Monday, July 29, 2013

SP4Ed Introduction

Hi everyone.  My name is Tim Nelson, a participant in the Canterbury University EDEM630 course; Change With Digital Technology.  I'm the principal of St Mary's School, a Catholic School in Carterton, New Zealand.

My aim for this blog is twofold; the first being to stay on top of the requirements for the abovementioned Canterbury University course (I'm being honest!), and the other being to use SP4Ed format to connect with others to identify resources and ideas to support my EDEM630 focus, this being 'Is social media and effective means for schools to engage with students and their families?'

I'm also interested in the process that the MOOC offers for learning. I've created and used online learning environments several times in the past, most recently a Google Plus site to teach an online Mandarin language programme to Year 5 - 8 students in my school. I'm very interested to see if this MOOC type environment could be used on a small scale for primary school students.

I'm looking forward to networking with others on this course, regardless of your focus. I believe that some of the best learning and ideas come by stumbling across ideas and resources that you're not necessarily looking for. Several years ago I 'discovered' Google Docs when I was aimlessly looking through the 'More' link on the Google homepage. This has led to me using and promoting Google Apps extensively ever since. Perhaps I will find another equally useful resource through connecting with other participants on this course.

All the best everyone!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Reflection 1

Initially I found it difficult settling on a focus for the course assignments.  To overcome this I thought about two questions:

  • What is happening in my school?; and
  • What is relevant to my school?

Doing this led to my choosing a focus that I am interested in; 'Is social media and effective means for schools to engage with students and their families?'  I’ve enjoyed reading case studies and readings on the use of Twitter to engage with students, a topic that I am quite passionate about.  

Readings on change theory have had a significant impact on the way I will approach change in the future, particularly from a leadership perspective.  I had a similar goal in my previous school around using Twitter as a class blog format for sharing and engaging with families.  This was ‘implemented’ with little professional development.  My expectations were that, because using Twitter through an iPad is ‘easy’, all teachers would readily use it as a replacement for blogs, which we had used in the past.  

The Concerns-Based adoption Model has been especially enlightening to me.  The reading shows the stages of concern that those affected by change may go through.  The reading gave me more empathy for teachers as individuals, I am now more understanding of the different stages of the change process that individuals might be at, as opposed to grouping them all together and expecting the same thing.

I can see that when a planned change process is in place, change is more likely to be long term.  The school where I previously led the implementation of Twitter has not seen sustained use of the resource from a majority of teachers after my having left.  I believe that this can be attributed in some part to the ‘one size fits all’ model that I led for introducing the resource; as soon as I left and the pressure was off (from my constant reminders to update), posts on many of the Twitter feeds are infrequent at best.

A key question that I had as I chose my focus was what social media resources would be the basis of my research and use.  Ideally I would have liked to have used Google Plus, as I can see how this could be so effective in a school community environment.  Unfortunately the is a 13+ age restriction on this, so it’s not accessible for almost all of the students in my school.  I am still using Facebook, despite the age restriction that it also has, as the key resource for connecting with families.  The primary reason so my selection of Facebook being that so many in the school community already use it and are familiar with how it works.

I chose Twitter for students as there is no age restriction on it’s use.  My experience in working with children as young as 10 has been very positive.  Twitter engages and excites children as they learn the many benefits and uses of the resource.

Another question has been how can I encourage teachers to see the benefits of social media for their students and as a means of communicating with families.  This will be addressed through using the Concerns-Based Adoption Model, for the reasons that I have outlined above.

What type of information will be shared on the different social media platforms has been a further question that I have thought about at length.  Facebook and Twitter have quite different features, strengths and weaknesses.  How I will take advantage of the strengths and overcome the weaknesses will be key in ensuring the long term viability of the change.

I am looking at researching possible levels of privacy for posts, comments and feedback on Twitter.  Some in my school community have genuine concerns about the digital footprint of their children, and the access that others may have to information about students.  I will look at internet safety information to provide assurance for those parents and caregivers who do have these concerns.

Overall this change journey has been both challenging and exciting for me.  I am looking forward to seeing how it develops, and am hopeful that it will lead to long terms benefits for my whole school community.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

E-activity 2.2: Essay plan

Is social media and effective means for schools to engage with students and their families?

Abstract Prepare an abstract of 350 words summarising the topic, key findings and conclusion
To be prepared once essay has been written.

Introduction: Describe your context of change and research question including:
The nature and characteristics of the technology innovation (i.e. the what?)
This will focus around introducing the two primary social media programmes, Facebook and Twitter; what are the benefits?  What will they be used for?  What am I hoping to achieve?.  I will cover my previous experiences in introducing and implementing the programmes at another school.  I will also discuss the implementation of Google Plus at my previous school, and why it didn’t work.  Finally, I will comment how it was done in an ad-hoc trial and error way, without any use of a change model guide.
An explanation of the importance and significance of the change for teachers and learners (i.e. the why?).
Here I will focus on what has happened in the past re engaging with students and families for all purposes around communication of information, content and ideas.  This will include the likes of parent interviews and newsletters for parents.  For students the focus will be on traditional in class face to face teaching.  In regards to teachers, both of the above statements will be taken into account in regards to how they engage with parents and students.  This is where I will introduce the limitations of what has traditionally been done; how the school has not taken advantage of available resources to effectively engage with members of the school community..  
The thesis / or problem statement or research question What is the main idea, point of view or central question you will address in your review of the change model(s)
Is social media and effective means for schools to engage with students and their families?

Body: This is the main part of the essay which should cover:
A description of the change model(s) Identify an appropriate model of change which informs your thesis or problem. Summarise the relevant model with appropriate connections to your topic / context.
Awareness of teachers, students and parents;
Knowledge of teachers, students and parents;
Use by parents, teachers and students;
Management by parents, teachers and students;
Analysis by teachers;
Collaboration with other resources and programmes by teachers;
Modifications and changes by teachers, based on what has taken place so far; how can it be improved? How can it be more effective?
A review of the implications of the change model for your own context. You should cover both strengths and shortcomings or pros and cons of the model(s).
For the next two sections I will use de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats model to review the implications:
Red:  Gut feeling, has the change model been effective?  
Yellow:  What are the strengths?
Black:  What are the limitations?

Conclusion: Including for example, recommendations for the future or lessons learned.
White:  What has been the result of the implementation?  What are the facts?
Green Hat:  What needs to be changed / modified?  Does anything need to be changed or modified?

E-activity 2.1

Here's my mind map for the topic:

'Is social media and effective means for schools to engage with students and their families?'

An introduction of your central topic of research, that is, your identified change with digital technology in education.
At the beginning of term 2 I started in a new role as the principal of a small Catholic school in Carterton.  Through the application process I spent a lot of time researching the school, some of which was done through the school website.  Here I noticed no evidence of social media being utilized by the school; there was no Facebook page or Twitter feed.  One class had a blog on the Blogger format, but there were very few posts.  

In the school that I was leaving I had spent the last three years trialing and implementing social media programmes; Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.  With Facebook and Twitter there had been a lot of buy in from the wider school community; Twitter was used for class blogs and cell phone alerts for important and urgent information.  Facebook was used for day to day information and updates, more or less a what's happening page. Google Plus was used briefly for the same purpose as Facebook, but I eventually removed the page due to the fact that there was no buy in from parents.

I saw a real opportunity for introducing a change in mindset at my new school.  Previously the only communication between school and home was the newsletter and occasional parent / teacher interviews and discussions.  I felt that parents would be hungry for access to information about their children and the school in general, and that the more immediate the access, the better.  Social media provides an avenue for sharing the latest information, so I set up Twitter feeds and a Facebook page within the first week of my arrival.  I also set up an online Mandarin programme for the senior class on Google Plus.  Additionally, I completely revamped the school website using the Google Sites platform.

To date the use of Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, for varying purposes, has led to widespread engagement with parents and students.  However, we are still at the learning phase, so there will need to be a focus on continually updating content and looking for more innovative ways of using the programmes.

A description of the ecology which identifies the relationships between your change and the wider ecosystem
Students at school have previously had limited access to social media.  Generally, the parent community is such that would adhere to 13+ restrictions set by Facebook and Google.  There is certainly a readiness for change with digital technology, which has been demonstrated by student use of Google Plus for an online Mandarin language programme.

Teachers have had little input into the Facebook page, and at this stage appear indifferent to it; they haven't yet liked the page, and don't interact through comments to posts.  They have supported using Twitter for their class blogs, with posts being done on a fairly regular basis.  Professional development has taken place through staff meetings, and implementation of learned skills is a part of the appraisal process.  

As the principal I have run professional development sessions in all staff meetings.  I have also modeled expectations through engaging with parents and students on Facebook and through the class Twitter feed for the new entrant class that I teach once a week.  I have also modeled the use of Google Plus through an online programme that I have planned and run in the senior class since the beginning of the term.  The board of trustees has used school funds (which are limited in a decile 6 U2 Catholic school) to purchase iPads for each teacher, doing so to ensure that teachers have access to a key resource for effectively using Twitter for class blogs. 

The parents have quickly embraced Facebook and the cell phone aspect of Twitter.  For a relatively small community the number of 'likes' on the Facebook page is high.  Feedback on the use of both Facebook and Twitter has been very positive.  A next step with be to run a parents evening on the wider uses of Twitter to engage with class pages.

At this stage there is no professional ICT learning community / organisation the the school is part of as part of a local cluster.  Additionally, I am not aware of any Ministry of Education guidelines around the use of social media in schools.

As the school principal, along with the board of trustees, we have been clear on working within commercial organisation guidelines around the use of social media programmes in regards to age restrictions.  Doing so significantly restricted how the Google Plus online Mandarin programme ran, but we saw this as a necessity in regards to modeling correct practice to students and parents.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Using mindmaps

The link to the mind map You Tube clip didn't work, so I went to You Tube and watched the one that I have embedded below; it may even be the same one.  Regardless, it was certainly worth a watch.

Interestingly, I decided to use a mind map as I watched (I had a limited understanding on how they work).  I found it to be a pretty effective way of taking the notes, the concept really does seem to work, particularly around the linking and prioritizing of ideas.

It's pretty hard to read my writing, but here's the result.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Updated research idea - in more depth

I posted my research idea (which I have modified several times) on my blog last week, but not on this forum. Earlier today I was looking at the following as my research topic:

Can social media be used by school communities to effectively access, create and share content, information, opinions and ideas?

After reading all of the other topics I have decided to narrow it down to:

Is social media and effective means for schools to engage with students and their families?

WHY did you choose the topic? What interests you about it? Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
In my previous school I used Facebook and Twitter for engaging with students and their families.  The process for integrating social media was developed over quite a long period of time.  I have recently moved to a new school, and in doing so, implemented in a very short period of time (one week) all of the social media initiatives that I had in place at my previous school.  I do strongly believe that social media are very effective ways of engaging with students and families.

WHO are the information providers on this topic? Who might publish information about it? Who is affected by the topic? Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
A number of schools are using social media, particularly Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter.  I'm not aware of any schools using Google Plus or Pinterest.

WHAT are the major questions for this topic? Is there a debate about the topic? Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
A major question could be: how will using social media lead to increased student achievement?
A significant issue is student access to social media, particularly with age restrictions on primary school students.  In a previous course I focused on using Google Plus.  The use of the programme was restricted due to none of the students being able to have their own Google Plus accounts, not yet being 13 years of age.

WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level? Are there specific places affected by the topic?
I believe that the topic is important globally; one reason being that a global audience potentially has access to school and student social media posts.

WHEN is/was your topic important? Is it a current event or an historical issue? Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?
The topic is a current issue, as social media is a relatively new phenomenon.  It's important because it places students and schools on a global stage, sharing and accessing information globally.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Annotated bibliography

Roberts, Louise. Creating online communities for collaborative learning Twitter, Google and Ning [online]. Idiom, Vol. 48, No. 3, 2012: 12-15. Availability:<;dn=201983964453764;res=IELHSS> ISSN: 0046-8568. [cited 16 Sep 13].

Junco, R., Heiberger, G. and Loken, E. (2011), The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27: 119–132. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00387.x

Ravenscroft, A., Warburton, S., Hatzipanagos, S. and Conole, G. (2012), Designing and evaluating social media for learning: shaping social networking into social learning?. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28: 177–182. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2012.00484.x

Bennett, D. (2012). Learning with social media. Healthcare Traveler, 19(12), 4. Retrieved from

Appleby, M. (2013). Social Learning. Collector (0010082X)78(10), 54-55.

Walaski, P. (2013). Social media. Professional Safety, 58(4), 40-49. Retrieved from

Is Twitter for the Birds?

Miller, S. (2010). Enhance Your Twitter Experience. Learning & Leading With Technology37(8), 14-17.

Using Twitter as a Pedagogical Tool

R. Havelock & J. Hamilton (2004). Guiding Change in Special Education: How to Help Schools with New Ideas and Practices. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
A seven stage problem-solving cycle, summarized by seven verbs (forming the acronym CREATER):
  1. Care - something is wrong and needs to change.
  2. Relate - whose concern? Who are the key stakeholders? How do we relate to them?
  3. Examine - how do we define the concern as a solvable problem?
  4. Acquire - getting access to the resources needed for change.
  5. Try - a trial to begin a participative process of using the assembled resources at hand to choose and shape the change.
  6. Extend - extend the acceptance and adoption of the new program throughout the system.
  7. Renew - keeping it going, sustaining commitment, keeping it fresh and relevant.
Although they are presented as a sequence, each stage is relevant throughout a change process. They build on one another, depend on one another, and connect to one another in many ways, even though they are also conceptually distinct.
The value of this model is in the cycle, similar to an inquiry cycle that can be used for self-review in schools..  It goes beyond simply implementing change to looking at change and ensuring that it is sustainable.  Additionally, there is a clear sequence in the process, with each step building on what has happened before, providing structure for a change team to work through in implementing any new initiative.  Finally, the process ensures that adequate resources, trialing and buy in from those affected by change addressed.  
The objective of this study highlighted in the article is the use the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) to examine the relationship of students' behavioural intention to use (BIU) an e-portfolio system with selected factors of:

  • perceived usefulness (PU),
  • perceived ease of use (PEOU),
  • and attitude towards usage (ATU), and develop a general model of e-portfolio acceptance.  

Working through the TAM model, the research found the following factors in relation to the use of e-portfolios by the students in the study:

  1. When students perceive the e-portfolio system as one that is useful and easy to use, then they may have a positive attitude towards using the system.
  2. When students perceive the e-portfolio system as one that is easy to use, then they may have a positive attitude towards the usefulness of the system.
  3. When students have a positive attitude towards the system, they may use the system frequently and intensively and may have a favourable intention towards using the system.
  4. Users may use a technology even if they do not have a positive attitude towards it as long as it is perceived to be useful or easy to use.
The TAM is used in the research for its robustness in predicting technology adoption in various contexts and with a variety of technologies.  Use of the TAM is predicated on individuals having control over whether or not they use the system; appropriate in this case with the focus on students acceptance of the use of e-portfolio systems.
A strength of the research is the fact that the article identifies and acknowledges limitation of the study.  In doing so, it determines strategies for addressing the areas of highlighted weaknesses in the research.  The paper also identifies areas for future research around the area of the use of e-portfolios.
The paper clearly outlines four hypotheses that are the basis of the research, then presents the strategies used to test each hypothesis.  The paper concludes with discussion and conclusions based around the research findings, as identified in the above description.       
Sugar, W., Crawley, F. & Fine, B. (2004). Examining teachers' decisions to adopt new technology. Educational Technology and Society, 7(4), 201-213.
This study examines technology adoption through the theory of reasoned action (TRA) model. Underlying the TRA model is the assumption that the behaviour of interest is volitional, completely under the individual’s control.  Research findings indicate that teachers technology adoption decisions are influenced by their individual attitudes towards the technology. External support from what could be expected to be influential people and professional development programmes were insignificant factors affecting teachers’ technology adoption decisions. A starting point for schools and providers of educational software should be to work closely with teachers around their feelings, opinions and beliefs around technology adoption.  
The value of this reading is that it offers a perspective that I have not seen in any other reading; this being that the key factor in the implementation of new technology and ICT is the attitude and belief that teachers have towards the technology.  This gives the impression that the starting point in successful implementation needs to be around working with teachers to examine, and, if necessary, work towards changing the belief.  A further valuable consideration that the research brings to light is the role that teachers could have in selecting technology for adoption, as opposed to it being a purely managerial or administrative decision; with doing so overcoming the need to change the beliefs of teachers due to their involvement in the process.
Robinson, L. (2009) A summary of Diffusion of Innovations. Published by Enabling Change.

Diffusion in innovation is how innovation is taken up in a population; it offers three valuable insights into the process of social change: what qualities make an innovation spread successfully; the importance of peer-peer conversations and peer networks; and understanding the needs of different user segments.  In this change model, it’s the innovation that changes to suit the people.  Five factors that determine the success of an innovation: relative advantage; compatibility with existing values and practices; simplicity and ease of use; trialability; and observable results.  Reinvention is a key principle of this theory - how well the innovation evolves to meet the diverse needs of users.  It’s conversations that spread adoption of new innovations; those we know and trust are likely to encourage us to adopt, although early adopters are an exception to this rule, often because they have less to lose.  The population can be broken down into five different levels in terms of adoption: innovators, early adopters, early majorities, late majorities and laggards.  These groups are static; the innovation needs to adopt to each group.  A key factor to consider when introducing a new innovation is how many have already taken it up; this gives you an idea of your next step.    
Insights for this article have been tested in thousands of research studies and field tests, giving them reliability and credibility.  The article outlines the three key factors in the process of Diffusion of Innovation.  From here it take the three factors and breaks them down further, explaining key concepts for each factor, supported with research and clear diagrams to emphasise key points.  The structure of the article makes it very usable and potentially applicable for my own research purposes; I can see how it could be related to my focus; ‘Is social media and effective means for schools to engage with students and their families?’  

The study looks at the use of the C-BAM model, discussing the three key dimensions: stages of concern (SoC); levels of use (LoU); and innovation configuration (IC). These were looked at to gain a greater understanding of the implementation of computers in schools, particularly the use of mobile computers in a secondary school in Western Australian.  CBAM is an effective model for explaining and understanding the actions of teachers in change around ICT.  Additionally, CBAM is effective in developing a plan for effective ICT implementation, including effective professional development.  Two dimensions, SoC and LoC are broken down into levels of concern, ranging from awareness and non-use at the lowest level, through to refocusing, integration and renewal at the highest level.   
The research is useful as it outlines the effective implementation of CBAM, looking specifically at the three stages of the process in a broad sense, then in one particular programme ICT implementation.  The process is clearly explained, with details on strategies at each dimension of the CBAM process.  Although I won’t go into the same levels of detail for my own research, I can see how aspects of the process outlined here will be beneficial in my own investigations, particularly the questionnaires and checklists used to gather information.
Evans, L. and Chauvin, S. 1993. Faculty Developers as Change Facilitators: The Concerns-Based Adoption Model. To Improve the Academy. Paper 278. (Hosted by The Digital Commons, University of Nebraska - Lincoln)
Understanding factors affecting planned change are likely to lead to successful long term change, rather than short lived change practice.  The change focus is shifting from the outcome to the process of change.  As individuals work through the change process they will alter their way of thinking and doing.  Understanding individuals’ reaction to change is likely to help in implementing long term change.  There are gradual steps to work through in the change process; it is not simply an event.  Concerns about change are common to all of us. C-BAM highlights seven stages of concern; individuals can be at any point on the continuum, with facilitators needing to know where individuals sit.  Initial concerns are around self; but as individuals become more confident the concerns are around the impact of the innovation.  The change facilitator needs to be skilled at assessing the concern of individuals, for which three methods for doing so are described.  Once the level of concern has been identified, interventions need to be put in place to address the concerns. Interventions at three stages of concern are highlighted.  The reading finishes with three examples of the C-BAM  being implemented, ranging from small scale to a large scale application in a state university.
The reading introduces research from a range of sources to support the information on the concerns-based adoption model for change, adding validity to the reading.  Additionally the paper has been accepted for inclusion in To Improve the Academy by an authorized administrator of DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska - Lincoln. The paper clearly describes the levels of concern in the C-BAM, and then offers practical strategies for change facilitators to identify levels of concerns of individuals, following up with interventions to address the concerns. The paper is very useful for my research, as it clearly outlines a process that I will focus on for my own question; with a planned process being something I haven't used in the past for changes that I have introduced, including the change around the question for my own research.
Sherry, L., & Gibson, D. (2002). The path to teacher leadership in educational technology. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education

Access to infrastructure and hardware does not mean increased use by teachers.  When technology is used, it may be to simply sustain current practice.  Slow uptake of new technology can be due to a combination of technological, individual, organizational, and instructional factors.  For successful implementation fundamental changes would need to school organisation, time allocation, and how teachers are prepared.  There are two fundamental limitations to the tradition change models.  A new model needs to address the limitations of the traditional models.  LAT model is a four stage approach for teachers.  Given adequate training, mentoring, access, and technical support, teachers tend to be more willing to move to the next phase at which they become co learners and co explorers with their students.  A fifth stage - learner as leader developed.  Schools fall short when spending on training falls short of spending on hardware, etc.  The paper goes on to describe the three factors required for systematic sustainability.
The article identifies the common practice of over resourcing and under preparing teachers for the implementation of ICT.  Systematic and logical systems are described that will effectively address the poor implementation process; these systems follow a clear progression that see teachers moving from novice to expert.  Once systems are in place the issue of sustainability is also addressed, a key factor in my topic of research around the implementation and continual use of social media.
Facetime has the potential to increase social connectedness, with so many students already spending a lot of time ‘plugged in’.  The challenge of educators is how to use social media to increase learning outcomes.  Facebook offers distance students the opportunity for real time chat with teachers.  Some research has stated the computer mediated communication is essential in the delivery of programmes to today’s net generation students, suggesting the students will flourish in this type of learning environment.  However, a concern is pandering to the immediacy requirements of today’s students, with this being reinforced by the use of tools like Facebook.  Conversely, there is the argument that instant feedback is the best feedback.  Computer mediated communication (CMC) allows the student to engage directly with the educator.  Whereas there is 80% communication from the teacher, this lessens to 10-15% in a CMC environment.
All students rated Facebook as very useful as a tool for contacting their teacher, believing  the teacher was able to provide adequate answers to questions through CMC.  All students though Facebook was an appropriate teaching tool, appreciating the rapid turnaround of information.

A very useful article in relation to my research on using social media to engage students and families.  The article highlights many key benefits in the use of social media, specifically Facebook, as an effective CMC tool.  The research identifies why students were so engaged with CMC through Facebook, with these ideas relating back to effective teaching practice, particularly around the immediacy of feedback and the fact that students had regular access to their teacher on a one to one basis, regardless of location.

Pluss, Martin. January 2011: Learning Using Twitter [online]. Geography Bulletin, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2011: 16-18.
This article looks at how Twitter is a useful and viable means for communicating with students during school and annual holidays, highlighting the importance of doing so due to the fact the many significant events take place when students aren't at school.  The article also looks at the development of Twitter, from being random and generalist to more structured and informative. It goes on to discuss how Twitter is a means of seeing the evolution of an event, then once the event has run it's course how Twitter can be used to reflect upon what has taken place.  Additionally, as Twitter is not always reliable, it offers students an opportunity to assess information; what is accurate and what isn't?  A final comment is that teachers are not yet learning the value of social media, primarily because they don't see how it can be used.
Through the use of Twitter the school year can go beyond the parameters of school terms, into the holiday periods.  Students have the skills and knowledge to use social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter.  Teachers now need to take this prior knowledge to complement and build on current teaching and learning practice.  Other organisations are doing so, such as the media. Education also relies on access to information, so we, as teachers, have a vested interest in using social media as a means of acquiring and sharing information.  This will require a major shift in thinking, as social media is still a relatively new phenomenon.
Mercer, A. (2011). Learning Takes Flight with Twitter. Canadian Music Educator / Musicien Educateur Au Canada, 53(1), 35.
Twitter is an effective way of getting information out to a lot of people, regardless of which platform they are on.  Because of the 140 character limit authors are required to keep their comments brief.  Anyone can follow a Twitter feed, but there are options to the writer to restrict access to tweets (Twitter posts).  Twitter can be accessed and used, whether creating or consuming, through a browser or through one of numerous apps; tweets can even be followed through text messaging.  A strength of Twitter is that it can be used to get information out to a large group of people with relative ease.  Twitter can be used as a means of students interacting with each other through following a discussion tweet, then sharing their ideas and opinions through comments.
The cross platform usability of Twitter makes it an effective tool in a wider school community, as it is highly likely that there will be a range of devices used within that community, from desktop computers through to inexpensive cellphones.  This allows for a potentially wide audience to have access to whatever information the school is aiming to share.  The fact that tweets are limited to 140 characters makes the writing of tweets by students a lot less onerous that, for example, a blog post might be.  Students need to select their words carefully, making the most of the characters that they have available.  The accessibility of tweets through cellphones makes Twitter a very effective tool for sharing urgent information; parents caregivers may not have their computers with them, but wherever they are they are likely to have instant access to their cellphones.  Using Twitter as a discussion board could provide shyer students with a means of sharing their ideas and opinions, something they might not be willing to do in a regular classroom environment.