Live-Tweeting a Documentary

During the last couple of years, I have tried using the backchannel on several occasions. Although it has worked out fairly well, it has never been such a resounding success that I felt the need to do it again. Yesterday, that might have changed.

We are currently covering the unit on Rome, and as an introduction to the Punic Wars, I showed my students a ten minute clip from a BBC documentary on Hannibal. Instead of having them take notes on the documentary, I let them “live-tweet” it using TodaysMeet. The only instructions I provided were that students needed to make sure that their “tweets” were on topic, and that they should try and share any thoughts, observations, or questions that might occur to them.

To be sure, a few of the “tweets” were not necessarily on topic, and it looked as if a couple of students were distracted by the “tweeting,” but overall, I was very pleased with this experiment. My students offered a great number of observations and questions, some of which had not even occurred to me. The advantage with having them write down their observation is that it provided all students an equal voice in the classroom. In addition, by using TodaysMeet, EVERY student was able to share her (I teach in a girls’ school) ideas, which provided the entire class with a multitude of perspectives on the documentary. Normally when we watch a video clip, we just discuss it afterwards, which means that some students are not afforded the opportunity to offer their perspective on the clip.

So, if you show video clips in class, consider using TodaysMeet or any other backchannel. You might just discover that it opens up a much broader and more multi-faceted discussion. I certainly did.

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2 Responses to Live-Tweeting a Documentary

  1. I think more and more upper level teachers are finding ways to encourage more voice and participation and Today’s Meet and its ilk are part of that trend. What’s nice is that you have an archive of the conversations. It sounds like you have a pretty responsible class. I think some teachers would be wary of not controlling the conversation.

  2. Kevin,

    First of all, thank you for your comment–your insights are greatly valued! I agree with you in that there is an element of trepidation associated with this type of activity. Fortunately, I teach in an environment where the vast majority of students are responsible but I admit to being slightly skeptical before I tried this. I thought my students would be more distracted than they were, but I was pleasantly surprised by both the nature of the comments as well as the level of engagement.

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