Using Twitter to Enhance Discussion in the Composition Classroom
I started with Twitter in the spring semester of 2012. I invited students to create accounts so that we could use them along with classroom discussion. We talked about privacy and potential problems with going public with writing, and I told the students that they might have a good reason for not wanting to use social media. One student shared a horrific story of Facebook identity theft and harassment. I also noted that I sometimes consider abandoning my online life, and that I’d enthusiastically support any student who wanted to skip the social media component of the class. We all, I thought, would benefit from some powerful voices warning about the dangers of being too digitally connected.
Even though I was worried that there would be students who would see my offer as a way to get out of some of the classwork, all of my students signed up for Twitter. I think there were less than five who already had an account. One or two of the students had internships during which it was their primary job to Tweet and write Facebook posts.
Here was my starting place: in addition to doing our regular, go around the room, sharing to begin each class session, the students would also Tweet a highlight of what they planned to say. So the idea was that students would listen to the one or two students who talked AND at the same time, Tweet comments to the class or as a “reply” to one particular student. I thought of this as a kind of transparent note-taking process. It used to be I’d write down golden lines of something someone said or jot down a question I had for later, but with Twitter, these notes could instantly be put up on the screen for everyone to see. Maybe we’d see from the Tweets that many writers were gravitating toward the same lines from our reading, or that the writers in the class had some of the same sorts of questions. For example, if more than one student didn’t understand what I meant when I said student work should strive for “intellectual ambition,” perhaps our discussion could dig in on that feature of my expectations for their work.
In the coming blog posts, I’ll share how my idea worked, what I learned, and what I plan to do differently in the Fall of 2012. If you’ve used digital texts in the classroom, I hope you’ll join in the conversation. Have you thought about how social media might impact classroom communities? Have you used Twitter in your classroom? If this article interested you, I hope you’ll consider signing up for periodic updates by typing your email in the upper left hand corner of this page. Thanks!