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In this section we will reflect upon the following points -

  • What an on line community is.
  • How to use Twitter, Shelfari and Pinterest in schools.
  • How to use these applications safely.


On line applications that have an element of community tend to make teachers nervous... and with good reason. As with all communities, they are made up of all sorts of people, both good and bad. But we believe that you cannot teach children to cross the road safely without going anywhere near the road. In this article, we'll show you how you can begin to teach learners how to be part of an on line community AND be safe/protected whilst doing so.


Take a historical context – We used Scott's last expedition.

You will have already investigated the historical background, who was on the expedition, what kind of equipment they had etc. Have learners decide which member of the expedition party they'd like to role-play. They may want to be geologists, a cook or even a dog handler! Set up accounts on twitter for each child using their chosen name. Set the scene – they are going to role-play what it was like to be their character from history; they have to write about how they are feeling, what the environment is like, their state of health etc. If learners point out (and they will take great pleasure in doing so) that people didn’t have Twitter in 1912, explain to them that they must think of Twitter more like a traditional diary.

Make sure you set up a #hashtag for your role-play. In this case it might be #ScottYGSchool. YG are the school's initials in this case. Don’t make the hashtag too long as it counts in the number of characters you are allowed, but make it very specific or you might have other people interested in Scott joining in. (But maybe you think this could be fun too).

Allow learners to post thoughts, comments and experiences and have others respond. Discuss the posts and ask characters to elaborate e.g. “Why do you feel frightened?” In order to do this, you should set up your own account and role play a character as well – being a penguin observing the "crazy humans" is always a good one!!

To end the unit, learners can write a week’s worth of diary entries, create a presentation on the experience of, say, Scott himself or create artwork based on their ‘experiences’.

What do I need?

  • Internet access Accounts on (one for each learner)
  • A way of accessing twitter e.g mobile phones (either students' own or buy cheap and cheerful ones for school use)
  • or PCs, tablets etc Interactive whiteboard to display the twitter posts is also useful.

Hints and tips:

If there are issues withusing mobile phones in schools either a) think of changing school policy b) use PCs or tablets or c) set the task as homework so that children can use their computers or phones at home. If you set it as homework, you will need to tell everyone they must post at least 2 tweets and respond to at least 2 (or similar) to keep the momentum going.

If you are worried about safety you have several choices. You can delete all the accounts when the activity has finished, ask parents’ permission for learners to set up their own accounts using their own (or parents’) email addresses or create ONE account that you supervise and provide the login information to pupils so that they can use it to post their ideas. With this last option, learners’ comments will all appear under the same name, this is OK if you set the lesson up based on a character from a book e.g. Macbeth and explain that “We’re all going to pretend to be Macbeth” but not so much fun.


  • Another good one for older children is a scene from Shakespeare or other play they are studying. We used Macbeth and it was hilarious – the three tweeting witches stole the show (#mactwitter x2x2 T&T fire burn+cldrn bbl #mactwitter @hecate try 4 gd recipe) Quite apart from the fun value, pupils really did have to understand the text in detail to be able to tweet.
  • Use a combination of Twitter and Google Earth as a unique mapping activity or intro to using Google Earth. Ask your Twitter network for challenges, GeoTweets if you will. Do this in advance of the session to give people time to respond. Guide the students quietly – you want them to be explorers not tourists! Encourage the children to find out about the area of the GeoTweet – find proof. Tweet back the proof to the sender to say you have found them. Maybe ask a further question about the area.
  • If you'd prefer to use an application that gives you much greater control over how much your students interact with the online community why hot try Shelfari. It's an online personal library, great for literacy lessons, especially with younger students. Pinterest also offers greater levels of protection. See exemplar lesson links below.


A lesson on using Shelfari Virtual Library

A lesson on using Pinterest Pinterest Poem

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