Twitter: Ephemeral Learning Tool

7/04/2007 01:19:00 pm

I'm a little behind on my reading but I've read Chris' and David's thoughts about using twitter in the classroom.

Since I first started tweeting I've been thinking about pedagogical applications of twitter. For me, the pedagogical virtue of twitter (or anything like it: jaiku, pownce, IM, etc.) is how it can be used to make students' thinking transparent; to the teacher and each other.

Here are some of my nascent thoughts. In each case I would be using twittercamp to display tweets on the smartboard although the same could be done using a computer & projector setup:

(a) Kids, in groups, are working on a complicated problem (I teach math so, it's a math problem). They tweet their progress and difficulties as they work through it. They learn from each other and the teacher gets some powerful insight into their thought processes. This allows for very focused and concrete feedback to students to refine their thinking and improve their skills.

(b) While I give a lecture students tweet their thoughts about it to each other. Comments that clarify or question what I am saying. They can also tweet any confusions they have as they arise. This makes the lecture much more dynamic as it takes on the character of a conversation. The teacher isn't "interrupted" so they can develop new concepts fully but they can also respond instantaneously to student's learning needs. This also provides a live, in class venue where quieter students can be heard and get their questions answered immediately. The open nature of this discourse also allows the teacher to modify their presentation on the fly to address the needs of the learners in the room.

(c) This one isn't so much for the classroom as it is for teacher professional development; twitter as an integral part of any presentation.

I'm planning my workshops for the upcoming Building Learning Communities conference. I plan to have an interactive whiteboard set up running twittercamp. As I give each presentation I am hoping that people in the audience will both tweet and chatcast while I speak. Again, changing the character of the presentation from "show and tell" to a conversation. This last idea arises out of the blogger's cafe from NECC and my vicarious participation via my twitter network.

I would have students use their cell phones to tweet. They would set up nicknamed accounts and I would have a classroom account. Only members of the class would be added to this particular twitter network. In this way:

 • Student's identities are protected.
 • Students are more motivated by being able to use their cell phones in class.
 &bull The process models good pedagogy responsive to student's learning needs.
 • Students learn to use a cell phone as a learning tool.
 • [your suggesstion goes here ;-)]

Tweets are ephemeral. In my view, tweeting homework, assignments, due dates, classroom updates or anything like that is more appropriately posted to a classroom blog.

The power of twitter in the classroom lies in harnessing the instantaneous and ephemeral nature of the tool. These ideas are my first draft thinking re: twitter and pedagogy. I'm interested in seeing how others develop different educational uses of it.

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