Step by step, Twitter has begun to find a role in my 8th grade classroom. I am going to explain each role over the course of a few blog posts.
1. Author Chats
We recently used our classroom Twitter account (@8grwriters) to have a running conversation with two YA authors: Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me) and Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone). Students read a book by each of the authors and then Tweeted questions--responses came back to us over the course of a couple of days.
Fortunately for me, we have recently changed our curriculum and I was in a position to add some contemporary YA novels to our literature circles. Two of those authors also happen to be active on Twitter, while several are not--for instance, I did not have any luck accessing M.T. Anderson (Feed) or Nancy Farmer (House of the Scorpion).
I was able to have all five of my classes Tweet questions to the authors, and then they could respond to any of their choosing at their leisure. It wasn't a "live" situation--yet, that was almost better since all of the students could track responses over the next few days.
As matter of monitoring their questions, I had the students practice writing a question/observation in their writer's notebook and ask for permission before sending their tweet. The students do not have the classroom password--it is an account they can only access from class (on one of twelve classroom iPads). I also ask that they insert their initials at the end of their tweet--more for me than anything else. I believe this method keeps them anonymous and protected, but it also begins to demonstrate the power of Twitter or social networking as a tool.