Using Twitter in the classroom- Interview about Katrina…

Twitter and hot seating a fictional character.

There’s been much discussion about the use of Twitter within the classroom, so I thought why not have a go… We are currently studying Hurricane Katrina in Year 9 , so I wondered whether we could interview an individual who experienced the event.

I haven’t got a wide Twitter network, so I set up an account for a fictional elementary teacher called Maisy Jay, who lives in New Orleans. I then added Maisy as a follower, and then surprisingly Maisy followed me! Liz Smith was available to act as the character. We briefly arranged beforehand the timing and structure of the lesson.

I like to try new ideas with one of my most challenging classes, I introduced the concept of Twitter, none in the class had heard about it, so there’s food for thought!

The class accepted the concept of Maisy being willing to speak to us, I was glad I’d worked out the time difference beforehand, as one student asked about this! We discussed useful types of questions and what was suitable to ask in terms of the event, seeing as we knew nothing of the background of the character.

Students used my Twitter account to ask Maisy questions, we did this whole class using the IWB.. Liz then replied as Maisy.


I asked students to put their first name at the end of their questions, Liz replied to them personally. During the twitter discussion students made notes under three headings, the background of the individual and their experiences during and after the event.

The evaluation…

The good

  • Students were motivated and engaged in the task, some wanted to continue into the next lesson.
  • Liz was so good, that not one doubted Maisy was a real individual. I wondered whether this was good…
  • It provided us with an opportunity to discuss quality questions that would enable us to gather information, as the lesson developed, students were able to probe Maisy’s responses in more detail.
  • It provided us with an opportunity to discuss the appropriate nature of questions, as such, we touched upon the issue of emotional intelligence.
  • It provided us with the opportunity to discuss what was appropriate to ask in a public forum.
  • Liz was able to use the Internet and her subject specific knowledge to provide informative answers, as a result this aided discussion and provided students with relevant information.

Some challenges

  • I think the task had to be ‘live’, otherwise the engagement would have been lost. I was lucky to have Liz available, to repeat this with three Year 9 classes would be challenging.
  • There was a small time delay between posting questions and receiving answers, this became less of an issue as discussion developed about Maisy’s answers and what new questions could be asked, students began to jump at  the chance of asking questions.
  • We were limited in our discussions due to time.
  • Liz worried that she was too slow in responding, she wasn’t!
  • I did wonder about the acceptability of developing a fictional character, was this moral considering the type of event? Was it moral to use a fictional character when we are encouraging students to become Internet savvy in terms of safety? I think the task though opens the door to such discussions, which I’ll follow up next week.

What next…we’ll be taking our notes and developing a piece of writing, which I’ll post later. I’ll also ask students their reactions to the task.

Overall, it was a fun and engaging lesson, but as in all things, I can imagine it being used only once within a Key Stage…

Many thanks to Liz. Maisy by the way has now quit Twitter, she was fed up of intrusive questions… 🙂

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  1. Alan Parkinson
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for writing this up so promptly Tony. Sounds like it went very well, and the point that you make about e-safety is of course an additional one to consider when creating fictional alter-egos. Sounds like Liz has found herself a new career as a full time ‘Twalter-ego’…

  2. Kevin Cooper
    Posted March 3, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    You con-merchants!

    How innovative and brave of both you and Liz.

  3. Tony_Cassidy
    Posted March 3, 2009 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Cheers both, couldn’t have done it without Liz. Will get feedback from students later this week.

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