There’s a bird in the classroom

Twitter, once viewed as a distraction in the classroom, is now becoming a valuable learning tool.

Social media is one of the main sources of communication among students and professors are beginning to utilize this to their advantage.

Matthew Duffy, a Georgia State professor incorporates social media into his Intro to Mass Communication class by encouraging his students to tweet him.

“It is a good communication tool. It also makes me very accessible and everyone can see my answers to questions,” Duffy said.

Duffy uses the social network as a way to facilitate group discussions by administering a special hashtag to his classes.

Under the hashtag “#GSJOUR1000,” Twitter becomes a forum where students can ask questions, have conversations among other students and present interesting ideas to the professor and their peers.

By using Twitter, Duffy transforms the social network into an educational experience instead of an idle pastime.

It was very important to Duffy to incorporate social media into his journalism course as the field becomes more centered on it.

He also said there could be some negative outcomes of using Twitter as a means of communication.

“I made the decision recently to discourage students from tweeting in class…it can be distracting,” Duffy said.

Instead, the tweeting is done outside of class.

While he said there is a huge advantage to incorporating social media in class, Duffy assures he does not think the regular teaching styles other professors may be using are bad.

“Everyone has their own level of comfort…any way we can find to connect with students is good,” Duffy said.

When asked whether or not he felt more professors should start incorporating social media in to their classes, Duffy shared concerns of technology changing so quickly and explained how there is always a new social network popping up.

For this reason, Duffy said “professors should strive to stay relevant.”

Tai Barksdale, a sophomore Journalism major at Georgia State weighs in on the issue.

“I think it’s great [that] professors are incorporating social media into their classes,” she said.

According to Barksdale, social media interaction in the classroom has advantages and disadvantages.

“The advantage is getting the class to participate more on something they may already use daily,” Barksdale said. “The disadvantage would probably be [for students] to keep in mind they are letting [their] professor into their personal lives.”

The idea of Twitter in a classroom setting could enhance the educational experience.

The 2012 “Twitteracy: Tweeting as a New Literary Practice” literary review written by Christine Greenhow and Benjamin Gleason of Michigan State University, researches the practice of Twitter in the classroom.

“Twitter has an emerging place in the classroom,” Gleason said. “There are many possible ways that Twitter enhances learning.”

In the literary review, Greenhow and Gleason found that the use of Twitter in a course broadens opportunities for the students’ “development of standard language proficiencies” in numerous ways.

The use of Twitter improves the motivation and engagement of students with course material, grows student-student or student-instructor interactions which create more prospects for feedback and mentoring, and encouragement of self-expression and creativity with the casual writing style used on Twitter.

Greenhow and Gleason researched the properties of mobilization and social protest, real-time social search, conversation and developing or maintaining relationships that can enhance educational learning.

Twitter also has the ability to gather multiple views and perspectives on a single issue, and, in the classroom, Gleason said that is the most important aspect of education today.

Although Twitter incites positive learning skills, Gleason also believes there are still “learning curves” present in social media within the classroom.

“It depends on the context of the class,” Gleason said. “Some students and professors may not be using technology and feel uncomfortable with Twitter. We’re all learners. If we agree to try this out, odds are there it will be a better learning experience.”


Raven Schley co-authored this article.

 Anna Yang | The Signal
Anna Yang | The Signal