Monday, 14 September 2009

Twitter in Teaching?

I've been thinking about using twitter for teaching this year. One obvious application would be to get students to summarise articles they've read in the eponymous 140 characters or less. This I think would be really good to force them to be concise and restrict what they write to the most important part. But one problem I was wondering about is the transient nature of tweets: here today, gone tomorrow... But by chance I stumbled across a solution on twitter (thanks to Lou Burnard for that!): TweetDoc

Tweetdoc collects tweets and turns them into a PDF. Basically I'd get all students to mark their tweets with '#freda' or something, and then tweetdoc will be able to aggregate them in a single document (you can specify a date range as well as search terms). That seems like an OK solution to automatically produce a discussion document: everybody tweets about things they come across during the week that are in some way relevant to the module (and I think Discourse Analysis is almost everywhere...) and then in the seminar session the students get a tweetdoc as a handout, and comb through it, discussing what has been collected. Might work.

On the other hand, it might not; but it could work as an additional way of getting students who are interested in new technology to contribute to a seminar in a more indirect way. Perhaps they are too shy to mention something in the seminar, or by the time the seminar comes they've forgotten what they wanted to say. Twitter here can fill a gap between email to the lecturer (which might be too intimidating) and a direct communication in the seminar. It'd be somewhat anonymous (given the wide variety of twitter names) and as such might just be the ticket to more student-led discussions.

What do YOU think?


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  2. Fabulous post - I've linked to you from here:

  3. What I would worry about are the students who AREN'T interested in new technology. I feel some hesitation about asking students to do something for which they need to register separately from university processes. But maybe this is undue caution: maybe I should just try and see what happens. The Tweetdoc option would work well.

    I would also be inclined to create a new Twitter identity for myself and use it just for teaching purposes. I do already try not to tweet about anything I wouldn't be willing for students to read, so that's not so much of a worry; but reading the tedious minutiae of my everyday life would surely distract from the pedagogy!

  4. That (disinterested students) is a valid point, and I had one student ask about this already. I will make sure that it's optional, and with group work that should be less of a problem.

    As for a separate identity, if people want to find you, they can do it anyway. And a separate account will then just be more hassle that it'd be worth. As long as you a) mark teaching relevant stuff with a hash tag for retrieval and b) don't tweet what you're having for lunch (though I've been doing some of that recently...) then I don't think it's a problem.

    Mostly I don't see a problem in this. Students don't have to engage, but if they do they will perceive teaching as less of a faceless exercise with interchangeable people delivering content one-way only. That's what some of the negative NSS feedback seems to complain about.