That’s a pretty ridiculous standard for judging a communications platform. It’s like saying television can’t show good dramas because “Two and a Half Men” was a hit.
Yet that’s the unfair criteria often leveled against Twitter. Sure, it’s 140-character limit is used for purposes both pointless (lunch updates) and detrimental (rumor mongering) to quality communication. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a valuable educational tool if used right. Social media researcher Rey Juncopublished an academic study showing that Twitter use for class improved student engagement and GPA among groups of college students.
To get positive results from Twitter, it takes some creativity and recognition of what the platform does well — sharing information, connecting like-minded people, keeping thoughts concise, and broadening the conversation. There are lots andlots of ideas out there that leverage those strengths. Here are five of my favorites.
1. Twitter as classroom community. Every instructor has announcements, reminders, and resources to share with the class. Put those out on Twitter using a course hashtag, (#CourseName) which makes them all easily searchable in the vast Twitter stream. Students can use the hashtag to ask questions, form study groups, and build a community.
2. Twitter as discussion forum. Even in some face-to-face classes, Twitter is being used for real-time conversations on the instructor’s lesson. It empowers the shy students and stifles the overeager ones from monopolizing class time with drawn out statements. Which brings us to….
3. Twitter as writing exercise. It’s far too easy to blabber on for paragraphs without making a concrete point. Twitter forces students to be concise and focused in their analysis. They can defend their tightly-worded thesis once they’ve clearly defined its essence.
4. Twitter as resource library. No matter what you teach, there are hundreds if not thousands of experts on the subject who post their research and thoughts on Twitter. Create a list of these experts for your students to follow. They might even connect with one of these scholars by replying or retweeting their posts.
5. Twitter as historical reenactment. Fake Twitter accounts are mostly used to humorously skewer a celebrity, voice a fictional character, or give life to an inanimate object. But they can also share stories of the past by taking on the voice of historical figures. The NC Department of Cultural Resources used its account to bring their vast archives of Civil War letters to life.
Have you used Twitter for a class? Did you like it?
Note: this post originally appeared on the blog for UNCG Online