Teaching with Twitter

January 2, 2014 — 9 Comments

twitterI have been rolling over in my mind how one could use Twitter to enhance teaching.

Thankfully, I am not the only one to think this way. I did a simple search for how teachers are using Twitter and found many resources.

The best article I found was by Josh Eyler. He says:

If you had told me three years ago that I would someday not only be using Twitter in my classes, but that I would also be writing a blog post on what an incredible experience it’s been, I probably would have told you a thousand reasons why that couldn’t possibly be true.

Yet here I am.

This is my second year of incorporating the social media platform in my classes, and doing so has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as a teacher.  Why?  The level of student engagement in these classes is the highest I’ve ever seen, and–as a result–students have been performing exceptionally well.

He goes onto to give an example of what he puts in the syllabus for his students.

The social media site Twitter has been gaining tremendous currency in the academic world as an instrument for sharing information, commenting on issues related to higher education, addressing issues in one’s particular field, etc.  As such, it has achieved acclaim for its use as a pedagogical tool to extend the work of the classroom.  We are going to use Twitter in this course as a complement to our other activities and to augment the analytical work of the class.  Beyond its relevance to the coursework, though, you are encouraged to explore the site as to its possibilities for professional networking for yourselves.  Certainly follow me (@joshua_r_eyler) and the other members of the class, but also follow leaders in your field.  Make connections!

Although we will sometimes use Twitter in the classroom, the bulk of your Twitter activity will take place outside of class.  You will be required to tweet a minimum of five times per week.  The only guidelines for tweets are:  1) they must have something to do with the class (i.e. a response to the reading, a link to a related article, a question, etc.); 2) they must be substantive; and 3) they must be respectful.  In addition to reading your tweets on a regular basis, I will be using an online archiving tool to keep track of Twitter activity.

You must use the hashtag #LitMA320 in your tweets so that they register as being a part of our class discussion.  Any tweets that do not incorporate this hashtag will not be counted, because the website will not record their activity.

I will hold a Twitter tutorial on the second day of class to answer any questions you might have.

This Twitter activity will be graded on a pass/fail basis.  If you tweet the requisite number of times (5 tweets per week X 15 weeks = 75 total tweets), then you will receive an A for this assignment.  If not, you will receive an F.

Twitter seems to be a great way to keep your students thinking after class and interacting with you and one another. Teachers may be fearful that this could take over their life as class discussion is suddenly with you all the time. It is like the class never ends!

But if one sets some boundaries with responses then this problem is gone, and hopefully some teachers will want to invest as much as they can in each student, and be glad that the class is constantly interacting.

It is necessary that everyone use the same hashtag for the class so that people can catch up on what they missed.

Although many of the articles recommend using Twitter in class, I actually think this is a time to not use Twitter. Twitter allows interaction when you are not together, but when you are together there is no need to use the technology. (I can foresee rare circumstances where large classes did use it occasionally in class.)

Of course one of the main barriers to this is that some students (or teachers) may not use Twitter at all. One solution to this is to make it optional, but then the engagement and production may not be as beneficial.

Here are ideas for using Twitter outside the classroom.

  • Students can tweet questions/comments about their assigned readings.
  • Students can tweet points of disagreement with their assigned readings.
  • Students can tweet questions or comments about the lecture after the class.
  • Students can simply share quotes or insights about what they are learning about.

Here are some other articles I found on the subject.

  • Structured Twitter Assignments – Examples of how Twitter is being used in innovative ways in higher education. [Agile Learning, by Derek Bruff, Director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching and a senior lecturer in the Vanderbilt Department of Mathematics.]
  •  Teaching with Twitter – Twitter allows me to stay in touch with my students quickly and easily, it fosters discussion in the classroom, and it helps to create a community among my students.






Patrick Schreiner

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I teach New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. I am married with three children. This blog, against all wisdom, includes anything I am interested in. That includes movies, music, theology, culture, hermeneutics, the Gospels, and politics. Feel free to comment and let me know you are reading or that you have found something helpful. I reserve the right to delete unhelpful or rude comments. Many of these posts are simply things I find interesting and therefore I am not asserting I agree with everything I link to.

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