Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Short update: thoughts on Twitter and the classroom

After reading the other blogs from my technology course, I find myself thinking about twitter.com and our classrooms. Some made the argument that further conversation about the course could take place on facebook.com or twitter, while another made a case that we should be respecting our students' personal time.

More than the problem of personal time, I also worry about privacy issues, especially with facebook. Facebook means creating profiles with personal information, and students may feel uncomfortable using their personal profiles for the course, even with protected groups only available to invited persons. Without the strictest privacy settings - which facebook constantly changes, making it hard to keep your profile completely private from non-friends - our information becomes available to other facebook users, and gives them access to us through private messaging.

Twitter, however, is often used without giving up so much personal information. Usernames are often "handles," rather than real names, and users often leave their profile information sparse, using a first name and last initial, or false name. Open twitter profiles - such as a teacher may use for a course - can be looked at without constantly following, meaning that cautious students could find the course tweets without potentially linking their twitter profile to the course profile. Quick polls could be taken if the students interact often enough with the course profile.

For instance - our first few days of the university were cancelled due to snow. Saturday make-up days were created. I originally was not going to use the make-up day for the class I am teaching, but we're slightly behind in reading our first book. If I were running a twitter account for the students to follow - and if I knew they were checking often - then I could run a poll on twitter.

We do have Blackboard, but students - myself included for my courses - often will sign in only when they have assignments due. Even when we provide updates semi-daily (such as pages to read for the next class date), it's possible that they are not checking every day. Twitter could potentially open up a way to communicate with our students about last minute items, like room changes, or take polls about make-up dates or movie nights. It's not perfect, but it does seem like a potentially helpful medium.

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