keeps me informed. In real time. An anonymous community which tags world events and makes them trendy worldwide. I do not follow my friends on Twitter. I do not think they know that I have a Twitter account. I do follow dozens of newspapers, magazines, teaching websites, actors, city mayors, national prime ministers, political parties, rock bands, chess players, film directors… To my mind, the so-called 140 characters are typically an excuse to share a hyperlink, which will take the user to a related news, then to another interesting website, and so forth. This is the way I personally use this tool, and I think that I had underestimated its communicative potential. So why not using Twitter in class?

In spite of being accused of having short attention spans, according to Nicole Melander, students do not like Twitter (based on the concept of microblogging) and prefer blogging instead. However, I tend to believe that the preference for a given tool may be related to the meaningfulness of the tasks associated with it, rather than with the tool itseif. Some interesting insights of the use of this site in class are shared by David Parry, being the idea of plugging Twitter to your telephone what I find the most powerful one.

At least for a very first classroom experience with this technology, I would keep it simple and  stick to the creation of a class Exquisite Corpse based on a top-ten trending hashtag: Teacher may select a topic based on class votes/interests and tweet the first phrase of the story including a hashtag known by every member of the class to keep everybody connected. Students would continue the story building on the last line revealed on a “first come, first served” logic, until everyone has participated. The story may be brought to the class for further analysis/feedback/follow-up activity.

Tim Burton‘s tweet-based story is a fun one.