A short list of why I will not be using twitter….but may choose to use facebook

I am sorry, but I am really not for the use of twitter in my teaching. Although my eyes have been opened to its potential uses as a learning tool, I feel that the cost of using it in a classroom that teaches evolutionary biology far outweighs the benefits.  And because I am a list person be prepared!

1)      140 characters. I will admit that this does ensure that the posts are concise and thought out (you can’t just go on a ramble like you can in a blog) as well as having the added benefit that they are simple and not very time consuming to read (who wants to read the 3 page post of a student or professor?). This would be great to ask a question or post an opinion (as was shown in the video in class). However, can I really answer a question in 140 characters? For instance if a student asks me for the phylogenetic tree of cervids (deer) the best I could do would be to give them an image or a link to another page. Or what if they asked about what exactly is operant conditioning? That would take a good 2 paragraphs of text to explain in the simplest detail.

2)      That is another issue that I have with answering questions via electronics (email or blog posting or even facebook): it takes more time and energy to type it out then it would be to answer it in person. And yes I could just give them a link, but this is only teaching students to be lazy and not to engage their minds and learn to find out things on their own. As teachers we are not there to just give them the answers, we are there to show them how to think or how to find information. I would rather take the time to show them how to properly browse through articles or google to find what they are looking for.

3)      Having students ask questions via twitter during class does aid for those that are too shy to ask a question and enable a class of 300 to be able to ask a question. However, at least one TA must be hired for the sole purpose of answering these questions (possibly more if too many questions are coming in at once). I also fear that the continual texting will distract students and cause them to miss vital parts of the lecture. Also if the class is small and this method is used, I fear that this is only breeding and environment of slothfulness. There is something to be said about raising your hand and asking a question. It builds self-esteem and gets the student familiar with public speaking.

4)      I do believe that I might employ another form of technology to help with answering questions within the class. I saw one of the biology teachers repeatedly do clicker surveys in her lectures. These enabled her to see if a majority of the class understood the material and could cover it in another way if they did not understand. I do believe that a shorter feedback loop is necessary to improve teaching and keep the students engaged. However, I don’t think this has to be instantaneous, but occasionally doing a clicker survey would enable the teacher to adjust her teaching halfway or quarter way through her lectures. This would also make the students feel that they were being heard without the necessity of having a TA answering their twitter questions (which might still foster this ‘the teacher doesn’t notice/care about me’ attitude since it isn’t the teacher answering them).

5)      Although the video from Grey’s Anatomy showed a fascinating use of twitter, I do not believe that this instantaneous feedback is necessary outside of class. I cannot for the life of me think of a question that would require an immediate answer. Not to mention that a platform like twitter has little to no moderation and the people answering can be from anywhere and little to no credentials. That means that students could be getting incorrect answers (unlike on a blog which can moderate the comments and posts). I will say that I have changed my mind on using facebook though. By having a private group only for the class and seeing who is posting allows the students to help each other but also realize that they could give incorrect answers.

6)      When I go to a site like facebook (or twitter, but I don’t have experience using this site) I could very well use it for an academic or professional reason. I remember when facebook first came out and it enabled me to connect with friends in my classes and across other schools. However now, when you mention facebook I think about games and memes. I primarily use facebook to look at memes or play games, and I fear that this may prove too great a temptation for students. While they may initially log on to ask a question they then spend an hour looking up funny pictures.

Overall I do not see myself using twitter, but there is something to be said with some type of networked communication, at least on a smaller network for a classroom setting. Something like a facebook group would enable a closed and safe community for interaction outside of the classroom and a way to connect with students you may never have had the chance to even meet because the class was too large. It could foster study groups both online and in person (I’ve had instances when students wanted to get together with the people at their lab table but didn’t have their contact information). If the teacher was the creator of the group they could moderate the responses (if time allows) as well as have a continual presence within the student group. Because facebook is more widely used, it could be a better avenue of communication then blogging. And unlike a blog which although two sided is an unbalanced relationship (while students can respond, only the poster makes the original blog), a facebook group allows for equal postings from student and professor allowing students a greater say. Networking is also easier to do on facebook, and this can be beneficial for setting up the connections these students may need for after graduation.

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6 thoughts on “A short list of why I will not be using twitter….but may choose to use facebook

  1. Love the numbered reasons of why you won’t use Twitter. Very clever. I agree with you regarding the 140 characters. I had mentioned in my blog that one should not be limited to 140 characters to express their opinions/beliefs so for those extroverts who are notoriously verbose, Twitter may not be the best arena to voice a statement. For instructors, the 140 characters, as you mention, could be challenging in regards to questions posed by students. If I were a student, I would want a thorough response to a questions so that full comprehension is obtained. I do not want a brief summation in 140 words…I want to learn the material so that I can apply that knowledge. Therefore, Twitter is not appropriate and Facebook, a blog http://foegeme.wordpress.com/ or even a discussion board on the much debated blackboard http://www.blackboard.com/ would be more beneficial because the forum allows for greater discussion of a subject matter and more elaborate responses by faculty to students in hopes that better retention of the information taught is achieved. I embrace the use of Clickers in the classroom and was thinking of using that idea for my individual project in this class. I have used Clickers in multiple of my nursing classes and they really do reinforce the material just taught. When Clicker questions are given throughout a lecture, they not only strengthen the material just lectured on, but they stimulate our minds so that better understanding of the information is reached so that we can transfer this knowledge to the bedside (so to speak in nursing terms) to provide higher quality patient care, and it also allows the instructor to see where the class is not meeting objectives and what material needs to be further addressed based on the scores. You had some influential arguments as to why not use Twitter. Not sure where I stand on it yet. But I agree with all your points for sure!

  2. I agree with this entire post. I really like what you said (wrote?) about teachers really being there to teach students how to think. I think that’s the most important takeaway from education. I also agree about typing out responses being extremely inefficient. If I can answer a student email quickly, I will. But if it it is more efficient to talk about it, I ask them to come to office hours or to call me.

    I usually teach classes of 20 to 50 students, so I don’t use clickers. I feel like in groups that size I can still pause the lecture to ask them what they think or have them talk a problem out. Building trust is key for enough interaction to make that work, but it works in my classes. If I teach larger classes where it doesn’t feel like a small enough environment for a group discussion, I will definitely use clickers.

    • I can type around 60-70 wpm but I still feel that talking is easier and faster! I also can immediately change my approach if the student isn’t understanding my answer unlike email (I’d have to write it then have them respond then change it then have them respond again-which is why I think that immediate feedback is good-but I prefer spoken word over tweets simply for ease and ability to go over the character limit).

      I agree that small classrooms are a great idea (most of my labs are around 15-20 students) and do allow for the ability to ask questions as well as to allow group discussion. I really like how grad 602 is setup in that we get to talk in groups and then discuss what the groups talked about. That way there is time for every table to have a say when not necessarily every person (which time would not allow for). However the individual still feels heard because the table is able to discuss ideas and similar thoughts are the ones that are shared. I was unfamiliar with clickers until I came to VCU and sat in on an undergraduate class, but I have to say that they are a unique way to interact with students in a large setting!

  3. Good rationale for the use of a Facebook group. Whether FB or Twitter (and I use both in different settings), these are networked tools that are less about my ability to transmit (the old teacher-student model) as they are tools for two-way connections and conversations…which I tend to see more of outside of class than in. @grad602 is spot on about clickers as a good method for tapping in to class knowledge in non-threatening ways.

  4. I like your post! If we, as teachers, are aware of the many ways of connecting with our students and carefully examine whether they are appropriate in a particular setting, we ensure that our students have the best possible learning experience.

    • I agree with you! I do like this class and am very glad to be made aware of all the opportunities the internet allows. That being said there are some that just won’t work for me but it is still good to be shown them all the same. I didn’t think I would ever want to use blogging but now I am behind it! Same goes for facebook groups!

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