Social media offers great opportunities for teaching. Wasim Ahmed and Sergej Lugovic have reviewed the literature on the use of Twitter in the classroom and have noted its benefits to both students and teachers. Not only can it increase participation and engagement, particularly among more introverted students, but it can also be used to bring new, popular resources into the classroom and improve student-teacher relationships.
As Albert Einstein once put it, “it is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”. In our recent conference paper we set out to investigate how Twitter had been used in the classroom, and whether it could foster creative expression and knowledge. We wanted to study this topic as we have found from our own teaching that in the correct context Twitter can benefit both students and teachers in a higher education setting.
When students use Twitter within the classroom they are not passive receivers of information. Instead they can become active participants and shape their own learning. Gonzalez and Gadbury-Amyot found that students viewed the use of Twitter positively and considered it helpful for their courses. The use of Twitter increased student engagement, serving as an excellent resource for Q&A sessions. Ricoy and Feliz noted that tweets were often able to direct students to other resources available on the internet, so the use of Twitter can also allow new, relevant resources to be brought into the classroom.
Image credit: Twitter Bird Sketch by Shawn Campbell. This work is licensed under a CC BY 2.0 license.
Twitter provides a platform for professionals from different fields to communicate with one another, and can allow particularly shy students to engage with the class. Lee, Smith, and Hillman noted that Twitter is an educational resource which is multi-disciplinary and able to break down boundaries between professional groups. Moreover, they noted that it has the potential to be useful in conferences, and can foster debate and discourse on topical themes. Similarly, Menkhoff, Chay, Bengtsson, Woodard, and Gan found that Twitter promotes active participation, and allows more reserved students to participate in class discussions; it stimulates learning, and helps students who may be introverted.
The use of Twitter may allow students to read more widely, and focus on topics that are likely to interest them. Additionally, the use of Twitter may improve the perception of the teacher, with lecturers that use Twitter being more likely to be viewed positively by their students. Skrypnyk, Srećko, Kovanović, Gaševic and Dawson noted that learners may be focused on a set of topics that are of interest to them rather than those recommended by course facilitators, and the use of Twitter would allow these topics to emerge in the course. Lasker and Vicneswararajah found that student-tutor relationships have benefitted via the use of Twitter, and that students were likely to perceive tutors as more approachable both in person and online. They also noted that teachers can discuss questions outside lecture time and integrate discussion in after-class sessions.
Bringing together the different overall themes identified within the literature we are able to list the following key benefits of Twitter within the classroom:
- Proactive participation and increased engagement
- More engagement in Q&A sessions
- A flipped classroom experience
- Ability to connect with domain experts (academics and other professionals)
- Ability to foster debate and discourse
- Emergence of student topics of interest
- Closer relationships between students and teachers
- After-class discussion
We were also interested in seeing what factors educational organisations should consider when seeking to incorporate Twitter into teaching. West, Moore and Barry have identified four key success factors:
- A strong initial faculty presence on Twitter. It is ideal to have some faculty members who have an established presence on a social media platform such as Twitter. This is particularly important in the first few weeks of a semester.
- Justification for technology and of Twitter within the classroom. An open laptop policy is recommended for all students during classes, and the use of hashtags to ask questions and/or tweet content during a lecture.
- Mandatory Twitter participation. Adopting a mandatory approach which links the use of Twitter to students’ final grades is recommended.
- Rewards for active professional tweeting versus social tweeting or reactive retweets. It is important to reinforce and reward original tweets as they are more likely to improve learning as opposed to retweeting alone.
One of the main obstacles to successfully using Twitter for teaching is that it is often down to individual teachers and whether they wish to develop their own skills in social media and use it to improve their teaching process. The extra time and effort teachers put in to using technologies such as Twitter may not necessarily be recognised by higher education faculties.
We have focused solely on Twitter within this blog post, however, we are aware that it is possible to successfully use a range of learning technologies within a classroom setting. We looked at Twitter as it is freely available, mirrors other popular social media platforms, and is already in use by academics.
Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Impact Blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our comments policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.
About the authors
Wasim Ahmed is a PhD candidate and Research Associate at the Information School, University of Sheffield. Wasim is a regular contributor to the LSE Impact Blog and his posts cover key trends and issues within social media, but also more practical suggestions on using tools to capture and analyse social media data. Wasim is a keen Twitter user (@was3210), and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Sergej Lugovic is a Senior Lecturer at the Zagreb University of Applied Sciences. He’s also a PhD candidate at the Information Science department of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb. His research interests are information behaviour and needs in intelligent socio-technical systems. Sergej can be found on Twitter: @sergejlugovic.