Our thanks to summer learning teacher Aviva Dunsiger and K-12 Program Consultant Connie Sun of HWDSB for sharing the article below. Contributions to this site are always welcome, but please ensure parental permission is secured (as per the SLP agreement with program leaders) before sharing images or videos here or on a public social media platform like Twitter.
When the Summer Learning Program began at HWDSB in 2015, the staff wanted to find an effective way to engage online with the community at large. We were looking for a platform that was well-known, easy to use, and conducive to instant sharing of photos and videos accompanied by brief text descriptions.
Our choice: Twitter, the popular micro-blogging site with over seven and a half million active users in Canada alone.
We immediately began engaging the local community through the use of daily tweets to document and share many of the exciting learning opportunities occurring in our SLP classrooms. Over the past several years of consistently opening windows on our summer programs, the influence of our efforts has grown significantly beyond the immediate circle of parents and community: we began conversing and engaging with educators all over the world.
A daily connection with parents
Twitter offers us a valuable platform to engage summer learning parents in their child’s learning.
Staff involved in the summer program, keeping this target audience in mind, constantly share activities, evidence of student learning and celebrations of successes. The reactions from parents were, and continue to be, overwhelmingly positive, with many noting in their feedback that they feel included as part of their children’s learning journey.
Engaging with community partners
Another way Twitter has benefited our program is the way it allows us to connect with local community partners. For example, this summer we partnered with the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, which offered several virtual field trip presentations for our students.
After these virtual visits, we noticed continuing interactions on Twitter between our students, staff, and families with the experts we met online from the RBG. These supplemental interactions supported additional student inquiry into the natural world far beyond the short duration of the virtual visit.
In short, Twitter allowed our students the opportunity to have authentic dialogue with real world experts to continue their inquiry and learning around plants and insects.
Real time Professional Development opportunities
Twitter also offers a platform for a community of practice among all educators to engage in dialogues that promote pedagogical excellence. This year, with HWDSB offering Summer Learning Programs at five school sites, Twitter became a way for staff from different locations to stay connected with each other, learn in real time from other educators involved in the same program, exchange inspirations, and celebrate each other’s successes.
A world of learning and sharing
Not only does Twitter offer a natural connection among our local educators, it sparks collaborations and interactions with educators across Canada and around the world.
For example, this summer we tweeted out a STEM challenge from a classroom where students were tasked with building a bridge with simple materials such as plastic cups and popsicle sticks.
This resulted in educators from other provinces offering ideas and suggestions on how to expand this inquiry into broader connections to the real world through the examination of bridges in their local areas — including metaphorical connections of symbolisms represented by bridges.
In future, we hope to continue growing our Twitter presence through the intentional sharing of home/school connections. Our aim: to offer more concrete ways for parents to help consolidate student learning at home, as well as finding other new ways of connecting with families of summer learning students on the platform.
We would love to engage with more members of the summer learning community. Please look us up!
Aviva Dunsiger @avivaloca
Connie Sun @CSunHWDSB