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14 September 2011

Tweeting as Classroom Participation: A Reflection

I recently read somewhere (and would greatly appreciate if someone could remind me where as I can't track it down now) about the use of Twitter in the classroom. Basically, the idea was to keep a hashtag search feed up in a classroom that is unique to that section so that, during lecture or discussion, students can tweet a question or a comment that for whatever reason they might not be comfortable vocalizing. It's not an anonymous process, but it can afford at least the inkling of confidentiality. In its original version, it was a way to reorient students' mobile phone usage from the disruptive and extraneous to the productive and germane. I've never found (noticed?) cell phones to be a problem in my classes, but I decided to give this a try anyway in my two introductory sociology sections this fall. So far, the students haven't really been using it. The only two tweets that have been posted (i.e. five weeks in) were regarding apprehension about an upcoming essay assignment and an opinion about states' drug testing of welfare recipients that we were discussing, the latter of which was actually posted outside of the class meeting time. (I had the students read this article, asked them their opinions about it in class--which most agreed was a valid policy--, and then asked them a related version of this "gotcha" survey about whether they were beneficiaries of government social programs--which all of them as students at a state-system college are by definition.) In another life as a graduate instructor, I used to use clickers in the classroom, which I didn't find all that useful overall, and I thought that this Twitter idea would lead toward more interaction, particularly for those students who are shy or otherwise inhibited in the classroom, but thus far, it's been disappointing.

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