Have you ever wondered how historical figures would react and respond in the new world of social media? Here’s a scenario, imagine Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address. I’m convinced there would’ve been some live tweeting, a few hundred thousand retweets, some criticism and certainly some high praise. I am also convinced Abe would’ve handled himself with dignity and most certainly—class.

In a world where social media sharply intersects with student learners of all ages, educators are finding new and inventive ways to integrate emerging and relevant technologies into practice. After all, this is the world they live in, why not embrace it? Creating a historical figure social media account is hardly a new concept. In fact, Twitter has become oversaturated with them, and one must craftily cross a minefield of usernames to find ones with an ounce of relevance. In the context of this article, relevancy equates to accounts that serve an academic purpose, rather than parodying for laughs, which all too often is the case. One can explore verified historical figure Twitter accounts from pop culture icons like Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein, and Marilyn Monroe, all of which are maintained by their respective estates.

Several accounts provide historical and academic content for Twitter users. At the time of this article, one of the more traditional accounts which are maintained by the Massachusetts Historical Society, is the sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams (JQA). This account frequently tweets out authentic primary source information by JQA, including excerpts from his personal journal. In fact, and quite ironically to this post, JQAs journals mirror the 140 character Twitter limit. The Massachusetts Historical Society even wrote an article entitled “Was JQA a Tweeter”, citing his journal entries as sources of evidence to support the theory that if he was living today, he might be a master tweetologist. Evidenced in the obnoxiously bright blue box below is none other than JQA himself.

 “Thunder and Snow. Letter on Imprisonment for debt. Reading on Masonry.” – John Quincy Adams 

So, the question posed, how can educators use a historical Twitter account to create authentic and academic content for learners? Easy. Assuming one has the green light from the school district or school administration to use Twitter, the following list provides some great strategies to integrate a historical Twitter figure into classroom instruction, creating relevant and authentic learning for students.

Historical Figure Twitter Account Integration:

  • Assign students a historical figure.
  • Develop proper boundaries and expectations for that historical figure.
  • Have students develop a unique voice representative of their assigned historical figure. This will require students to research this figure. * They should know a good amount of information on their character. Have them do their character justice.
  • Have students integrate primary sources into each tweet. Yes, a research component! This aligns with the following Common Core Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4,  CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9
  • Develop and implement a relevant hashtag so students can see content. This will promote interaction and participation.
  • Make all student accounts private. Communicate this to parents, and invite them to follow student accounts.
  • Reinforce digital citizenry. If you feel some students are not ready, Common Sense Media has a variety of free lesson plans and resources. You can find them HERE.

That’s about it. Of course, feel free to adapt, modify, and differentiate this activity. And if you have any questions or suggestions, please send us an email. We’d love to hear from you.