French preschoolers too young to write, but not too young to tweet


PARIS–French preschoolers near Bordeaux are posting daily updates to the microblogging website Twitter under their class’s handle @camusmat04, despite not yet knowing how to read or write. Since the start of the school year, the 29 schoolchildren have posted short messages of 140 characters or less about a daily activity to a joint Twitter feed, which has 88 followers, most of them parents. “We gathered snow to see how it turns into water,” reads one tweet from the five-year-old students of the Albert-Camus kindergarten in Talence, a town near Bordeaux in southwest France. Another tweet references the cake they baked — the “galette des rois” — which in France is traditionally made in January around the Epiphany holiday. The children’s teacher came up with the idea as a way to teach them to recognize the alphabet in different formats — cursive, keyboard, screen — and to learn to transition from the oral to written word.

Each day the process is the same: the children propose topics, discuss them under the teacher’s guidance and vote on a winner.

All pupils then try their hand at writing a tweet, before the teacher combines them into a final post that two children type into the computer. “We love writing on the computer like grown-ups,” said five-year-old Emma. Teacher Philippe Guillem said that the goal was not just to teach the children but to educate the parents as well. “They have to consider how this will play out when their children are 12 years old and using the tools of the future,” he said. Around 80 percent of the parents have agreed to follow the class Twitter account, where at the start of the year only one had been subscribed to the service and only a handful had Facebook profiles.

To protect the preschoolers’ privacy, the @camusmat04 tweets are set to be only visible to approved followers. The stick-figure avatar, however, is visible to all.