In my initial post on using Twitter in the classroom, I had only begun to explore the idea as a method of information retrieval – a way for students to keep up with current findings. Since then I have been exploring ways to incorporate Twitter in more active ways, developing activities around the use of this technology. The higher-order learning objective that I hope to attain through this project is to increase students’ ability to communicate recent scientific findings and become actively engaged in the scientific community through the use of social networking media. To avoid students attaching strong associations between this project and their preconceived ideas about Twitter, in my syllabus I have named this series of assignments the “Science Networking Project.”
There are some preliminaries to take care of before getting to the good stuff. The first being: students will need a Twitter account (@IleneDawn has also suggested the use of HootCourse – I have just started looking into this site and what it can offer). The exercise of using Twitter in the classroom is to show students that these social networking tools have become an important tool not only in disseminating knowledge but also in generating productive discourse. Students may already have experience with this technology for other purposes, so I believe it is important to gain an understanding of how students already use Twitter.
The first step in this project involves some brief discussion based around the following questions: If students already have a Twitter account, for what do they use it? Have they already begun to use it for information retrieval, or does it primarily serve social functions? If students don’t have an account, what are their expectations of this technology? Having a brief conversation about this may reduce students’ apprehension towards the technology and allow them to see it as a valuable tool.
The next phase involves the practical issues of establishing the class’s twitter community:
- Open a Twitter account.
- Add your Twitter handle to the student list.
- I will collect the names and compile them in a list, along with a list of individuals or organizations that tweet news related to the course.
- Students will receive a copy of this list and will be responsible for adding their classmates and the additional twitter feeds on the list.
- I will encourage them to follow peers even outside the class. Connecting to their extended peer circle will results in exposing to scientific information those who may not typically pay much attention to this type of news.
After students have opened an account and are connected to our, at this stage, limited network of followers, the core of this project becomes designing assignments that encourage students to become engaged with this community. Through these assignments students will employ higher levels of learning through synthesis and written communication. Relating to this section, I would greatly appreciate suggestions from my readers for possible projects. Below I include a short list of ideas I have considered, that other individuals have contributed, or that I have found on in other sources.
1. Retweet two science-related tweets that catch your interest.
This exercise gets the students to actively look through their twitter feed and at least be considering subjects that are of interest to them. Grading for this assignment would be low-stakes, simply giving a small point value for having completed the assignment.
One could argue that this approach is far too passive – that students could just retweet the first two articles that appear to be related to the course and gain nothing from the experience. To avoid this, the exercise could be coupled with an opportunity for the students to exercise their writing skills:
a. Students submit a short explanation (1-2 paragraphs) of what they found interesting about this particular tweet.
b. If the tweet links to an article or website, have them summarize the content of the link.
2. Find an article from a popular source, summarize (this part would be submitted to me), and tweet about it.
I like this exercise because the student must process what they have read, turn it not only into a summary for me, but then also tweet about it. The format of Twitter only allows for a very brief summary or tag line about the source, which means students must draw out the core message of the article.
3. Find a blog post of interest, summarize, and tweet about it. (This can be from a list of blogs I will provide in class, or one that the student finds on her or his own.)
4. Have students attend a talk and tweet about it. (Suggested by Dr. Cheryl Neudauer)
I welcome additional suggestions of ways in which I can make this experience as valuable as possible for students. I will update the list of twitter assignments in future posts.
I close with one example of how Twitter has been successfully integrated into a history classroom. I discovered this video through a tweet from @cristinacost. Dr. Monica Rankin at UT Dallas shows some of the ways she has integrated Twitter into classroom discussion. You see some of the positive response from the students about the experiment.