All the news that’s fit to tweet: Teachers to learn social media skills at Newseum ed event

The Newseum is holding its sixth annual Teachers Open House Oct. 3, where 12th-grade English teacher Annette Spahr will show colleagues how to incorporate Twitter into lesson plans.

Read all about it: The Newseum wants teachers to learn digital skills.

The interactive museum in Washington, D.C., for hardcore news junkies will hold an open house for teachers on Oct. 3. The focus will be on technology in the classroom.

The daylong event comes as the North Carolina State University’s College of Education kicks off a new massive online open course called “Digital Learning Transition: Creating Future Ready Schools,” which is geared toward superintendents, principals, teachers, technology directors, instructional coaches, library media specialists, and others involved in planning and implementing K-12 digital curricula.

The MOOC, which runs from Monday to Nov. 22, is organized around the Office of Educational Technology’s Future Ready initiative, where agency officials and leaders at the Alliance for Excellent Education travel the country to hold summits on technology and hardware, budget and resources, curriculum and assessment, and data and privacy.


Teachers who participated in the Newseum’s recent Summer Teacher Institute will lead a session called “Primarily Digital: Teaching Media Literacy to Plugged-in Students” about how to incorporate blended learning practices into the classroom and their favorite digital tools. Newseum officials told FedScoop that 957 teachers are registered to attend, up from 773 last year.

Topics will include the impact of social media on learning and the best way to use Google tools to foster more collaboration among students.


Annette Spahr will teach her fellow instructors how to use Twitter in their classrooms. (Courtesy of the Newseum)

Annette Spahr, an English teacher at Harrisburg Academy in Wormleysburg, Pennsylvania, will impart her newfound Twitter knowledge to her colleagues visiting from around the country. The social media novice – who joked about still using a flip phone until July – picked up the skills during the summer institute at the Newseum, which happens to be a favorite destination for her and her daughter, Ellery, a senior at American University. The 21-year-old college student saw an advertisement for the program and begged her mother to apply.

Spahr said she got more out of it than she could have imagined.


“My students are way up in the stratosphere using this material, and I really wanted to be able to use technology in the classroom to energize them,” Spahr said in an interview Friday. She said the Newseum “gave us really practical, realistic tools to take back to our students and so many different ideas as far as lesson plans for incorporating Twitter and Instagram. I had this ‘a-ha!’ moment of how this can be used in the classroom.”

So when school started in September, Spahr, with the support of her principal, decided to use Twitter to review her 12th grade students’ summer book, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” She established an account and a handle — making it private so only her class could view it — and assigned each of her 13 students a character from the book. They had to tweet about a significant event that happened to the person in missives of 140 characters or less.

“Whenever you have a summer reading book, it is like death in a classroom when you do the review process and say, ‘OK, what happened in Chapter 6?” she said. “When I read their tweets, many of them wrote it in the dialect [of the characters]. They took this on masterfully, and we did this review without them even realizing, in a sense, that we were reviewing the novel.”

Next week, when she shows other teachers how to incorporate social media tools like Twitter into their lesson plans, Spahr said she wants them to come in with open minds.

“I want to encourage them to get over the fear,” she said. “We can help each other so much by giving a little germ of an idea. That’s what we should do for teachers.”


Spahr is so intent on using social media in the classroom now that she wants to start using Instagram for poetry projects. And as for Twitter, “I can’t wait to use it for Macbeth.”

Barbara McCormack, vice president of education at the Newseum, said the Newseum is giving teachers important tools to help transform education for the 21st century.

“Students today are digital natives, having grown up with smartphones, iPads, social media and such,” she told FedScoop in a statement. “We believe the tools kids use to communicate outside the classroom must be incorporated into the learning experience. Our sessions will show how teachers can blend technology into their lessons and give students the necessary skills to use it wisely.”

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free with a valid teacher’s ID. For more information, click here.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @clestch.

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