Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Perhaps I stand corrected - and happy to do so

A recent post of mine dealt with why I felt that Twitter was not a tool that I'd choose to use with my students. I regret that it took the tone that it did, but maybe that's a good thing, as it resulted in the most number of comments I've ever had. A couple agreed with me. Others took exception.

One person commented and I responded and then he commented back. It's that second message that has begun to sway my opinion on the matter. Nate Kogan is the one who took the time to tel me of his experience using Twitter with his students. I thought it was so good that I DM'd him on Twitter as well as emailing him via his blog and asked permission to turn his comment into its own post so that you could see another side to the story. I thought it deserved more exposure than just sitting there in the comments. He agreed, so here it is:

"Jim,

I did read your response and I appreciate your feedback. While I recognize the logistical hassles involved in getting Twitter set up with a class, I think that the tool does help facilitate communication with students in a more consistent and authentic way. For instance, I had my students create Twitter accounts for our final exam review, which they enjoyed and I think found productive.

However, what I didn't anticipate was the way in which they used Twitter to DM and message me throughout the weekend leading up to the final exam to ask question, seek clarification, and get feedback about their ideas. Moreover, the public nature of some of their questions enabled students to receive answers from their peers rather than exclusively from me. I think students found Twitter to be a more amenable, and immediate, medium for communication with me, as I responded faster than via email and was able to check and respond pretty quickly via my phone. Additionally, I found the 140 characters constraint to be a useful one, as it forced both me and my students to be direct and concise in our questions and responses. Of course larger, more complex issues could be dealt with via email, but for those concerns students typically DMed me that they sent me an email, which I could then check.

Perhaps for an exclusive backchannel a website like Chatzy or Today's Meet would be better than Twitter in terms of creating a centralized archive of the conversation. However, by using specially selected hastags, one can use Twitter search to then essentially recreate that day's specific backchannel and its contents.

As for your point about privacy and the public nature of the communication, I actually found that element of Twitter to have an interesting effect on the student's behavior. One student in particular noted to me that since he began communicating with some of his teachers and older relatives via various forms of social media (including Twitter), he found himself being more thoughtful about how he wrote, punctuated, and structured his messages. Direct engagement and experience with this particular form of media (e.g. that which is necessarily public) helped this student make important realizations about how we present ourselves in various venues and the lasting effects those presentations of self could have. In this case, I think the student's personal experience with Twitter proved far more useful in educating him about the powers and perils of social media than any pedantic speaker could have.

Thanks again for your post. These types of exchanges are really valuable and important ones to have, and are ones, I hope, that help people clarify and refine their thinking about these tools in the classroom.

Best,

Nate"

My sincere thanks to Nate for his thoughts and his permission to use them.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I don't know if third graders are ready for Twitter per se, but I do appreciate his comment about the amenable and concise communication between the students! Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Jim.