Who Will the Students Follow on Twitter?

NCTE_Twitter
The idea is that my students will follow tweeters within a topic that interests them. This worries me in that I’m sure I’ll have lots of Yankee fans who will automatically want to follow the team’s outfielder and frequent tweeter, Nick Swisher. I don’t object to students following Swisher, but as far as the class goes, I want the students to ask themselves a few questions:

  • Why am I a student at St. John’s?
  • What am I interested in learning about?
  • What are my intellectual curiosities?
  • What’s my plan when it comes to the reading and writing I will do in this class?

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Given those questions, who do the students think they should follow? If the student aspires to be a Yankee beat reporter, then maybe Nick Swisher is perfect. If the student hopes to work in finance or publishing, perhaps they should find someone else to follow.

Take for example a former student of mine who is a speech pathology major. While getting ready for a panel discussion, she and I happened on wondering about putting “speech pathology” in the Twitter search box. Among the screen full of tweets that contained the phrase from the past few hours of tweets, we saw a posting by a speech pathologist about a job opening in her office. This is not the first time a student and I have stumbled mostly by accident onto something that works well. When this happens, I try to take notice and organize an environment where this good thing is more likely to happen. Because of this particular moment with a student in my office, I want to have students identify tweeters in their area of interest and see what they find. I know they will find something. Maybe more of them will find leads on an internship or job opportunity.

I know from experience that when I tweet and read tweets, I find many teachers using technology in interesting ways. I imagine if I was a basketball coach, I’d find coaches tweeting about game strategy. Well, I don’t have to imagine too hard: St. John’s University’s own Coach Lavin is a regular tweeter. I’m confident that a student writing about studying abroad could find other students tweeting about a similar experience. Do you see any potential problems with this? Do you have ideas of your own for using Twitter in the classroom?
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Is This a Problem? Twitter in the Classroom

Each student Tweeted a reaction or question they had about the syllabus. Most of the students stared at their computer or cell phone screens. From my walking around the room, I saw that students were reading each other’s Tweets and responding to them. I had the website Tweetchat up on the projection screen with everyone’s Tweets. What stood out most to me at this moment was the silence. The only noise in the room was fingers punching the keys of laptops.  There was a chuckle or two. Several students nudged one another to point out something on the screen.

NCTE, Twitter, writing, Las Vegas, English, Language Arts

I took most of what I could observe as positive with one major exception: I’d thought Twitter might facilitate classroom discussion, and although that may have worked virtually, what stood out to me was the absence of audible discussion and that the students weren’t looking at each other.  I’m not sure this matters.  Is it better to have your head up and talking with others than have your attention on a screen reading and responding to texts? I want to be careful to not conclude what happened as ineffective just because it was different.  Do I have to have a noisy classroom to have an effective one?  Maybe…

I do take time to have students write in class because I know the likelihood that they’ll try it outside of class is low. So given that pedagogical choice, perhaps the silence that goes with giving students a chance to experience Twitter isn’t necessarily negative. Will the administrators who observe me see this as student engagement?

Several of the students’ tweets were missing from the Tweetchat screen at the front of the room. In most cases, this was because the students had tweeted through Twitter and not Tweetchat, even though I’d suggested the site and shown students how to get started.  The students who used Twitter had forgotten to add our hash tag “#torgchat.” Why would the students resist my suggestion to use Tweetchat?

I don’t think it was resistance at all. It was that the students hadn’t heard me suggest the site. I can’t stress this lesson enough about teaching: when a teacher (or anyone?) talks, there’s a large majority of the audience that doesn’t hear what is said.  It’s difficult for at least some people to sit still and concentrate on someone speaking. I imagine this always being a challenge but is it more of a challenge than ever because there are so many options for our attention spans?  (incoming emails, texts, and messages; TV, ads)

Rather than getting on the students all the time about not paying attention, I just try to figure out what I can do in order to get them more engaged. So I’m trying Twitter.  So I’m asking myself all the time, “What can I have the students do that isn’t sitting and listening?” I wonder, what are some of the best ways you have found to get students / colleagues to “hear” what you are saying?

First Year Composition Students Talk Writing Into ePortfolios

Each semester at St. John’s University in New York, the First Year Composition Program hosts a conference to celebrate the work of the students. In this panel, Prof. Torg introduces his course which includes the creation of writing territories, a hybrid research project called the Scholarly Personal Narrative, a documentary film, and a final ePortfolio completed via Digication software.  The students discuss their work, much of it completed in digital spaces, with professors Roseanne Gatto, David Farley, Amanda Moulder, and Tara Roeder.  The student Daniella focused on speech pathology while Richie focused on the art of songwriting and the promotion of his band.  Topics discussed include public and private writing, ePortfolios, YouTube, Facebook, songwriting, vinyl, and illegal downloading.
Click the play button below to listen or download the podcast from iTunes at the Prof. Torg Read, Write, and Teach Digital Book Club.
[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/thetorg/Coming_to_Writing_Spring_2012_audio.mp3]

Take a Poll and Tell Me About You and Television?

I usually get to work before my colleague David Farley, and it’s become our habit that he stops at my office door and we talk about something related to writing, teaching, or family. This job we have teaching First Year Composition has carried me into digital writing, and David and I are often talking about digital texts in relation to the teaching of writing. I’m interested in the future of books, and I’m interested in how our internet habits will impact our reading, writing, and thinking. One day, David went over into his office and came back with Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Wikipedia (I’m getting more obsessed with it) tells me that Lessig “is a director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a professor of law at Harvard Law School.”

Lawrence Lessig’s Remix

Here’s something I wouldn’t mind hearing about from you in the comments section: Have your television watching habits changed? In this book, Lessig writes about Read Only (R.O.) and Read Write (R.W.) culture. Taking television as an example, I think it’s been R.O. By that, I mean you just sit there and watch it. You consume it. You don’t interact with it. Reading a Facebook post isn’t like that. Reading a Twitter feed isn’t like that. You get to Tweet back. You get to interact.

Television watching, from what I can see, is becoming more interactive. You can vote for your favorite American Idol. You can Tweet along with everyone else as they watch the NCAA basketball tournament. You can read what people say about President Obama and Presidential hopeful Romney on Facebook.  As I understand from Lessig, back when people went down to the town square to see entertainment, they were in a culture that tended toward R.W. They were entertained and had a chance to interact, to sing along, to talk with others, and to go home and try out the songs on their front porch.

With the rise of television and newspapers, R.W. went on the decline. People just consumed content with little or no chance to interact. Now with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other social platforms such as blogs, R.W. is on the rise. People read Harry Potter and go see the movies and then they write on fan fiction sites. All of these features of consuming and interacting seem significant to the craft of teaching and what it will mean to get an education.

Let’s consider for a second the teacher’s lecture.  Possibly BORING!!!! and most times heavy on the R.O. side of consumption.   I’d like to be as R.W. as I can when it comes to my teaching pedagogy. Perhaps I’m using the term wrong but for now, I know what I mean.  🙂

More on Lessig’s book and some Golden Lines in the coming posts. There’s a poll below for you and if you’d like to elaborate on your TV watching habits, I hope you’ll add them to the comments section.

Golden Lines from College Writers Who Write With Me

One thing that I have found out in my life is that sometimes you won’t always understand everything.

-Taylor L.

When you think about it, everything in life has to do with how you say things.

-Fabiola N.

If I never bare my soul to the internet, it will never be taken by it.

-Jessi L.

I can’t even put a number on how many papers I have turned in, papers that have taken many hours of preparation, research, and hard work, only to never see them again.

-Thomas S.

Students want stories that relate to real life and to what’s going on today.

-Francesca C.