Tweeting the Russian Revolution


 MYP 3: Tweeting the Russian Revolution   (Formative)

I first want to thank Rebekah Madrid for the idea of using twitter to research an historical event.

Context: My MYP 3 Humanities class recently completed an I.D.U. (Interdisciplinary Unit) with English. In English they read George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm.’ In Humanities, simultaneously, we researched the historical roots of this fable: The fall of the Tsar, and the rise of Lenin and Stalin. Our first lesson we discussed Russia’s vast geography, and how it contributed to the need for a strong, centralized rule. Our next lesson we divided into two groups, and each group composed a song. One song was written from the perspective of the peasants, the other reflected the interests of the nobility and the Tsar. For homework, the kids were assigned background reading and questions on ‘Bloody Sunday 1905,’ and the problems facing Tsar Nicholas.

Lesson 3: We began with a student-led tutorial on how to set up a twitter account. Each student was then assigned an important figure or group from the Russian Revolution (Lenin, Trotsky, Kerensky, Rasputin, Tsar Nick, etc..). This is the name used for the Twitter account. ( I had them put their initials before the name, so I can identify the student. For example, LLTrotsky). We then located each other on Twitter, and formed a group of “followers.” For homework, I assigned important dates, such as Feb 23, 1917. The students responded with a tweet of their own, which reflected the interests / excitement / fears  of their assumed persona.

Reflection: Mixed Results. On the bright side, almost all the kids were excited about the project, about assuming the identity of an historical figure rather than writing about them from a distance. Naturally some students were more vocal than others. For example, some students tweeted incessantly, while others did only one. Overall, tweeting is a good way to get kids talking about a topic. Expect some silliness, as the Twitter platform seems to require a bit of fun:

( “Watch out Kerensky! The Bolsheviks are coming!! ps. I’m single and fabulous!! Love, Lenin” )

Also, be sure to set up a system so that the Twitter names are sufficiently disguised. Twitter is not keen on historical impersonations. Several students were detected by the Twitter KGB, and had to re-name themselves using more heavily coded language.