Teaching With Twitter: How I think I’ll use Twitter in class

This semester I’m attempting to make Twitter an active part of my teaching. My plan is to share news items, research results, and other helpful information that comes via Twitter with students. I’ve asked them to follow my ‘professional account’ (yes, I’ve got another on which I mostly tweet about music and baseball). I’ve also created tags for the two classes so we can interact that way. Below is something I wrote up as a way to clarify my own thinking about using Twitter for class. I wrote as if I was speaking to the students because I planned on saying it on the first day of class. I did say most of it. I’m sharing it here on the blog because I thought readers might have advice. I’m sure there are holes and contradictions. After the monologue I’ll share some of my concerns and questions at this point, and then I’ll include my syllabus statements about Twitter (some overlap with what I said).

Monologue

So, as you can see from the syllabus, and if you’ve been following me on Twitter already, I want to use Twitter a bit in this class. I don’t intend for this to mean you’re on your phones/computers/tablets tweeting everything we say (or your own distractions, whatever they are) when we have class. In fact, most of the time I don’t want you tweeting in class because I want you talking (imagine that!), but sometimes it will be appropriate. I’ll let you know when that is (i.e. later in the semester when we talk about social networks, technology, globalization, etc.). See the statement on the syllabus:

I request that you do not use cell phones or laptops while in class as they detract from your engagement in what I intend to be a collaborative, deliberative, interactive environment.  Your non-participation detracts from everyone’s experience.

Right now I’d like to encourage you to use Twitter as a way to participate outside of class. When you read, think about questions you might ask and tweet them with the class tag, or directly to me. If you see a connection between the work you do in your other classes and what we talk about here, tweet it. I think if you are thinking about questions and tweeting them while you read that it might help you engage the reading. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine too. Please note that if I think you are making good use of Twitter to make substantive comments, then I’ll count that towards the participation portion of your final grade.

If you set it up right, Twitter can be a great way to make professional connections too. You can follow professional sociologists/criminologists who are working in whatever topics you find most interesting, or others who might peak your interest in new areas. You can follow news sources that might help you understand some of things we talk about, etc. If you’ve already got an account that you think might not be ‘professional’ enough, then create a new one. As just a general tip, I’d suggest you think very carefully about your online presence and how it might look to those who will make decisions that affect your life (you know, employers, advisors, etc.).

All of this is voluntary. I’m not going to require you to use Twitter. I’m only encouraging it because I’ve found it to be really helpful for my work. I think it can be for you too.

Some Questions and Concerns

I do have some questions and concerns about how this will work. At this point, I’d say that it feels like an add on to the class rather than something that has been integrated into my plans. I’m not comfortable requiring students to use Twitter because I think there are very good reasons to stay off. I also hope I don’t drown in tweets from students so I can’t really interact with them all, but I don’t actually expect that. Already, on the first day of classes, I’ve had some great interactions, and I’ve shared some tweets I think students would like.

I’m a little concerned about whether ‘tweeting for students’ will drive away some of my non student followers. I don’t want to become more of a news feed pest than I think I may already be (I tweet a lot relative to some people). Also, I’ll sometimes be tweeting things that might only be relevant to the 50 or so students I’ve got this semester, so I might become even less interesting to my current set of followers. I also might begin to do “Follow Friday,” which doesn’t seem very popular among those on my academic feed. I think, and this is obvious, that linking the students in my classes here at Le Moyne with the people and institutions I follow on Twitter will be a great benefit to them. There are so many great scholars out there tweeting really good information, and I want to share it with students here.

What’s on My Syllabus

Twitter: @mtloveland – Follow for social science and news links, and my general ramblings and rants. Don’t worry, I won’t follow back. Tag class related tweets with #soc303. Tweet questions / thoughts about readings or theory related thoughts to me. Do not tweet questions about class policy; use email for that, or better yet, come see me in person. I’m nice, sometimes.

I request that you do not use cell phones or laptops while in class as they detract from your engagement in what I intend to be a collaborative, deliberative, interactive environment.  Your non-participation detracts from everyone’s experience.

You may use Twitter to participate outside of class. Tweet questions or thoughts about the readings to me and/or with the hashtag #soc303. I will take this into consideration when I determine your participation grade. Quality of tweets counts, not quantity.

Related advice: If you are serious about pursuing a sociology related profession, there are a lot of professional sociologists who tweet very interesting and useful stuff, so I’d suggest you look for working sociologists to follow on Twitter.

***

So, any thoughts?

 

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2 comments

  1. I tried to subtly suggest a hash tag in a large lecture course last year by putting it on the introductory slide in my presentations. It didn’t take, but I continued to use it throughout the semester to tag things of relevance for students in the class. I’ve had more luck creating course facebook pages. I like the idea of using Twitter to teach, but I think most students aren’t ready to use it in that way. It’ll involve a bit of education (from my limited experience).

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