In this post-internet age, social media platforms have grown hugely popular. With 302 million monthly active users and about 80% of users on mobile, Twitter definitely one of the most popular sites.
Twitter offers users the ability to engage in conversations happening across the world and share ideas. This offers huge opportunities for engaging with new knowledge and other academics.
So how can Twitter be used to learn?
The use of Twitter in teaching is not new. Classrooms at UT Dallas and Roosevelt High School have engaged with twitter as a resource for class discussion. Ecology of Education wrote an article on how Twitter could be used in higher education, where they noted that as an instructional tool, students had found three challenges: anti-technology instructors, device challenges, and device-as-distraction.
Device-as-distraction is a common argument against the use of social media tools. Sites such as Th Echo argue that social media is making classrooms distracted and negatively impacting students mental capacities. Matt Kapko noted that social media offers a constant temptation and impossible to police.
Yet, what is offers is a new way for students to engage with what they learn.
The “#” is a tool that helps people to find content or themes. By putting a hash in front of a word, you can find similar subject matter on Twitter. This means that students can search for discussions happening in real time.
In a lecture scenario, this can allow for discussions to happen at any point. Lecturers or students can make reference to tweets as they happen and provide access to more information.
One of the main issues around using hashtags is finding one being used continually or as the ‘official’ hashtag for a discussion. A way of making sure that people can find the discussion is to ask everyone to use a class hashtag as a reference point.
The “@” is a tool that helps you find users on Twitter as well as send tweets directly to them. This means that students can get in touch with academics or important people within the discussion and ask them questions directly to their timeline.
The issue with this tool is that it depends on whether these players are willing to be involved. If a tweet is sent and not replied to, the discussion remains dead.
Another possible tool is the creation of a Twitter account for the class. Used by a lecturer, this could serve as a central location for the students to touch base. Students following the account could receive information on tests, assignments and readings.
The account could share and re-tweet information found on Twitter. Students would be able to tweet at the course.