Twitter in the Classroom #agoodidea

Happy New Year, Jbloggers!

I’ve long been interested in the potential of using Twitter in the classroom, and over the break I finally got around to reading the first published piece of controlled experimental evidence about the use of twitter in the college classroom.  Even better for our purposes, the authors used Twitter in the FYE classroom – a one credit first year seminar course for students intending to major in the health professions.

The take away is that that there was a significant increase in both student engagement and GPA for the group of students that used twitter in the classroom.  I’m not surprised by this, since the use of twitter mirrored the best practices we already know help students succeed – more out of class contact between students and their peers and students and professors, more targeted engagement with readings/course content, more immediate feedback to questions and concerns.  However, an interesting finding was that Twitter was more successful than Ning — both the control group and the experimental group had a Ning page for course management, but Twitter seemed to foster much more active engagement from students, and then in turn by faculty.

Some of the limitations of this study mirror the challenges we have had with first year assessment.  First, student engagement was measured in a self-reported manner (using NSSE answers), which is not the ideal way to determine if a student is actually engaged (this has been our concern with using student- and faculty-reported data exclusively for FYE programmatic assessment).  Second, the researchers attribute much of the beneficial impact of twitter to increased faculty involvement and interest, which might have encouraged student achievement even without a technological component, or this specific technological component.

Nevertheless, the article provides some interesting ideas for how to use Twitter and bodes well for further study of social networking in the classroom.  Now, who wants to summarize The Great Gatsby in 140 characters?

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