At The Prairie School, students in Dr. Jean Weaver’s chemistry class are applying the power of social media to solve challenging problems collaboratively. At the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education at Grand Valley State University this summer, Dr. Weaver and colleagues from other Midwest schools decided to embrace social media as a valuable learning tool among their respective chemistry classes. To do that, they created an online Twitter dialogue with their classrooms.
As Dr. Weaver put it, “At this conference I learned how to use Twitter as a professional learning network, enabling me to collaborate with other chemistry teachers around the world. As a result, my Twitter colleagues and I took a traditional hands-on classroom activity and transformed it into a multi-school competition.”
This September, during the first few days of school, Dr. Weaver’s chemistry students embarked on a competitive challenge with seven other high schools around the Midwest. The challenge was to create and build 4×6 cm boats out of miscellaneous materials, each with specific “prices,” that was capable of holding as many pennies as possible. The best boats had the lowest ratio of number-of-pennies-held to cost-of-materials. Student results, including pictures, photographs, and comments, were then tweeted and shared with the other schools.
After seeing the various boat designs that their classmates around the Midwest came up with, the Prairie students realized the value of collaboration – setting the stage for the rest of the school year, when the sharing of ideas with classmates near and far will be extremely important in Dr. Weaver’s chemistry class. The students witnessed first-hand how Twitter can be used to enable people to collaborate to solve problems.
Later this month, the same class will embark on another multi-school competition in celebration of Mole Day, October 23.
“In today’s classrooms, social media is being used more and more to augment lessons and curricula. It is important for students to realize that social media can serve a purpose much greater than mere socializing. I’m eager for our next Twitter competition – the Mole Olympics!” notes Dr. Weaver.
Be sure to follow Dr. Weaver and her Prairie students on Twitter! – @Jean Weaver.