Twitter as a Pedagogical Tool? My Students Let Me Know. [A Professor’s Experiment]

The most recent HASTAC newsletter has included this May post by Professor Starkman on the Twitter experiment she conducted in her college classroom. I found some of the feedback her students gave surprising. See what you think. — Kelly Searsmith

by Ruth Starkman (Stanford University) / HASTAC Blog in Pedagogy: Collaboration / 17 May 2012

For a while now I’ve been eagerly reading HASTAC blogs and contemplating using digital media in the classroom. Intrigued by Bridget Draxler’s description of her Twitter classroom and Cathy Davidson’s advice to have my classroom, not only flipped, but do “cartwheels” with new technologies, I thought I’d try some of the widely circulated 100 Ways to Teach with Twitter. My goal was to use Twitter for peer-generated comments on student drafts.

Social media is part of my sophomore writing course entitled “Science, Democracy and Social Media” at Stanford University, where students read classic texts on science and democracy from the ancients to Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend and engage in various kinds of digital writing experiments. They also write a research proposal and paper and make a visual public speaking presentation on their topic. For their own research projects, students picked any one or two or all of the three topics in the course title.

Monday I asked the students in my class if they wanted to take part in a pedagogical experiment using Twitter.

Most agreed, though only half the students had Twitter accounts, and the ones without said they were too busy to bother with having any more social media in their lives. Twisting no one’s arm to join the 140-character short-form social media, I simply told students without accounts to use email in our experiment.

In my experiment, I hoped to use social and traditional media to develop a more interactive and public peer-review process by inviting students to evaluate both their peers’ drafts and the respondents’ comments.

We’d already had some success in projecting papers and peer-generated critiques via email on the screen for classroom discussions. Now my question was—what could Twitter add?

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