Twitter is NOT for 1st Graders – and other things teachers should know

no twitter allowedToday I read an article in Education Week summarizing some of the “mind-blowing” professional development tips given to elementary school principals at The National Association of Elementary School Principals Conference.  These lessons in how to integrate and open up their classrooms to tech were dished out from a professional developer named Alan November of November Learning.  One nugget of tech advice that made my head spin was this gem:

There are so many things wrong with this that I had to read on to see if this was actually what he was suggesting to principals.  And, yes, it was.

First and foremost what is upsetting about his advice – being given under the auspices of a tech “expert” – is that kids under 13 are not LEGALLY allowed to have Twitter accounts.  Or Facebook accounts.  Or Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat – the list goes on. Why can’t they?  Because there is a privacy law, which I’ve talked about endlessly on this blog and elsewhere, called COPPA.  That law is meant to protect kids, their personal information and their data.  (I don’t even know if I could possibly write about it more than I already do!)

To not let that little fact be known to principals who are now going to go back to their teachers – their employees – and say,

“Hey, we should be using Twitter, it’s a great (free) tool!  Now we’re using tech in the classroom, woohoo!”

is malpractice.

I don’t know what the full agenda was at this conference, but ANY conversation with principals and teachers looking to integrate tech into their school has to begin with a discussion about privacy.  Just as parents need to understand it, so do teachers.  You cannot introduce apps and websites into a classroom without knowing what kind of data is being collected and why.  You most certainly cannot introduce children – 1st graders! – to a website that specifically bans them as users!  Maybe they should learn to mix cocktails as a science project – that would be some good real world job skill training!

He also told principals they should use Khan Academy to teach math.  Just this past year I did just that with my daughters when we were preparing for a middle school exam based on math one grade level above their own.  It was truly awful.  AWFUL.  And my daughters are crazy smart math girls.  But watching Khan Academy math videos and then trying to fully grasp the concepts and then execute them on their own?  That was a huge waste of time that made us all frustrated.

I’m sure some people have had success using the online math tutorials, but the majority of stories I’ve heard have been similar to my own.  I can’t imagine if a bunch of kids had to watch on math on a screen every day.

Young kids need to be hands on – with math, with writing, with creating.  They also need to learn how to be safe online since that is where a good part of their life will be lived.

There are so many wonderful tech tools, apps and sites that can engage and excite kids in interesting and new ways.  We have many wonderful teachers using KidzVuz in the classroom as a tool for getting kids to write and produce video book reviews – but our site is built FOR KIDS!  Just using tech because it’s novel is a waste of time and money – and that slapdash approach won’t help a teacher with their ultimate goal – producing true thinkers and innovators, and kids who want to learn.

I hope this article was just a snippet of what was presented to those principals.  And I really hope that NONE of them go back to their schools and get their 1st graders on Twitter.  Most of all, I hope the people in charge of teaching the teachers do a responsible job.  There’s a lot of money being tossed around to so-called experts, but I’m not sure who is truly vetting them.

8 replies on “Twitter is NOT for 1st Graders – and other things teachers should know”

  1. Mixed feelings about this – only in the fact that obviously kindergartners don’t need to tweet – but if it shakes (wakes) up a tenured principal or teacher that is ignoring technology adoption then great. We have that problem in our A++ elementary school here where the average tenure is more than 15+ years in the classroom. They are resistive and sometimes downright combative when it comes to tech of any kind. Emails are unanswered, mandatory blogs are blank – they can’t be bothered to share (or understand) the URLs of the online textbooks that the state pays for, preferring instead to insist heavy text books be carried home by 8 year olds in backpacks each night. No, 6 yos don’t need to understand Twitter, but if a story like this makes a 49 year old wonder if they should understand it – it’s worth the silliness of the article.

  2. Here’s GlobalLearner’s response on the EdWeek blog:
    “In the examples used in the workshop, the teacher has the account. Students are taught to write tweets that are then approved by the teacher and sent out by the teacher. Students under 13 do not have to have a twitter account to learn how to read and write tweets. No student name is associated with the tweets when they are published.”

    So I teacher is basically encouraging kids to use Twitter, even though they’re not allowed to use Twitter. That’s not confusing to a little kid, right?

  3. This is insane! Thanks for brining this to our attention – I can’t imagine anyone thinking 6 and 7 year olds belong in this space. Recall the adorable video at Disney SMMoms when they asked our kids about Twitter and if they could draw the bird? That’s the extent it should ever go!

  4. You mention provacy isses. Why are Twitter and FB, and Instagram subject to COPPA when not even our schools are? Doesn’t that seem ridiculous.
    On a side note, I heard that when there is an incident at school, students are asked to fill out paperwork which is then put into a computer program that may potentially follow them forever? Privacy issues be damned, that info will never be private, it was only kept private from the parents, and you cannot opt of that. I instructed my son to never fill out those forms ever again.

    1. Educational companies are EXEMPT from COPPA!! This loophole is really disgusting. It’s is hard to sign up your kids for Club Penguin than it is for Pearson to collect all kinds of academic data on your child. Parents are not given an option of opting out – and parents CANNOT see their child’s state exams anymore. What they show you if you request the exam is basically a redacted version that will tell you nothing about how your child performed or where they need help. This is big data at its worst. Parents need to get angry about this and do something!

  5. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Thank you for writing this. THANK YOU! Even for older kids, teachers should not assume or encourage their use of social media, especially the kind that encourages discourse with strangers, adult strangers. Teachers say “kids like tech” and them bombard them with websites to teach them. One one learns from a list of 30 websites. That’s not learning, that’s surfing. They need interaction! My kid was doing math on a website that featured ads showing women in underwear, not Victoria’s Secret, not quite porn. Another teacher decided to make a discussion of a reading current by asking the kids to write break up letters as one would on Twitter or Facebook or email. Another coach said email is too difficult so just follow him on Twitter. Kids can or not use social media on their own when they are old enough and allowed!! And do these guys go on Twitter? Should school kids read tweets about anal, oral and group sex, vagina maintenance, drug use and nasty divorces? Some talk is for grownups!!! And all those studies that show that people learn better and retain more from reading paper and writing longhand. And it is damn hard to concentrate when you can click on something else. Since iPods added Internet kids use them for YouTube and movies more than music. Don’t even get me started on Kindle Fires — like asking a kid to read at an amusement park. And let’s not forget about porn and Facebook. Hard to read when that stuff is staring at you. Okay I need to take a breath. Teachers don’t have to try to be so cool. It’s content that matters, skills.

    Maybe this is why there, their and they’re are so difficult these days.

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