Promoting Live Tweeting as an Educational Tool

by Niki Messmore

There’s a new plague.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is keeping it quiet, but fortunately I’m here to inform you on the symptoms.

Do your hands clench at the thought of technology in the classroom? Do your lips involuntarily curl into a sneer when you witness students on their phones, tablets, or laptops? Are you unable to prevent yourself from grumbling under your breath about “kids nowadays”?

Well, you just may have #BackinMyDayitis (yes, the medical definition begins with a hashtag).

Those afflicted with #BackinMyDayitis get twitchy at the sight of students texting on electronic devices, aggravated that students (typically of the Millennial generation) are ‘not paying attention’ to the class discussion. The creeping thought of ‘lazy’, ‘tech-obsessed’, ‘disrespectful’, and ‘narcissistic’ travels through the mind.

Fortunately, #BackinMyDayitis has a cure! The cure is simple, quite honestly. All that must be done is for the ill person to recover is…just get over it.

Although many articles lambasting the Millennial generation would have us believe that young college students are disengaged from the world, they couldn’t be farther from the truth. Time spent on electronic devices to access social media is just another method for Millennial students to connect to the world.

And therein lies academia’s opportunity to increase student knowledge.

There are plenty of scholarly and practitioner-based articles citing that students learn best when engaged within the classroom. But what about engaging students beyond the classroom – and into social media?

This concept is nothing new. An increasing number of university instructors are using social media platforms to engage their students. To narrow the field of thought, let’s consider how to engage student affairs graduate students in the classroom utilizing social media as a tool.

Student Affairs tech blogger Eric Stoller incited a Twitter discussion on how SA grad programs need to incorporate technology into the programs. Some observers pointed out that many grad programs are not utilizing technology. Of course, without those pesky APA citations, we can’t be sure of who is not including technology into their programs.

What we can talk about are the student affairs graduate programs that are incorporating technology into their classroom – specifically through “live tweeting” on Twitter during the class.

Twitter defines live tweeting: “to engage on Twitter for a continuous period of time—anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours—with a sequence of focused Tweets”.

To some this engagement tool appears too risky to implement, citing the possibility for distraction. But other educators cite that it’s an opportunity to engage students in order to fully realize the academic goal of creating a conversation instead of a lecture. A 2010 study in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning stated that students who tweet have a higher GPA and “showed that students and faculty were both highly engaged in the learning process in ways that transcended traditional classroom activities” (p.119).

A survey of different student affairs graduate programs shows that live tweeting is utilized as a classroom engagement tool. Two examples examples:

1.) Indiana University, Higher Education & Student Affairs: The HESA program live tweeted in several first-year classes this past spring utilizing a hashtag for the course that students and faculty created. Students were then able to engage with guest speakers who were video conferenced for those days.The general hashtag #IUHESA is used as well as course-specific hashtags have carried over for fall 2013 courses.

2.) Florida State University, Higher Education & Student Affairs: First years last month used the hashtag #AmColStu to live tweet their class. They even took 7th place in the Top20 of Tallahassee’s Twitter Trends on 8/28!

Special recognition goes to Bowling Green State University’s program – while I did not see examples of live tweeting courses during my research online, they are actively engaging their students with the hashtag #HESAnation.

Do you have other examples of SA programs that engage in live tweeting tactics? Let me know in the comments! Or better yet, tweet me at @NikiMessmore 🙂

For further consideration: What are the ways in which can live tweeting be incorporated to campus programs and events in order to engage students?

Promoting Live Tweeting as an Educational Tool