Home > Teaching, University life > Using twitter in class

Using twitter in class


Yesterday I started my 3rd year language and gender module. It’s a module I enjoy teaching, but this year I’m adding to my workload and making (being forced to make?) big changes to the content and structure of the module, mainly because of the recent Moodle roll-over which broke almost all of my content from last year… It also dawned on me that I hadn’t really changed much of the content since inheriting the module nearly five years ago, and since I really didn’t want to teach another class on Helene Cixous and Donna Haraway, I had to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in with new lecture notes and seminar activities….

Beyond the changes I’m implementing to my teaching material, one of the big things that I’m trialling this year is using Twitter so that my students can hashtag (yes, it’s a verb now) interesting L&G material and share it with one another. This was inspired by a teaching talk I went to over the summer by Gary Wood, who teaches a module on syntax at Sheffield Uni. One of the things Gary does with his class is to set up a twitter account where students can ask questions, share materials, discuss ideas and so on, and by adopting this particular strategy, he has seen the pass rate for syntax climb up into the 90%, not to say anything about increasing student engagement.

Being a big user of twitter (and social media more generally) in my research and ‘outreach’ activities, it was a surprise to me that I hadn’t thought of using twitter in my teaching. I suppose part of it was the worry of it being too gimmicky and that my students wouldn’t take it up. But seeing I use it at conferences, for public communication and so on, it seems a bit daft to think that it wouldn’t be good enough for my students. So yesterday I set up a hashtag, started tweeting about a few things and had a couple of students follow me on my twitter handle. It’s far too early to tell whether there’s an impact on student enjoyment/engagement, and that will come out at the end of the module, but it’s an interesting experiment.

I also tentatively brought up the idea that students can tweet during classes… I’m not sure if that was a great idea, but the cat’s out the bag now….

The Social Linguist

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  1. lisamlangford
    October 4, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I am in currently pursuing a masters in education and am taking a graduate class which is focusing on the use of social media and digital tools to support students’ learning. I have found it extremely engaging and enjoy participating in class twitter chats! I currently teach 1st grade and am brainstorming ways that I can use twitter in my own classroom. Have you ever had students blog in addition to using twitter?

    • October 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks for your comment Lisa. I have had students use blogs in the past, yes, but they’re generally non-public facing (in a 1st year module at BCU, students work on blogs as well, although again, not public facing). At the event I referred to in my post, there was another session about exactly that; getting students to publish their own blogs. Blogs are a lot more work than twitter I think, especially since you would usually want to check content for accuracy, but I think students probably would get a lot out of it.

  2. Ty
    November 20, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    How has the hashtag worked out? I think it’s a great idea, I love using the internet to organize my academic thoughts and doing that with an entire group seems really productive.

    • November 20, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      Hi Ty! I think it’s worked out quite well thanks – students get a chance to share interesting findings and they’ve been sharing their research project titles on there as well, so on the whole, it seems to have been a positive experience. It really depends on students getting involved though, and I’ve probably spent a lot more time on Twitter sharing and discussing stuff than I usually do (normally I only use it during conferences), but I’d recommend trying it 🙂

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