I set up my first Twitter account today. The world in 140 characters. I am now one of 18 million micro-bloggers ready to dive into the “new” way of communicating, networking, and knowledge sharing. Now, how can Twitter POSSIBLY be incorporated into an educational setting? Well, this week’s in-class discussion and readings assignments provided some intriguing reasons and astonishing examples (e.g., The Twitter Experiment).
In their 2009 article “Horton Hears a Tweet”, the authors Dunlap and Lowenthal (D&L) highlighted how Twitter can be used to meet the 7 principles of good practice, which we discussed last week (see my previous blog post for reference). The authors emphasize that social-networking tools, such as Twitter, allow them “to establish natural, free-flowing, just-in-time contact with students, and them with us.” In my view, this quote directly refers to principle #4 (i.e., giving prompt feedback), principle #1 (i.e., encourage student-faculty contact), and principle #2 (i.e., encouraging active learning). In addition, Junco, Heibergert, and Loken (2010) provide research-based evidence that the use of Twitter has a positive effect on student engagement and grades.
I also liked D&L’s discussion about the additional benefits of using Twitter. First, Twitter offers students the opportunity to engage with professionals. In my opinion, it is important to allow students to learn how to engage in relevant community of practice by connecting to other professionals in their field of study, research, and/or work. That is, introducing Twitter into the classroom allows students to practice how to engage with professionals (i.e., their fellow students, their instructors) in a safe environment with some room for trial-and-error, as handling Twitter “professionally” does require some knowledge about certain “tweeting” rules (e.g., appropriate use of hashtags). Moreover, Twitter forces the user to write in a concise and appropriate manner. In my opinion, this is one of the most convincing benefits of Twitter in an educational setting. The ability to summarize, highlight and emphasize effectively is absolutely crucial in a world full of readily-available abundant information. The limit of 140 characters per tweet forces the user to clearly articulate his or her thoughts, make effective use of words, information, links, references, and connections. In fact, as a notorious rambler I often find myself in situations, in which I ask myself: How can I get my point across in as few sentences as possible? From now on, I might simply ask myself: How can I get my point across in 140 characters?