Hybrid Pedagogy: Using Twitter as a Teaching Mechanism

By Andrea Gonzalez on October 5, 2015

The Twittersphere finding its way into the classroom

Does the Twittersphere now encompass contemporary classrooms?

One of the most renowned social media platforms, Twitter has rapidly become a marketing tool to craft individual and collectives social media presence, reaching out vast audiences with the touch of a fingertip. It has worked its way into the marketing psyche of companies: you are always just that one click away from reaching an ever expanding number of interested viewers.

As an increasingly tech-savvy generation of students advance towards higher levels of education, some instructors are embracing innovative technological approaches to liven up their courses. From September 20th to October 3rd , Digital Pedagogy Lab Instructor Jesse Stommel offered an online Teaching with Twitter course, showing teachers how to integrate social media platforms and writing styles into contemporary classrooms. According to the course description, Teaching with Twitter is intended to introduce teachers to approaches for using Twitter in classroom and online teaching. Rather than striving to make teachers absolute experts in the platform, the course emphasizes how the Twitter platform can be leveraged in multiple pedagogies. From exploring ways to create assignments in Twitter to inciting lively discussion, students will then be encouraged to reflect on the value of social media platforms as a potential educational technology. Assignments vary in scope, yet Stommel draws attention to his “Twitter Essay”, an assignment he has devised where students are asked to condense an argument into 140 characters.

At first glance, for teachers to even consider using Twitter an a supplement to their course might seem counter-productive; after all, won’t having access to this social media platform distract students and discourage them from discussing face-to-face with other students? The fears abound: wouldn’t the abbreviated “Twitter-speak”, with its 140 character limit, reduce the amount of information accessible to students and distort their grammar?

On the contrary, according to Stommel, composing a tweet is “most certainly a literate and sometimes even literary act… relying on conventional sentence structures and words to create clear contexts”. In fact, research on the potential of Twitter in education has demonstrated that Twitter can also increase interactivity and engagement with students, motivating them to collaborate and participate in class (Nicholson & Galguera). Writing a condensed 140-character message is a learned skill, one which requires creativity and experience in generating succinct and effective messages for all types of audiences.

As an Arts student, one of the challenges I encountered in my first year (and truthfully, even in my second year at UBC) was developing a clear and concise thesis arguments that fully encapsulated my position on a given topic. Over time, as I gained more exposure to the academic style of writing, I started finding out the types of sentence structures and words that allowed me to successfully send my message across to a scholarly audience. Although completely different to Twitter, brevity and clarity are still vital ingredients. While this two-week course might not transform someone’s writing style, assignments such as the Twitter essay might help to develop the types of literacies that are not only vital in higher education and the workplace, but also in our increasingly interconnected and Internet-centric world.

Much like tweets condense messages into 140 characters, poems also compact meaning into a series of charged lines and verses. In the UBC Faculty of Education, Language and Literacy Education professor and poet Carl Leggo demonstrates how creativity and clarity can be incorporated into teaching practices. In addition to multiple collections of poems, Leggo has written a book about reading and teaching poetry, titled Teaching to Wonder: Responding to Poetry in the Secondary Classroom. You can learn more about Leggo’s work here.

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