“Finding a Place for Twitter in Higher Education” eLearn Magazine

I received the email newsletter from eLearn Magazine earlier this week and was interested in the lead article: “Finding a Place for Twitter in Higher Education“.

The article makes some interesting points so please read the original on the link above, but I want to comment on just a couple of them;

“Twitter has various educational uses in both developing countries and more developed ones. But the real tipping point for Twitter in education will only come if teachers can manage to add Twitter to their arsenal of teaching tools. The question is can they do it?”

I would say “why would they do it” rather than “can they do it”. Surely it’s more about a considered and appropriate use of technology in the classroom rather than using it because we can?

“Despite these potential uses of Twitter in education, there are situations in which Twitter, as a medium falls short. The restricted number of characters used in a message, or tweet, limits users from explaining complex concepts or writing equations.”

Of course it falls short if you use Twitter and only Twitter; 140 characters is not designed to enable you to write a thesis or even short paragraph. I see many people (students and teachers) using Twitter as the feed in to their blog, or research profile, or Flickr account, or something similar. Indeed, you may be reading this because I tweeted from my blog when I publish(ed) this post.

“However, if you are a passionate teacher who wants to utilize new technologies in the classroom, Twitter can be an amazing, asynchronous communication medium — if and only if you have a strong network to follow.”

I don’t think Twitter warrants the label of “you must have a large network to follow and who follows you”. I think it is more appropriate that your network is appropriate to you and your subject or area of expertise.

If you have any comment on the above please let me know and let’s start the debate.

  • I don’t think Twitter is useable literally “in the classroom”. The key is outside the classroom. Professors on Twitter are easier to reach in my opinion. You know if someone legitimately uses Twitter, they’ll check it more frequently than say, a course email. One professor I had last semester was on Twitter, and instead of sending him course mail and waiting until Monday to hear back, I tweeted at him and got timely response (which I needed, because something needed to be done before Monday). Also, although she’s not a counselor at my university, @KellyLux (Syracuse U. I think?) provides career advice via Twitter and partakes in a #JobHuntChat via Twitter every week. These are just some of the ways that Twitter can benefit higher education. It’s a lot easier to tweet at a counselor to ask a simple question than to go through the motions of scheduling an appointment, etc.

  • Valid comments, David! I like to think of Twitter as the ‘glue’ for many of the other activities we do. Or perhaps it’s more like a pinboard? It collates/aggregates all the learning activities whether those happen in the class, in the Moodle course, in the virtual classroom or while students areat work or at home and whether those are recorded on Flickr, YouTube or on the students or teacher blog.

    Glue, pinboard, obviously I’m still struggling to find the right metaphor… ;-)

  • Thanks for the comment Joyce. I always use the terminology, when referring to technology, that is must be both considered and appropriate; “considered” in that it must be introduced and implemented in the best way, and “appropriate” in that there is no point using technology if it doesn’t enhance the student experience.

    Good luck with the metaphor.

    All the best, David

  • Maguire

    I think that using Twitter in the classroom is very valuable and necessary as time progresses. Twitter is a launchpad for endless topics of discussion and critical analysis. News is “broadcast” via Twitter, generally hours before standard media gets to report on it. This gives students a chance to see how we may improve upon the current model, as they are currently exposed to a faster flow of information than previous generations.

    Also, there are so many people from various professions who use Twitter, that it offers students options for paper topics or in class presentations. But what it also gives them, is access to some of the professionals themselves. The classroom is bound change as society continues to adapt and change.

    There is an interview series on the future of education that you might want to check that discusses points similar to this.