Monday, April 11, 2011

Twitter and student reflection

Over the past several years, I have incorporated Twitter into my class as a non-required opportunity to examine communication. My students, like so many of our students today, often have access to smart phones and opportunities to communicate in the social networks from the palm of their hands. For this reason, I've tried to teach and model responsible online communicative patterns. It is sometimes difficult to share with students the lasting impact of online information. Though I primarily teach public speaking, the TwitterSphere is easily integrated into class content, as a means of contact, and -- this semester -- as a tool for reflection.

We can study the micro-blogging limit of 140 characters which forces students to plan, edit, and adapt their initial message. We can examine groups, inter-cultural communication, and organizational communication. We can explore marketing, media outreach, news coverage, and reporting. Understanding sender-message-receiver can be done by exploring the student's favorite athlete's Tweets. Truly, Twitter is an amazingly versatile for the communication classroom. We've had several successful Twitter assignment options this semester, including a live Tweet stream during the State Of The Union Address where all of the students shared a common hash-tag (such as #comm210) and could review others' comments WHILE reflecting on the President's speech. We had so many thoughts going and were surprised to see other non-students jumping in to the conversation. It went REALLY well!

So what's changed this semester? I elected to try a more reflective Twitter assignment the week after midterms where all the students could reflect on their growth as speakers after the first half of the semester. The assignment read:

Using, write (at least) ONE tweet a day from tomorrow (March 18) to Wednesday March 23 using the marker, #comm210, in the tweet. Your tweets should explore what you've learned in the past 9 weeks, how you've changed as a speaker, and/or your thoughts on public speaking content. You should end with at least six tweets with #comm210. 
*Notes: go to for more information on "tweets" and for directions on setting up an account. Of course, feel free to contact Dr. Lora for more information.
I will add that *most* students were already quite familiar with Twitter as we had discussed it in class and many already used Twitter. The students seemed to really enjoy themselves through reflecting in this optional assignment. What I didn't expect was how much the students SHARED in their reflections. Students from different classes re-tweeted and commented to one another. They also noted some common steps in their speaking journeys. I was also rather impressed that many mentioned their "favorite" or "most useful" information from the class without any more detailed prompts than the tiny assignment overview provided to them above. They raised these new ideas in class and encouraged their peers to try the assignment. This showed me that we can incorporate new ways to explore course concepts and to think about collaborative learning. We can also take advantage of the students' nearly constant use of smart phones and social networking to explore class concepts through a new lens. I began thinking about this interactive reflection process when the students in one class today asked "Doc, could do that Tweeting thing again" after the course ends.

Perhaps my next Tweet, aptly under 140 characters, should read, "Excited to see #comm210 students learning and growing by applying course content to every day events!"

Would you like more information on Twitter and using Twitter in your class? Check out these resources (note the shameless self-promotion in the first reference):

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