Recently I posted on the value of Twitter in the classroom. As Twitter has fully embraced the extension to 280 characters, I’m wondering how this changes my use in the classroom.
In my last post I walked through my 5 “why I use Twitter in the classroom” ideas. Of those 5 reasons, brevity made my list at #5 with “focus on communicating the message”. Even at #5, and even as I mentioned, 280 characters is brief! For instance, this paragraph is 280 characters.
While I don’t love the decision, I liked how hard 140 characters made communicating (and I worry how much more drama will be possible with 280 characters), I want to shift the conversation to the possibilities for pedagogy.
This semester I worked on developing assignments that asked students to engage with analysis in their writing – to analyze articles in class, to extend conversations, to find the ongoing conversation, to add their own ideas and opinions. Getting students to extend conversations means hoping they read the article well enough that we could begin the conversation with a brief overview, then extend begin analysis. There were good days and bad days with the initial reading expectations with students. As we move into the later portion of the semester, the reading and willingness to discuss has decreased further.
This is where I think the 280 characters might actually add to pedagogy – where the additional length might serve educators.
First, I should begin with quizzes. I know a lot of faculty who give various reading quizzes. Basically, check-ins to ensure the students completed the reading to support discussion in class. I like this idea, but I hate quizzes.
Second, I know a lot of faculty who require written reading summaries. I hate building all the assignment submission links for students to upload summary writing. I feel I have to undo so much summary writing work to teach analysis in writing if I require these summaries regularly.
In the Fall semester I required students to post Summary Tweets (ST:) before class began – in addition to the required tweets for class – to facilitate discussion. For the most part this was successful, it increased engagement with the materials because an assignment was attached to the reading. The downside, students read conversation posts for the gist of the reading without actually reading the assignment. This is both good and bad:
- Good: students read for conversation. Even if they didn’t read the article, in browsing through the posted summary tweets, students were able to read for conversation to determine the main themes of the reading. As a reading skill that will support good writing – this is amazing.
- While I didn’t use the summary tweet approach this semester I want to investigate how this reading can support awareness of these reading. Can students summarize AND reflect on reading/writing practices now that Twitter has allowed for more writing?
- Can students analyze and development mindful awareness of their writing when reflecting on the readings?
- Bad: students didn’t read the assignment.
- Students who did read the assignment struggled more with differentiating their post from peers than on engaging with the materials.
- Students who did read the assignment read to post a summary, not to engage with the materials.
- Can all of these bad be overcome with the mindfulness and reflection that could help students learn writing?
Ultimately, my major concerns are students need to read the assignments, but students also need less practice with summarizing the articles. Yes, summarizing, quickly, author points in essays is an important skill. But, analysis and doing something with that information is so much more important. How can the increased character count in Twitter support better writing about the readings?
I really think the key is in mindfulness and reflection. Having students not just tweet the summary, but reflect on why that part, how they read and found that section, why they find it important, what they learned about analyzing that information. In this way, students will be responsible for demonstrating their learning (less important), and be responsible to their own learning (super important).
Now, to actually develop an action plan for implementing this……Spring 2018 with Twitter at 280 character, here I come 🙂