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?

IRL, Storify, and Girltalk: First Day at Blogworld

Like just about everyone, I know what the letters LOL mean (although I think I might not type them anymore) but I encountered a new one I hadn’t heard:  IRL.  Do you want to hazard a guess?

I’m at a conference this week in Los Angeles called the Blogworld New Media Expo, and on the first day I was introduced to a website called Storify during a presentation by Kate Brodock and Jeff Cutler.  Although I only saw Storify in action for about a minute, it seems to be something I could use to not only capture an online Twitter conversation, it would also give me the rhetorical space to offer my take on the conversation.  For example, I participate sometimes in a Wed. night Twitter chat by using the hashtag #FYCCHAT.  The letters stand for First Year Composition.  Using Storify, it looks like I could pull tweets from one of our conversations into a page that would allow me to tell my version of what happened during that nights’ chat.

Lots to Do near L.A. Convention Center

I’ve been thinking about audio essays where you’d hear the writer’s voice cruising along the same as if they were reading a paper they’d written, but instead of quoting folks, they’d integrate audio clips. The essay I have in mind would be an audio version of something you might read in the op-ed section of the newspaper (as if people still read newspapers) or in a journal about teaching or writing, except for that in the audio essay, you’d hear not only the voice of the writer, you’d also hear the voices of the writers being quoted.   So if I were to write this kind of essay about my time here at the Blogworld New Media Expo, you’d hear an audio recording of my voice telling you about what I was up to, until I went to a clip from something I’d recorded or otherwise gathered online.

Malibu hiking Blogworld Los Angeles

Sis Got Me Out Hiking Near Malibu

As for the letters “IRL,” they were spoken to me yesterday when I was talking with some folks including someone named Marlo who has a radio project she calls “Girltalk With Marlo.”  Her card describes it as “relevant, intelligent talk radio.  Women’s issues.  Women’s Voices.”  Sounded cool and so if you’re a woman, you might want to check it out.  Marlo was telling me about a meet up, and I thought she was talking about a virtual one, but she corrected me by saying, “IRL.”  I was baffled.  The Indy Racing League?  (yep, I’m a transplanted Indiana Hoosier).

“No,” Marlo said, “In Real Life.”

Mmmm, I’m getting old.