Monica Rankin is a professor at University of Texas who incorporated Twitter into her classes. With 90 students in her usual class, the discussion usually takes place just amongst a few students. Now, with the use of Twitter, the number of participants has risen to almost half of all students. Some students use Tweetdeck and others post by SMS. Their posts are then projected live in the front of the class for discussion. The posts also serve as material for post-class discussion and revision.
Now, with my undying scepticism for Twitter (apart from its information spread advantages), I just wonder why this is so different to the classes simply having an online dimension to them via discussion forums, email and online studying materials. Is it that so few classes have an online dimension or has Twitter really made a difference through its popularity in the students’ age group? Also, provided their posts are unprotected, will most students not feel a bit intimidated to post things in the public?
The only other possible criticism might be the fact that tweets are limited to 140 characters, which might make it hard to convey academic thought, but I think the limit actually works to its advantage. Considering the attention span of a regular student who has to listen to a professor, take notes, think and then read projected tweets, it might make perfect sense to make them short and clear. All in all, I’m excited to see new media entering the usually lagging-behind world of academia. To progress with ideas we need to find the right carriers of information and communication and if Twitter makes a positive contribution, then more power to it.