Twitter in the Classroom

I’ve been using Twitter in my courses for over a year now, yay! And so far i’ve collected tons of great (anecdotal) evidence that Twitter helps. So now it’s time to actually test the response.

Similar to my last post, my foray into classroom tweeting began with the desire to help students (online graduate students specifically) engage with course material and each other. Twitter seemed like a more effective platform for that engagement because students could post ‘notes’ and then respond to other student notes. The reduction in characters from a fully developed, well articulated discussion board post would, in theory, help students engage with the material so they could then write the fully developed, well articulated, thoughtful discussion board posts I was looking for.

As I begin to put together my IRB paperwork, I need a more clear research question. I began using Twitter to help students write about reading, to help them process their own notes on a deeper level. So an obvious research question here is: do students engage on a deeper level with course material?

But, I need measurable outcomes, measurable data. Here the most obvious is the tweets, i need to collect student tweets to understand trends in twitter use.

Going back to my anecdotal evidence, different classes used Twitter very differently. So, if I gather data from 3 hashtags this term, could I encounter 3 very different uses of Twitter? So then should I start with a more basic research question, when assigned tweets as a writing assignment, what do students do? How do students use Twitter when a required part of the classroom?

No matter what way I lean, IRB will need to go through, and I’ll need to make some decisions about comparing course data since I’m teaching a freshman level composition course, and a junior level composition course. To add to the ‘how do students use Twitter’ I could also look to the data for trend differences in use between the Freshman and Junior level writing courses which would indicate some connection back to understanding writing.

I’ll keep working through these ideas, but the use of Twitter builds upon my eventual hope to incorporate OER into the classroom, can Twitter and required ‘note’ tweets help students engage with course material (the problem here is what does engagement mean? and if I look for traditional ideas of engagement according to comp theory, can I ensure students know what that means and care enough to actually do that, so then am I measuring what students understand to be required versus authentic engagement…….oh the pandora’s box here).

I’ll update further with where I end up with this question – I have some Uses of Facebook in the Composition Classroom articles to read to help solidify my ideas before I submit the concrete proposal.

In the mean time, how do you tweet?

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