My teaching with technology comment this time was stimulated by a conversation I had with another instructor who knew I teach online classes. His daughter was going to take a class at Palomar and he asked my opinion about online versus on-campus classes. After listing the pros and cons of taking an online class, I concluded by saying “If someone can take a class online or on-campus, I almost always recommend that he/she take an on-campus class.” The reason is that the social dynamic in an on-campus class cannot easily be replicated in an online class.
Shortly after having that conversation I read an article published in the Journal of Information Systems about using Twitter in higher education. We’ve all heard or read about people using Twitter to comment about immediate, ongoing events such as during natural disasters and political events but is there a place for Twitter in education? After all, the 140 character limit that Twitter imposes encourages short, ungrammatically constructed posts and discourages deeper, reflective discussions. Or so I thought.
After reading some articles about how professors are using Twitter in higher education though, I am starting to change my mind. I’ll mention two articles that influenced me to reconsider my bias against using Twitter in higher education.
Dunlap and Lowenthal in Tweeting the Night Away: Using Twitter to Enhance Social Presence, argue that Twitter can be a valuable tool to increase “social presence” in an online class and point out the positive correlations that exist between (a) social presence and student engagement in the class and (b) with student satisfaction in the class. The authors cite 10 constructive ways they have used Twitter in their online class. One example: A student, puzzled by something she read in the textbook or with a class assignment, tweets (posts) her question to the class from her mobile phone. within 10 minutes she receives two clarifying responses. The ability to tweet and receive tweets from anywhere is very powerful.
Dave Parry, blogging at AcademHack, was initially very skeptical about using Twitter in education, and now argues for its educational value. Parry uses Twitter with his on-campus class and provides a number of examples of how he believes Twitter has enhanced the students’ experience of the class. One of the first observations Parry made was that communications among students increased – both inside and outside the classroom as a result of Twitter. Parry found that Twitter enabled students to develop “more productive classroom conversations” and become more engaged with each other, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Bottom line for me: While not yet ready to drink the Twitter cool-aid, I now see how others have used it to promote their educational goals and I am ready to experiment with it myself. What are your views: To tweet or not to tweet?
Audio of Blog: