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Parlez-Vous Twitter? Using Tech to Connect Students Across an Ocean

November 12, 2015

French teacher Elizabeth Jones knows that the best way to learn a foreign language is to practice it with native speakers - not the easiest task when you’re in Bassett, Virginia, and France is an ocean away. Fortunately, Madame Jones has a technological tool on her side, and it’s one that her students can’t wait to use. In fact, most of them use it already.

All 100 of Jones’s students at Bassett High School are taking part in her new Twitter project, which connects them with second- and third-graders at a public school in Pern, in the southwestern part of France. Each week, the high schoolers follow different accounts that tweet about the vocabulary they’re studying. Then, they share what they’ve learned in conversations with their digital pen pals. The result? A two-way exchange that lets Jones’s students practice their conversation skills, while the elementary schoolers in Pern develop their reading and writing.

“I started using Twitter because I wanted to meet students where they are,” said Jones. She wanted to encourage her students to use French outside the classroom for both education and recreation, and now, the Twitter feeds they use all the time are sprinkled with real-life examples of French in action. Jones and her classes have found that the Twitter project has led to some unexpected gifts: many students end up tweeting French stories and updates outside of their normal course requirements, and some have stayed in touch on Twitter even after they’ve left her class. Jones was on a mission to connect people across continents with a digital tool, and she’s found that the very same tool is also motivating her students to take their learning well beyond the walls of the classroom.