Tweeting during lectures—what am I looking for?

It was quite a busy week last week. I managed to get onto the main BBC Scotland News website, had an article in the local paper and was a topic of conversation on WestSound (the local radio station) and all to do with me asking students to tweet during lectures.

Now that I’m in the 2nd week of using social media to tweet (or ‘message’ as TodaysMeet.com calls them), I’ve been reflecting about how I really want students to use this social media and what type of tweets I’m expecting to see. I’ve come up with 3 main frameworks:

  1. Reflect
  2. Request
  3. Repost

Repeat

As I am talking to the students, I want students to think about what I’m saying and tweet it back to me in their own words. Reflecting on the concepts/ideas/issues being discussed and re-shaping these thoughts into their own words helps students to make sense of their learning. As I’m lecturing, I can see these thoughts coming through in the tweets. If I haven’t explained something clearly, I’ll know almost immediately when the tweets come in—and I’ll be able to do something about it right away. Not only is this repetition good for the students’ learning, it’s also good to help me monitor the effectiveness of my teaching.

Request

I want students to ask questions and doing so via social media is a bit less daunting—and certainly a lot less embarrassing—than sticking up your hand and interrupting the class. It provides all students with opportunities to more-anonymously ask a question during their learning rather than having to wait until the end of the class (and that’s assuming they will wait after class to ask the question).

Of course, I want it to be a bit more than that. Not only do I want students to ask questions, I want others to answer the questions. Although it’s only week two, this has already happened in my classes. A question popped up during my talk and before I had a chance to respond, someone else in the class had answered it. Great! I didn’t have to deviate from my lecture, the student got their answer and, quite possibly, the 6 other students in the class who were all thinking the same question got the answer too!

Repost

I want students to make connections between the ‘live’ lecture and other resources available online. For example, I asked my 2nd year students to think about the difference between active and passive learning. Naturally, some of them jumped straight onto their devices and started hunting around academic and educational websites. They then posted the URL onto TodaysMeet so others could look as well. (Note to self: Introduce the students to tinyurl.com). So, of course, other students then clicked on these links.

Other thoughts

It’s going to take some time to get students into the mindset of this way of thinking. The students are used to regular note-taking and some are, quite understandably, uneasy about focussing on tweeting when they would rather be taking more traditional notes. However, the presentation is available to the students online and I need to get across to them that engaging more during the lecture through the use of social media may help them to make better connections rather than writing down what is on the presentation (and which is available anyway so why bother writing it down?).

There is also the issue of multi-tasking. Some students have already said they have found it helps them to concentrate and they are more engaged. Others have said they find it a challenge to listen and tweet at the same time because they have to look at the keyboard and type. I find this really interesting. If I am taking notes in a traditional way, do I not have to look down at the paper to make sure I’m writing on the lines? When I do this, am I then not paying attention? Why is it any different when I’m typing something? Of course, to be fair, if I’m taking traditional notes, my notepad with my handwriting isn’t writing things back at me! So is the interactive element a distraction? Food for thought …

Reflect. Request. Repost. I wonder if it would be helpful to have the students concentrate on reflect for next week (Week 3), request for Week 4 and repost for week 5. Something to think about …

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