Twitter can be a valuable tool to promote student engagement and interactive learning outside the classroom, Lauren Jimerson writes in The Conversation.
Jimerson is a Ph.D. candidate in art history at Rutgers University. Last year she taught an introductory course on the subject and was searching for ways to incorporate technology in the class in order to connect with students. She settled on Twitter, which is frequently used in marketing and management classes but was largely untested in a subject like art history.
Jimerson says she pitched Twitter to students as an alternative and addition to class discussion. "I gave students a very general guideline regarding Twitter usage. They could ask questions, provide links to outside sources, or offer engaged responses to course material and their classmates' posts," she explains.
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Jimerson asked students to mark class-related tweets with a special hashtag, and she rewarded participation with extra credit. She even allowed cell phones in class—but only if students used them for Twitter.
Then, Jimerson set students loose. To encourage participation, she displayed a live feed of comments and discussion at the front of the room. Jimerson interacted with the feed by posting review questions and "favoriting" the best comments.
About half of her students participated and an average of seven tweets were posted per class, with additional posts outside of class time.
Some tweets were just funny. "Hey I just met you. And this is crazy. But here's my earlobe. Now love me maybe. #arthist106," one student wrote, parodying a popular pop song.
Other tweets were insightful. "The blood pattern of Gentileschi's Judith Beheading Holofernes is more realistic than Caravaggio's version. #thingsinotice #arthist106," another student tweeted in class.
Jimerson said that Twitter's benefits included:
- Helping some typically quiet students find new outlets to participate;
- Getting students to think about the course outside the classroom;
- Fostering a sense of community and shared interest; and
- Prompting students to connect art history to their other interests.
Overall, Jimerson says students who actively participated on Twitter had grades that were 8% higher. And while it's hard to say if Twitter was the cause of higher grades, Jimerson is confident Twitter increased engagement—which she notes research suggests is tied to academic performance.
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Ultimately, Jimerson says using Twitter takes a bit of an effort but is "worthwhile." She has since used it in subsequent classes. "Implementing Twitter was a small step that made a big impact. Art history became more meaningful and exciting to students as they could relate it to their own lives," she concludes (Jimerson, The Conversation, 9/22).
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