A few weeks ago I posted about my plans to hold a live Twitter Chat Class—a college class in which I required my students to actively engage the course hashtag and tweet at least 10 times during an hour of class. They were also required not to come to the classroom because that’d be awkward.
This being Twitter, every tweet is now archived in the Library of Congress and I’m sure someone (though not me this week) could write-up a stunning analysis of what transpired. But not today.
Over the hour of the Twitter Chat Class I posted 10 questions about our day’s reading. I also engaged with students dozens of times, posing further questions and comments in response to their tweets. It was an incredibly full, complicated teaching session for me as an instructor.
An example of my question:
Q4. Shirky’s TED on “cognitive surplus” argues for future civic benefits of digital technologies. Did you buy his argument? #rel244
— Adam J. Copeland (@ajc123) February 13, 2014
During the 1+ hour of class, 23 students and I tweeted 491 times or an average around one tweet per seven seconds.
Several students commented on how “intense” the experience felt. They commented that they couldn’t leave for even two minutes because so much would transpire in the meantime. A few even tweeted about the experience:
— Erin Gingrich (@ErinGingric) February 13, 2014
— Greta (@GretaNycklemoe) February 13, 2014
Students noted how they more carefully constructed their statements than they might have in a traditional class—due to the character restrictions, and due to the ability to edit before posting.
Students commented that it gave those usually more reticent to speak in class a way to do so with lower stakes.
Students gave mixed reports on the humor present via the chat. We often laugh in class, so it was perhaps not surprising that jokes carried over to Twitter. Some found them distracting, however, as they stayed in the feed and disrupted the flow.
Students also gave mixed messages about the depth and breadth of content covered—some pointed out that they definitely engaged with the text and appreciated how they could tweet related content to the class. We also noted that having more time to explore each question would have been helpful (note to self: 10 questions is too many).
We noted a few technical challenges: while Twitter.com threads comments so one can see who’s responding to what comment, the Twitter chat applications we used did not do so. This sometimes made it difficult to figure out who was responding to whom.
I quickly tried out a few applications afterwards that would help me analyze the 491 tweets. In short: I struggled to find a strong (free) one. That said, I was pretty thrilled to get the Google Docs TAGS working. I have no idea what to do with a spreadsheet of nearly 700 class-related tweets, but it’s cool to have!
Looking back at my Twitter Chat Class learning objectives, I’d definitely say it was worth the experiment and many of the objectives were likely met (though class evals will say more). While Twitter Chat Classes should not be normative, and probably work best after a class has met for weeks and developed a strong rapport, I definitely recommend the process as long as it’s conducted carefully and thoughtfully.
It looks like The Concordian, our college newspaper will be publishing an article on the venture before too long, so I’m sure I’ll hear more about student feedback. For now, however, I’d say it was a largely successful experiment. Tweet on!