Playing with Technology

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. ~Arthur C. Clarke

Twitter in the classroom

I’m not sure why but I haven’t really had the urge to post (as evidenced by the absence of more than a year). It’s not that I don’t have things to write about or say. I think I’ve just had other things that I felt were more important. Anyway, I’m going to try and work through my backlog of notes from SXSW, NMC, NERCOMP, and some other things.

In March of this year I attended SXSW and tried to focus on presentations and panels with a higher ed focus. The first event and by far the most interesting was Using Twitter to Improve College Student Engagement by Rey Junco.You can listen to his presentation

or view the slides

The gist of Dr. Junco’s presentation was that students were more engaged, as long as it was clear that Twitter was an important aspect of the class. Dr. Junco presented the findings of a study conducted with colleagues to substantiate this statement. The study had faculty use Twitter for announcements, to have students organize study groups, to have students ask the professor questions, and discuss a class reading. The class had a twitter account and each student had an account. Ning was used as a control. The stats gathered from pre- and post-engagement surveys indicate that the students felt more engaged and actually were more engaged. Also of interest was the fact that the Twitter group had a .5 higher mean GPA.

Interestingly, in a larger class of 300 with no control and where students self-selected to use Twitter, were not encouraged, and where the instructor never really used Twitter or the class hashtag, the students claimed to feel more engaged but showed no statistical evidence of being more engaged.

The take aways for me were:

  • Faculty should be interacting with students on Twitter.
  • Course content must be integrated with Twitter for engagement to be increased.
  • Faculty should encourage students to use Twitter to collaborate.

As with any technology, if the faculty member isn’t invested in using it then there is a very good chance that the technology will not benefit the students or help meet the learning goals.