Mark recently posted an article from the New York Times on using Twitter in the classroom. I’ve been interested in using Twitter in the classroom, particularly to offer that backchannel experience. Students would be able to comment electronically during a presentation, lecture, or other students’ comments. Is that a good thing? It certainly challenges the tweeter with the double-duty of listening while also composing a 140-character statement, question, etc. I’m not a naysayer, but I know that when I tweet at a conference, I say something smart to others in the twitterverse while sometimes missing the next point the speaker is making. Something to think about.
What if the next time you teach something, you ask students to submit a question they have, along with a hashtag that everyone agrees on. You could look at all questions generated using your classroom’s computer and projector and a program such as TweetDeck, and address them immediately. Or what if you asked a question and asked everyone in class to respond, along with that hashtag? Or you ask groups to report back in a series of, say, three tweets. It’s exciting to think about those possibilities.
Or you ask students to tweet while they read for the next class–notes they can instantly share with the rest of the class.
What if you’re not in a computer room? You can ask students to use their smartphones. What if they don’t have smartphones? They can send their tweets via SMS using an ordinary cell phone (texting rates would apply). What if only a few students have such capabilities? Organize groups around the technologies available.
Obviously a service like Twitter can serve many functions in a course, but it’s not going to take the place of an exam or an essay as a means of evaluation. It’s exciting to think, though, about its many uses. Aside from the writing that students will do using Twitter–and again, it’s not much writing at a time, only 140 characters–and the revising and editing that might go into shrinking a tweet to 140 characters, students using a service like Twitter will have to negotiate online personae, interactions with classmates in a virtual space, and the newly created community that can result.
If you’re interested in experimenting with using Twitter in your course for the fall, I’d love to collaborate–perhaps we can start a series of posts here on the blog with the tag #TwitterTeaching so we can keep track of the ideas generated. Question for OpenLab folks: Will the OpenLab have a Twitter-type function that we should plan on experimenting with, or should we use Twitter itself in developing these projects?