In Part I of this series, I described how I set up the twitter accounts and prepared for my grade 8 English students to tweet their version of Charles Dickens’ classic novella, A Christmas Carol on twitter. In Part II, I would like to look at what happened on the day itself. I had been given two hours as part of our post-exam extension programme. I had prepared a document (which you will find in my Drop Box on this blog) in which all the usernames and passwords for the characters were available for students, with some suggestions on rules for tweeting.
I suggested to students firstly that they not try to use Victorian English. They needed rather to try to get into the heads of their characters, and then use twitter pretty much as we use twitter. In other words, if you were Bob Cratchit and twitter were around in 1834, what would you tweet? Students were told that each character, no matter how small in the original novel, were equal on twitter. They could tweet as often as they liked, but should try to tweet at least 10 times in the hour the play would run.
I suggested two types of tweet as well, incidental tweets in which characters tweeted about their lives. Mrs Cratchit might well tweet about pudding recipes, and add links to mrsbeaton.com, for example. Tiny Tim, might tweet a picture of brand new crutches he’d seen that he might want for Christmas. Then there were a second type of tweet. Charles Dickens’ novella is organised in Five Staves, or chapters, and every 10 or fifteen minutes I would advance the plot aspect of the story from Stave to Stave. Characters involved in the plot of that Stave could then contribute tweets about what was happening in the plot-line. This would create something of a time-line to the production. I had used this same technique in The Merchant Of Twitter in 2012, and it had worked quite well.
I got students to form groups of three, and gave each group a character slip with their character, username and password. They were able to use one of the seventy or so computers in our media centre, or use their own devices to tweet.
Students seemed to catch on very quickly, and started tweeting immediately. A few groups experienced problems logging on to twitter. Two of my characters, the portly gentlemen, had their accounts blocked by twitter for “suspicious activity” probably because I was setting up so many accounts from the same IP address using bogus email addresses! Some users found it difficult to access twitter itself, probably because we were reaching our bandwidth capacity, with 30 something users (80 or so students) all logged on to twitter at the same time.
We were able to sort these problems out quite quickly, and students quickly got into the swing of it. In Part III of this series, I would like to look at the archive and at student reflection from the task, but my impression at the time was of students who were largely engaged most of the time, who found the task stimulating and fun, and who were quite creative with the text.
Teachers who were there to help me with “crowd control” were amazed at what the students were able to accomplish with twitter, and how much fun it seemed. The comment I heard most often was, “I must look into this twitter thing!”