Teaching With Twitter: Not for the Faint of Heart

Twitter has taken the social media industry by storm, and a few teachers are trying to harness that power for education. In the article below, some colleges are testing a software named Hotseat, “which lets students key in questions from their cell phones or laptops, using Twitter or Facebook.” Sugato Chakravarty, a professor of consumer sciences and retailing at Purdue University is one of two professors testing Hotseat. Asked if students gain too much control of the classroom using Hotseat, Mr. Chakravarty replied, “students in class are online or texting on their phones anyway, so why not try to channel that energy to class discussion?” Monica Rankin PhD., an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, was looking to incorporate more student-centered learning activities in her U.S. History. After some trial and error, Dr. Rankin found that the most effective way to use Twitter to facilitate classroom discussions was to break students into small groups to first discuss the reading, and then have one person in each group tweet the most relevant comments from the group. The comments were projected on a screen for the rest of the class to see what others groups were discussing.

Although we can imagine the inherent distractions and lecture tangents such classroom technology is bound to create, there are notable benefits, “I’m not that outspoken in class, so I would never ask a question out loud to the professor,” student Ben Van Wye told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “But you can type it in as anonymous, so nobody really knows if what you’re asking is a dumb question.”

  • How can teachers remain in control of the classroom while promoting student interaction and engagement through technology?
  • What other emerging Internet technologies for education could be useful for classroom learning at the college and high school levels?
  • How else might educators try to encourage shy students, who may be reluctant to participate openly in class discussions, to ask questions and voice their thoughts?


Chronicle of Higher Education
November 22, 2009
Teaching With Twitter: Not for the Faint of Heart
Students are emboldened, but they can also hijack discussions
By Jeffrey R. Young
West Lafayette, Ind.

Maybe Sugato Chakravarty should wear a helmet to class. The professor of consumer sciences and retailing at Purdue University repeatedly attempts the instructional equivalent of jumping a motorcycle over a row of flaming barrels.

OK, asking 250 students to post questions on Twitter during a class doesn’t risk life or limb. But it can cause ego damage if the mob of students in his course on personal finance gets disorderly online.

He has given them the power to do just that. As Mr. Chakravarty paces the front of a stadium-style lecture hall, wearing a wireless microphone to make sure his lecture reaches the nosebleed seats, some students crack jokes anonymously in an official Web forum. The course is one of two at Purdue that are testing homemade software called Hotseat, which lets students key in questions from their cellphones or laptops, using Twitter or Facebook.

To view this entire article visit www.chronicle.com

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