Twitter is an example of the new media that represent a different conceptual environment for students (and teachers) ["Tweeting Your Way to Better Grades," usnews.com]. I think it is important to see these applications as opportunities to conceptualize learning in different ways; not as a replacement, but in addition to or right beside other new media and more traditional learning practices. Certainly nobody would question the need for emergency medical personnel to be trained on and to use promising new technologies in their work, nor should more traditional, effective medical procedures be forgotten or left out. It is possible to have both, and it is important to know both as new technologies emerge, along with the opportunities those new technologies present that enhance learning and change, and even deepen, engagement and thinking.
Comment by Corey Harbaugh of MI
I believe this is an exciting time to be an educator, and the opportunities for creating engaging learning opportunities with social media tools like Twitter are endless. I especially think the ability to have a real-time back channel conversation, "Mr. Smith is really confusing me right now," might give educators some important feedback regarding how effective or ineffective their lessons might be. The quiet kid in the back of the classroom who the teacher never calls on now has a chance to be heard. The question is—are our educational institutions ready to hear that voice?
Comment by Joe Valle of OR
This winter my school district experienced several snow days which impacted my unit on Othello. I wanted to finish the play before the kids took off for their weeklong February break; because of the snow days, there was no way this was feasible. Out of desperation, I created a Wikispace without really knowing what I was doing and told the kids that they would have to post comments and thoughts on Acts 4 and 5 of the play (we were practicing Socratic seminars, so the students who were the discussion leaders for those groups had to perform the same role online). It was an amazing experience. I read insightful comments from students who hated speaking in class but have powerful ideas, and they felt comfortable communicating in this format. Kids were able to be themselves, and I felt like I had an excellent opportunity to get to know my more shy students because they had let their guard down. One girl even told me, "She never had so much fun doing homework, and that it didn't even feel like homework." Because it was such a success, I continued the Wikispace discussion for the kids to use on their book circle novels in the spring. This summer my advanced placement literature students will be blogging away on the Wikispace for an online discussion of Hamlet. It has completely added a new dimension of communication in the classroom not only between teachers and students but students to students.
Comment by Brooke Dobson of CA
I can see the efficacy of using Twitter to schedule study groups. In some cases I could imagine using 140 characters to prod students with a thought provoking question; though it seems to me the question would somehow be impoverished by the mediation of a computer, telephone, or BlackBerry screen. In most cases I would rather launch my question face-to-face in class. Tweeting, I suppose, also offers potential lessons in efficient writing as it demands thoughts be clearly expressed in very few words. This application of the technology could be even more effective if teachers demanded all words be spelled properly. However, as a means of expressing complex, abstract thoughts, the development and expression of which I hope are the focus of my English classes, Twitter seems hopelessly inadequate.
Comment by Tony Speranza of MD
I teach high school geometry and used Facebook as a tool for reviewing for the final exam. I posted a diagram and students had to make a comment about the diagram. Each student had to post a comment that was different than what was already posted. If a student noticed that something in a post was not correct, they were to comment on that, too. In order to find something new to say about the diagram, students had to read what was posted and use some of the new information to form their own ideas about the diagram. We also had a photo scavenger hunt using digital cameras. Students then uploaded the photos to Facebook and tagged them with the name of the item. I put their photos into an animated slide show and then posted that on our Facebook group. Overall, students enjoyed the Facebook project. The group was private and that meant outsiders couldn't see their work. It also meant that I didn't need to "friend" my students.
Comment by Leigh Nataro of PA