by Jessica Porter, Office of Educational Technology (eTech)
Twitter is a good tool for promoting student participation, but like any social platform, it has its benefits and limitations. This post aims to help you decide whether Twitter is the right social technology for your course.
Asynchronous: Twitter allows students to interact with the learning community whenever and wherever they choose.
Extends class discussion: The additional layer of communication may make for richer class discussions. Twitter allows students to communicate with each other and the instructor outside of class, which can help build community, and it may give shy or reluctant students a channel.
Collaborative: Because Twitter is a public forum, students have the opportunity to engage with external audiences. They can follow and interact with scholars in their field, pose questions to their followers, and interact with a broader community.
Self-directed, learner-generated content: Students are responsible for composing their own tweets, which increases student engagement and prompts them to think and reflect on course content.
140 characters: One of the best things about Twitter is that it forces concision, but 140 characters means students will have to choose each word carefully. This doesn’t leave much space for deep thinking and explanation.
Hard to track student participation: Even with lists, tracking student participation can be a chore, especially in large courses. You’ll want to base the required level of student participation on the time you can feasibly devote to monitoring and responding to tweets.
Reluctant students: Students may not be active Twitter users or may be opposed to using a personal account for academic purposes. In such cases, you will need to spend a few minutes training students to use Twitter or offer alternative assignments.
Muddiest point: Find out what concepts stump your students by asking them to tweet the muddiest point of a lecture or reading.
Lecture notes: Have students tweet interesting quotes or points from your lectures.
Discussion questions: Ask students to tweet questions about assigned readings or lecture topics.
Want to try it?
If you’re interested in teaching with Twitter, the following tips may make it a little easier:
- Adopt a class hashtag. Something like #REL100 should work well.
- Make expectations about Twitter usage clear. Do you want students to tweet articles related to course content, pose questions during your lectures, or respond to assigned readings? Explain what’s expected.
- Devote a few minutes to training at the beginning of the semester. You may need to review the anatomy of a good tweet, how to use collections, and even basic terminology.
- Encourage students to follow and engage with scholars in your field. This is particularly helpful in upper-level courses where the students are more invested in the course topics.
- Interact with your students. Respond to their tweets.
- Use lists and curating services. Tracking student participation can be cumbersome without them, especially in larger courses, and as a bonus, they make it easier to project a discussion stream during class.
- Don’t make Twitter a requirement. If you do, you’ll need a plan for students who don’t have accounts or are opposed to using social media for academic purposes.
- Read about Mike Altman’s experience teaching with Twitter.
- Tracking Moves on the Classroom Backchannel with Storify by Mark Sample
- Twitter as an Enabler of Critical Thinking by Derek Bruff