Friday, May 27, 2011

Twitter in the college classroom

US News reported five "unique" ways to use Twitter in the classroom at the perfect time for professors--many of us use the summer months to try new teaching ideas in smaller summer sections or to re-vamp our courses for the fall. As most readers know, I use Twitter in several ways each semester (depending on the needs of the students) and I found this article to be a good start for new ideas.

I began using Twitter in 2009 after a slow start with the micro-blog (similar to steps shown in image). I wasn't convinced that students would use it--they wanted the Facebook feel. After using Twitter the past two years, I wonder how businesses and educators get along without it. The immediacy, the audience possibilities, the direct-to-consumer contact, it is a great forum through which we can teach students about so many elements of my Communication discipline and so many other disciplines (Business, Education, Marketing, even Criminal Justice, Biology, and English). I found most of my students already have a Twitter account, most have access on their phones, and most don't really link social "profiles" with any personal, "real world" implications such as the job search, identity crafting, and professionalism. In my class, the use of social media is done as a way to further understand the lasting impact of communication, the process of communication, and the dynamics of sender/receiver/message in a changing world. After several semesters, I have learned to wait to craft any assignment with computer-mediated communication until I "meet" the class.

I typically wait until I have interacted with a class at least a week or two to determine their likes, dislikes, experiences, and proclivity with various computer-mediated communication before I offer up assignments in digital format. This is especially important at my institution, where the average age is 27, the typical student does not own a computer, students rely on smart-phones for academic activities, where our students are working at least part time, and many have families to care for. Any new activity must relate well to the class needs and not just throw technology at the students just to use that technology. It should be integrated, purposeful, and engaging. This semester I have a lot of new ideas for the classes I will be teaching both in the summer and fall semesters. I am eager to explore new opportunities with the students. I am also looking forward to continuing to link the social media and digital media with our classroom content.

Lastly, this semester I am crafting a goal to slant my tweets toward weekly course content updates, important university dates/news, and tips for my students, though I will continue to tweet regular topics as well. The hash-tag feature (#) will allow my students to track the course news and communicate with me and with one another. I am eager to see if tweeted news and updates will help the class stay on task and relate their class content to their lives.

There are still concerns about mandating any social media use in class -- the privacy issues are still out there for many of us. So any of my assignments always have the OPTION for social networking and can be completed in other formats. I know there are instructors requiring students to craft profiles on a variety of sites, but at this time that feels too invasive to me. I go with my personal feeling on this issue and stay up to date on literature relating to this topic. One thing I don't worry about is the fact that many students need to learn the responsible use of social media (including implications, privacy settings, and data mining) and feel my assignments help foster that understanding.

Looking for more? Here are a few additional resources for using Twitter in the classroom:
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