Last year I ran a twitter play of The Merchant Of Venice called The Merchant Of Twitter. This year I decided to do the same with Charles Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol. In this introduction I would like to briefly set out the steps I took to set it all up, in the hopes that it might help any teachers wanting to do something similar.
In Part II I will look at the play itself, and what my students made of it.
The first step was to create twitter accounts for all the characters in the book. This is no mean task, so make sure you set aside quite a bit of time to do it. Twitter does not allow you to create multiple accounts from the same email address, so I had to invent bogus email addresses. Happily this does not prevent one from using the account, but it does mean that the account is unverified, and therefore not fully functional. It would be great to have an educational version of twitter which allowed teachers to set up fictional accounts for educational purposes. Nudge, nudge?
I used the same password for every character and recorded each username on a document as I went along. This is something I learned from my previous endeavour. Remembering usernames and passwords really is a pain. Having a single password would allow all students to access each account more easily if desired. I was constantly reminded to Keep It Simple, Stupid, having gotten myself into quite a muddle the previous year.
I added profile pictures and brief biographies for every character. This is also quite a time-consuming task, and I sincerely hope that I did not seriously infringe on any copyright while doing so. My defence is fair use policy, but it is something to think about. I will include the document with usernames and passwords in my Dropbox so that other teachers may use these accounts should they wish. I tried to keep the tone light and humorous rather than didactic. Above all else I wanted the play to be fun and engaging – a way of exploring the characters and themes of the novella without eliciting groans all round.
I then added all these characters to a List. This would allow me to create a widget I could use to display the tweets of all members of the List onto a twitter feed on a website or my school Moodle page. If you are signed into twitter you can go to https://twitter.com/settings/widgets and select the List option to create the code you can then paste into your web page. It also allows anyone following the play to simply follow the list rather than follow every character.
With the accounts set up and organised into a List, I compiled a cast list, with usernames and passwords to distribute to students. This would allow students to log on to twitter using the usernames and passwords of the cast.
The beauty of a twitter version of any literary wok is that no character is of itself a major or a minor character. In the Merchant Of Twitter, the most active tweeter was the messenger! The play is seen from the perspective of the character, no matter who they might be in the original. I had a student body of about 80, and therefore necessarily decided to allow students to work in pairs and to choose to allocate set characters for each pair. This would ensure that all characters tweeted.