A Twitter teaching adventure

I am planning to use Twitter in my first year intro to political science class next year (Fall Semester). It’s a big class, 200-odd students. The focus is conceptual – on the core ideas in political science they will need in their programme (power, the state, legitimacy, democracy, that sort of thing).

My plan is to use it principally to get the students into habits of sharing material, having online conversations – using Twitter’s public character in the hope that these conversations will become self-starting.

So the plan at the moment is to:
• Require the students to create a Twitter account and to follow me so I can use it to post material about the course to them (a colleague did a show of hands and she said around a third of her students said they had Twitter accounts already).
• Compile a list of suggested Twitter accounts to follow so they will get course-relevant feeds.
• Create a hashtag for the course and get them to look at it regularly and post anything related to the course using the hashtag – articles they found useful or interesting, ideas in the media of relevance, questions to other students or to me.
• During class, I plan to switch the screen to the hashtag periodically to allow them to use that as a way of posing questions to the class or reacting to points I make. Ideally I would have a separate screen showing the hashtag constantly, but I’m not sure it’s technically possible in the classroom I’ll be in.

Their participation in the hashtag conversation will form part of a participation grade for the course as a whole (probably just 5%). My aim is that at least a decent number will become self-organising and start to get into good habits of using it for research (rather than just following @MileyCyrus or this year’s teen heart-throb). It also seems to me this might help correct the bias against introverts in grading in-class participation.

This of course leaves lots of questions I haven’t worked out yet. For example:

• Should I create a twitter account and use that for Tweeting to the course? I’ve actually already done this but then thought it was an unnecessary stage. The hashtag at the moment seems to me to get what I want in terms of participation. The only downside of using my own account is that anyone following me personally will get all my course-related tweets.
• Who would be good people to get them to follow? I was going to put a few good newspaper politics feeds (but not many, it’s not a current affairs course), and some academic general ones I know (like the LSE politics blog feed). But any ideas of good feeds for general discussions about the nature of politics as a subject gratefully received.
• Any other ideas as to how I could use it for teaching purposes? I did find this useful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D3qYj4Mdaw.


1 Comment»

  Brian Croxall wrote @

While I can’t speak to who might be good to follow in political science, I would suggest using your regular Twitter account for your class interactions. It will be easier for you than managing multiple accounts, which will mean more engagement from you in the assignment than might otherwise happen. And your being engaged will be critical for the students to play along. My experience in doing similar assignments is that my colleagues aren’t bothered by my tweets about course material. Indeed, since the people following me tend to be interested in the same subjects as I am, it’s often true that they find those tweets germane anyway. And I’ve found that my students get value out of seeing my daily tweets; they get a broader sense of who I am and the things that I do (academic and otherwise) outside of the classroom.

As for other things to do with Twitter in the classroom, I’ve enjoyed asking students to summarize reading assignment’s arguments into a single Tweet. It’s a way of checking for comprehension and encouraging them to learn the art of concision.

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