Title: Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets
Journal: Active Learning in Higher Education
Publication date: February 28, 2012
A study by sociologists at the University of Alabama examined multitasking with social activities while doing schoolwork, and discovered that using facebook and texting negatively affected student GPAs. Educators have confiscated cell phones for years and warned students about the dangers of oversharing information in social media sites. Now, as the net generation becomes the teachers and the principals, we are beginning to see a shift in these attitudes. Proponents of the shift offer a very simple solution: give students something to do that’s class-related on those same platforms, which then become a powerful teaching tool instead of a distraction.
In her study, Kassens-Noor proposes exactly that. She offered groups of students the choice of a) using twitter in an assignment as their only communication mechanism, b) doing one in-class discussion and keeping diaries, or c) writing a 5000 word essay (thankfully, no one chose the last option). The twitter group had strict criteria to meet to get credit for the assignment (e.g., tweet daily, each answer to a tweet must add on to or refute previous data, must turn in a printout of all tweets, etc.) She found that twitter fostered communication and prolonged engagement in the learning process. The students found and shared more data than the traditional group, but they had slightly less knowledge retension. Another limitation she found was the character limit- which might have constrained critical thinking and self-reflection. Kassens-Noor ‘s study showcases several NETS standards. She inspired student learning and creativity by engaging with her students in a virtual environment, following NETS-T 1 (d). She also adapted the learning experience to a digital tool, as described in NETS-T 2 (a). Her students demonstrated a good understanding of the technology (NETS-S 6), and used it appropriately for collaboration (NETS-S 2).
I do not have twitter at the moment, but I’m up to trying it out in my classroom. I would use it as an instant feedback tool for student-teacher communication. I think it would foster a feeling of community and openness much faster than class interaction alone. The disadvantages of using twitter really seem to depend on the content. If critical, in-depth thinking is required from the students, twitter is probably an unsuitable tool.
Junco, R., Cotten, S. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers & Education, 59(2), pp. 505-514.
Kassens-Noor, E. (2012). Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets. Active Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), pp. 9-21 doi: 10.1177/1469787411429190