Twitter has a part to play in higher education

  • Can Tweeting be a means to learning extending the classroom into the world of social learning?

    We just read a fascinating article by Debra Beck, PR Coordinator at the University of Wyoming, called Tweeting to Learn: Extending Social Classroom Learning Via Twitter:

    Twitter can support course management in other ways. For example, instructors can use it to announce quick schedule changes (e.g., session cancellations or classroom changes) that are more readily accessible than email for students using mobile technology. Students can use that same pathway to pose questions to instructors. Twitter also allows for direct messaging, offering the same immediate communication benefit in a private setting if needed.

    Twitter can be used to share information and reminders about events of interest to students. It also can be used to generate thinking and interest in advance of a class meeting. For example, the instructor could send out a question or article link to stimulate thinking before class. Students then have an opportunity to come better prepared for a stimulating conversation, one that may already be in progress on Twitter.

    Students already use tutor in some ways to abet the learning experience including as a means of staying current with news relating to current events that may aid them in their course work.

    It is also one simple and effective way of finding and connecting with professionals and organizations in your own field of expertise.

    Ms. Beck may overstate the utility of Twitter but she makes a good point when she adds that incorporating new learning tools like Twitter may also create anxiety in instructors and students, as it does in us, frankly.

    And, of course, there is the very public nature of Twitter which leads to unguarded comments and the very real threat of being sucked into its never ending vortex of continuous commentary.

    However, we applaud Ms. Beck for bringing this subject to light because, there is no doubt that Twitter is an effective communication tool and that education is as much a process of communication as anything else.

    Students and instructors may have to cut through a lot of noise, but it can also be refreshing to be in dialogue with real-time real world events that relate to the theoretical work going on in the classroom.

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