Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Chapter > Instructional Uses Of Twitter

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are modeled after classrooms. While they are fully capable of supporting some learning activities (e.g., information and document sharing, asynchronous and synchronous discussion, and online tests and quizzes), they are incapable of supporting others. For instance, LMSs currently cannot support the just-in-time, and sometimes playful, interactions that happen before and after class, during a break, and so forth.
Out-of-the-classroom interactions like these have potential instructional value (Kuh, 1995) and can help strengthen interpersonal relationships between and among faculty and students. In the following chapter, we briefly highlight some instructional uses of Twitter—a Web 2.0, microblogging tool.


> Social Presence and Online Learning

> Social Presence and Twitter

> Twitter in Action

During the fall of 2008, we incorporated Twitter into our online instructional design and technology courses. We did not require students to participate, but invited them to join us in our Twitter adventure as we tested its instructional potential. Although not everyone chose to participate, most did with positive results. The following describes our students’ typical experiences using Twitter:

  • A student is reading something in the textbook and has a question about the  chapter on multimodal learning. She immediately tweets (i.e., posts) her question to the Twitter community, and gets three responses within ten minutes)—two responses from classmates, and one from Joni (her professor).
  • A student is working on an assignment and is wondering about embedding music into a slideshow presentation. He tweets a question to the group and a practicing professional points the student to different online resources that explain how to embed music. Within a half hour, the student has embedded music in his slideshow presentation.
  • A student sends a private tweet (i.e., a private message that only the named recipient receives) to Joni regarding a difficult situation with a project team member. While in the middle of a meeting, Joni immediately tweets back, arranging a time to talk with the student outside of Twitter.
  • A student finds a great video about storyboarding on YouTube and posts the URL to Twitter. Her find is retweeted (i.e., reposted) three times because others also think the video is great and worth sharing.
  • Joni and Patrick, who are both away at conferences, tweet various updates about what they are hearing and seeing at the conference.
  • A student tweets that she is tired and going off to bed. She receives two tweets back from classmates wishing her a good night.
By using a tool that enables just-in-time communication with the local (our course) and global (practicing professionals) community, we were able to engage in sharing, collaboration, brain-storming, problem solving, and creating within the context of our moment-to-moment experiences. Because of Twitter’s ability to enable persistent presence (Siemens, 2007), our social interactions occurred more naturally and immediately than when we have to login to the LMS, navigate to the appropriate discussion forum, post a message, and then waiting for someone to respond (after we already moved on to other work, thoughts, and issues).

For another instructional example of Twitter in action, see []

> Other Instructional Benefits of Twitter

Besides the benefit of enhancing the potential for positive social presence during online learning opportunities, Twitter has other instructional benefits:
  • Addressing student issues in a timely manner. Our students used Twitter for time-sensitive matters: to ask us for clarification on content or assignment requirements, notify us of personal emergencies, and alert us to issues that need our attention and action.
  • Writing concisely. Because a tweet is limited to 140 characters, this encouraged students to write clearly and concisely. Although a very informal writing style, it is a professionally useful skill for students to develop, especially given the growing popularity of this category of communication tool.
  • Writing for an audience. Although Twitter elicits open sharing and an informal writing style, it is nevertheless critical to know your audience and share accordingly. Participating in the Twitter community helped our students learn to be sensitive to their audience, and make professional decisions about what perspectives and ideas they should publically contribute and what perspectives and ideas should remain private.
  • Connecting with the professional community of practice. A great benefit of participating in Twitter was that many practicing professionals also participate, including the authors of two of our textbooks. Besides the networking potential, students received immediate feedback to their questions and ideas from practicing professionals, which served to enhance their understanding of our course content and their enculturation into the professional community of practice.
  • Maintaining on-going relationships. Although the semester is over, we are still in daily communication with several students from the courses. This allows us to continue to advise students academically and professionally
> Possible Drawbacks

> Conclusion

We set out to enhance the social-presence potential of our online courses using Twitter. Overall, we found that Twitter helped us accomplish this. We have found Twitter to be a powerful tool for establishing informal, free-flowing, just-in-time communication between and among students and faculty, and with the professional community at large.
> References
Dunlap, J., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009).
Instructional uses of Twitter. In P. R. Lowenthal, D. Thomas, A. Thai, & B. Yuhnke, B. (Eds.), The CU Online Handbook: Teach Differently: Create and collaborate (pp. 46-52). Raleigh, NC: Lulu Enterprises.
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Book Table Of Contents Available At

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!!! Thanks To
Patrick.R. Lowenthal / Academic Technology Coordinator / University of Colorado Denver / Business School / For The HeadsUp !!!

1 comment:

  1. Nice overview of an example of the potential for use of Twitter to augment teaching in higher education.

    The benefits listed should contribute to better learning. However, sceptics will ask about measures of learning outcomes.

    What do you -- and others -- imagine would be good indices to measure positive impacts on (1) what has been learned, (2) how thoroughly it has been understood by the students, and (3) the extent to which students' capacity to learn in the field of study has been enhanced?


    William D Rifkin, PhD
    Director, Science Communication Program
    Faculty of Science, BSB-BABS
    UNSW, Sydney, NSW 2052 AUSTRALIA
    +61 2 9385 2748
    +61 2 9385 1530 fax


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