Tweeting for 5 and 6 year-olders*

Recently, I came across (via someone? on twitter) an article about kindergarteners tweeting in TriBeCa, NY. I think it’s a really cool project for helping students express themselves, share experiences/events/details with each other and family members and learn important digital literary skills.

The teacher, Jennifer Aaron, has set up a private account that is available for parents/friends. Several times a week she has students collectively reflect on what they did that day. She types it up and then, before tweeting it, they all discuss their statements–are they accurate? do they make sense? are they tweet-worthy? can they fit in the 140 character word count? The teacher also offers up tips for using twitter, like the shortcut of using “&” instead of “and” in order to decrease character count.

Central to Aaron’s twitter project (and, I’m sure, central to the willingness of parents to let their 5 and 6 year-olders tweet in school or tweet at all), is the fact that the account is private and is only used by the teacher (in consultation with the students). While I usually don’t like making tweets private (for me, twitter is about tweeting to broader, sometimes unknowable, users and learning how to navigate online public spaces), I think it works here. It seems valuable to provide younger users, ones that aren’t yet able to grasp the consequences of their public declarations, with a way for learning (from mentors and with other peers) how to tweet responsibly. Then, when they are older and able to have their twitter accounts, they will have developed important digital literacy skills.

I liked Aaron’s idea so much that I was inspired to tweet about it:

Here’s a cool video about the experiment:

One important thing to note: The success of this twitter assignment seems dependent on how “plugged-in” the parents already are. Anna R. Phillips from the New York Times writes:

Ms. Aaron had more difficulty cultivating a following at her last school, which was in the South Bronx, where few parents had Internet connections. But the parents at P.S. 150 are a plugged-in group.

The article merely mentions this in passing, but it seems like a pretty big deal to me. What should/can be done about the digital divide and lack of access to the Internet? Could this somehow be incorporated into a twitter assignment for elementary school kids? I want to do some research on these questions and find out how different schools are using twitter and engaging with access and digital divides.

*My daughter RJP refers to herself as a 6 year-older (as opposed to 6 years old).


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