Teaching and Learning with Twitter

Yesterday during a web conference with faculty teaching in the Creighton University Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Leadership, we were discussing andragogy – the teaching of adults.  Jeff Miller noted that one practice he used was to add Twitter to his classes.  In an email later following up with me, he shared his rationale that is in his syllabus:

“For those of you who haven’t “come over to the dark side of Twitter”, here’s my rationale for encouraging students to try it out:

    1. I’m getting some of my best professional development material from Twitter these days. You’ll start figuring out people you want to follow, and you’ll see what kind of stuff is out there. It’s not just pictures of meals, and people of various political persuasions flaming those they disagree with.
    2. You are in organizations and will be leading said organizations someday. People are using social media. You really should have a sense of what it’s about, both good and bad. And here’s a way for you to “play” in this sandbox.”

I guess one reason I found this interesting is that I have been using Twitter in graduate classes (both online and on campus) for over 7 years…but I have not used it in all classes.  Currently, I use it as a required feature in the two courses I developed for Northeastern University:

  • EDU-6323: Technology as a Medium for Learning – hashtag #EDU6323
  • EDU-6333: Social Media and Beyond – hashtag #EDU6333

Mahammed Boudbhallah in his post “To Tweet or Not to Tweet – Using Twitter in the classroom” noted:

One thing to keep in mind as educator and teacher, that primary focus should not be using Twitter or other social platforms, but rather pedagogy. It’s important and necessary to cater for our digital native students and give them the opportunity to use their “high tech” skills, but we have to set a pedagogical approach first.

Using Twitter in the two Northeastern courses makes good pedagogical sense given the topics of study.  I am currently teaching the social media course, and the hashtag #EDU6333 is quite lively.

Next month, I will be teaching a Merrimack College course “Technology, Communication, and School Improvement.”  After the first run of the course, feedback provided by a number of the students is that they thought Twitter should be added to the course, so I am doing that in May.

Last June, I blogged about my own use of digital tools for learning as part of Jane Hart’s annual survey of tool use.  I noted that Twitter was one of my top tools for learning every year for the past six years…and Number One for the past four years.  Like Jeff mentioned above, this is where I get my best learning professionally.  And truth be told, much of that “best stuff” comes from my own students sharing links as part of their discovery process.

Brendon Hyndman in a post last year noted that teachers are increasingly turning to Twitter for their own development.  I would suggest the same could be said for just about any profession.  And while the focus of Samatha Miller’s post was K12 education, she noted 50 ways Twitter could be used in classes.

So why am I not using it in my Creighton Leadership classes?  Inertia (or lack thereof…) might be part of the issue, as I did not originally include it six years go when I first developed my Creighton courses.  But Jeff’s point #2 is even more relevant today than it was six years ago.  Social media is part and parcel of life in the workplace today…and leaders need to be active players.

I sent a message to my current Creighton students asking them to consider adding Twitter to the course already underway…and I plan to add it to the syllabus for my summer course.  Given that I get so much out of using it routinely, then I should routinely use it in all my courses.

Be interested in thoughts or pushback…particularly from any of my students.

{Graphics: ViewSonic, Watwood, chdigitalsolutions}

3 thoughts on “Teaching and Learning with Twitter

  1. As a current student, I feel Twitter would be a great addition to the course. I am not sure how beneficial it would be for this current term as we only have a few weeks left, but I think future courses will certainly benefit.

  2. Dr Watwood,
    In reviewing your link on “50 ways to use Twitter in the classroom” I cannot disagree with the limitless ways it can be employed in academia, but I would be one of your first nay-sayers that would either fail the course miserably or withdraw early on…for a few reasons:
    1. Encourage or mandate?: Would you consider including the requirement in your course description so your students know “what they are signing up for?” What recourse would they have, aside from withdrawing, if they chose not to create a Twitter account? Is their flexibility?
    2. Digital footprint: Closely in line with the previous, here are those who are all-in with social media and others who prefer to limit their digital footprint. I personally, am firmly in the latter camp, cursing the skies when I have to create a new account online!
    3. Academic freedom: As a student, academic freedom grants me the right to explore varying ideas and thoughts towards learning. By broadcasting these thoughts for all to see on Twitter, without context (regardless of hashtag), our shared ideas and thoughts can be misconstrued. Think of how many times people have been torn apart for something they posted years ago on any social media platform. Yes, we have a responsibility to understand the implications of past, present and future posts…but I would argue I do not have these concerns if my thoughts are confined to an academic platform (i.e. blackboard, Canvas, etc.).
    4. “Fake news:” Vosoughi, Roy, and Aral (2018) found that false stories were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than truths. How does this play into an academic setting if we are encouraging students to rely on opinionated blogs and tweets as sources of information?

    Aside from the information-sharing and collaborative advantages Twitter provides (which are great!), I cannot see how it will enhance my learning aside from it being a requirement to pass the course. Again, I am a nay-sayer, and likely the minority based on personal preference, but I would opt out from the course if it were a requirement.

  3. Understandable…but something to consider. In my courses, as with blogging, while the use of the web is required, I have never required any individual to identify who they are. In fact, one of my previous students was a transplanted woman who was extremely afraid of a former abusive spouse. Yet, she flourished online and found a voice that she assumed would not be available to her.

    In the past decade, I would guess that the majority of my past students tweeted to meet the requirements of the course and then dropped using Twitter…yet emerged with a better understanding of what networked learning is all about. My job is not to convert people to social media but to raise their awareness…and that is difficult (in my opinion) to do without also experiencing it.

    I agree with placing the requirement in the syllabus, which I have done in my Masters classes. I have no idea if any opted out because of it, but it remains one of Northeastern’s most popular courses.

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