Fast and Furious: Tweeting Discussion

I LOVE this idea. Of course, I’ve heard this worked in the old fashioned classrooms of the past with writing everything down. I loved that idea too. I have never been able to make it work myself, though. So what is the idea?

Mr. Groening, an assistant professor of film and media studies, offered the course for the first time this semester to encourage students to think about cultural issues associated with mobile phones. The Twitter discussion was just one of the course’s many experiments in “experiential learning.” Others have included asking students to create photo essays with their cellphone cameras, and a final project in which students use their phones to organize flash mobs.

The professor was not sure what to expect as the class began tweeting silently about the assigned reading. In the darkened room, tweets scrolled down the projected screens, and thumbs worked furiously as students tried to keep up with separate discussions on articles they had read.

So what did they find?

In the wrap-up discussion, Mr. Groening asked the students for their thoughts. Most had trouble following so many hashtags and felt restricted by Twitter’s 140-character limit in making their points. Others argued that social media can act as a way to remove students’ reserve, though, since some students adopted informal language they would not normally use in the classroom.

Not all students were familiar with Twitter, and some had technical difficulties trying to join the discussion. While others, Mr. Groening noted, “were completely at home.”

Er, yes. But everyone has smartphones and Twitter can become a home quickly, even if the notes are short.

But also…

In the end he found that the discussion lacked depth.

Er, yes, again. 140-character limit anyone? I mean, we can have a long discussion, but if you’ve ever been part of a chat, or tried to follow an entire conference via hashtags (number sign followed by letters of some sort), you know that it is very hard to say anything of significance in a single tweet and that multiple tweets often get lost in the reading.

Still, I was glad to read about the idea in the Chronicle.

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