Article 2: Social networking for undergraduate students

Title: Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets

Author: Eva Kassens-Noor

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.

President Obama tweeting

Even the president tweets!

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.

Reference:

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

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About Lily F.M.

Graduate student trying to learn as much as I can!

4 responses to “Article 2: Social networking for undergraduate students

  1. If part of this class required you to Tweet about the resources instead of writing them up like this–in lists with NETS standards, use in your class, etc.–would you prefer that? What other activities do you think we could do in this class using Twitter or G+ instead of blog posts? Really. I am curious what options or alternatives you see to what we’ve been doing in class.

  2. Hi Lily,
    The article that you reviewed is very interesting and the results of the study are something to think about. I also think that electronic devises can be a “powerful teaching tool” in order to engage students in their learning. I like that the study allowed the students to choose what type a platform they would like to hold discussions in. I can definitely see how Twitter could prolong engagement in discussion because it is instant, people can even get twitter feeds on their phone or IPad, so students can respond back quickly. The finding of the research is also an important thing for teachers to know when thinking about using social networking in their classroom. You make a great suggestion that these can be useful tools but it should not be applied to assignments that require critical thinking.

  3. I was anti Twitter for a long time, but since I started using it for my Web 2.0 class, I can see the potential benefits of using it for school. There are a lot of educational topics and people to follow on Twitter who post tweets that could be helpful in school. One idea might be to have students follow Political Candidates and use the information to form debate teams. Another idea might be to have them follow certain news organizations and have them use the information to write current event reviews. Even though these are assignments that could occur without the use of Twitter, having Twitter as part of the assignment will likely make the students more interested in the assignment.

    I agree with you that the disadvantages of Twitter depend on the content. Twitter is often used to post seemingly useless facts, but if used for educational purposes, it can be a really neat way of keeping track of new, interesting information.

  4. Robin Nelson

    I enjoyed reading the article on using Twitter as a teaching practice. It makes sense to give students a choice to respond to learning by using Twitter on a daily basis and respond to tweets to establish improved communication and engagement in learning. I agree with the distracting features of social networking media if students are multitasking while studying in a traditional manner: textbook and note taking. The alluring factor of social networking would surly hold their attention. If teachers would give their students an assignment that allowed the use of social networking students may enjoy the process and increase their level of learning. I like the idea of offering choice activities. And I can see why students turned down the option for extended writing responses.
    I do have access to a few social networking sites, but do not have much experience with using them. I have heard of using Twitter with the elementary aged student where they can tweet to a post and respond to characters or events in literature. I would like to try this with my class. I know they would enjoy the writing and sharing features of Twitter.

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