pedagogy

Professor to Professor on Twitter

Yesterday at Le Moyne we had a discussion about uses of Twitter in academic work. We focused primarily on how it might be used for teaching, but talked a little bit about how it might allow professors and students to be part of a larger research and professional community, beyond the college. I’d say our conversation was skeptically received by most of those in attendance, but then again they were in the room on what was by far the most beautiful Friday afternoon of the semester.

My colleague Lara Deruisseau, a bio prof here at Le Moyne, made a very interesting point about Twitter and community. I had commented about how Twitter might help us overcome the tyranny of small departments at liberal arts colleges by connecting to professionals all over the planet. Lara, however, drew our attention to the fact that, over the last year, several of us have come to know our Le Moyne colleagues from various departments and offices on campus much better because of our Twitter interaction. These web networks have enhanced our local community in important and powerful ways. Our increased collaboration will certainly have (postive) effects on our curricula and pedagogies.

This strikes me as excellent confirmation of claims about the place of computer networks in daily life. I’m reminded specifically of work by Barry Wellman like this essay about computer networks as social networks (notice the date – he was on this early!) or this one about person-to-person communities. In particular, something that is exciting is that networks like Twitter make it possible for communication at the college level to be professor-to-professor rather than department to department, or, more cynically, professor-to-department-chair-dean-chair-department-to-professor. Especially in the context of increased administrative and procedural layers, Twitter might be seen as a place where faculty collaboration/inspiration can happen person to person.

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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: (more…)