It’s ironic: there is an online source from which many people get their daily information, and yet this tool is often considered to be “too distracting” to have a place in the classroom.
I’m a teacher, and it’s a debate I see go around and around in the staff room: should we ban devices or social media from our classrooms? I even got interviewed on the topic by my school’s newspaper.
I realize I’m in a slightly different situation, as someone who teaches social media, than the average teacher. Maybe if I taught Shakespeare, I’d be less enthusiastic about integrating tools like Twitter into the classroom. But they have the potential to be excellent teaching tools.
An academic paper hit my inbox yesterday, and I thought I’d share it with you. Entitled, To tweet or not to tweet?’ A comparison of academics’ and students’ usage of Twitter in academic contexts, the study interviewed 153 undergraduate and graduate students about their Twitter usage.
What it found was a disconnect:
Students in higher education reported using Twitter passively in a learning context and that they were far more likely to interact with friends than teachers. Celebrity watching was more popular than following academics in their field.
Conversely academic usage is high in information sharing, event organizing, promoting blogs, and international networking, but lacking in teaching forums or assignment support.
It seems like the students are willing to connect via Twitter, and integrate it into their academics or the classroom, but that the instructors are primarily using it as a tool for self-promotion. I get that–I certainly use it for that. But we also use Twitter as a kind of adjunct classroom–a place to have discussions when we’re not physically in the classroom.
Here are some tips for integrating Twitter in the classroom, if you are a teacher:
- Create a class list–this makes it easier for everyone to find and follow each other.
- Create a hashtag–and then let your students know to tweet questions using the hashtag. That way you, or another classmate can answer those questions.
- Communications & questions–I use Twitter (and the hashtag) to remind the students of upcoming assignments, ask them questions, and have them ask me questions about assignments and deadlines, as well.
- Useful links–based on what we are talking about that week, I’ll share useful, related links.
- Backchannel–using a tool like Hootsuite, Monitter, or Twitterfall, I can monitor the hashtag, or the class list, and see what they are talking about at any given time.
- Encourage them to talk to each other/ ask questions/–I encourage my students to tweet @ people that they find fascinating and challenge them to engage those people in conversations to see what they can learn.
Further reading: 50 Ways to Integrate Twitter Into the Classroom