Of Tweets and Teaching

13 Apr

I tweet with my students, forming an imagined community beyond our classroom.  I tweet with teachers I know and teachers I met via Twitter, forming an imagined community beyond our universities and schools. I talk with my colleagues in the halls, after meetings, at lunch, over coffee.  And over the past couple of days, those communities, “real” and imagined, collided.

It started on Wednesday when a comp student tweeted during class that it was a waste of time.

Not what any of us want to read. What made it rather fascinating was that the student made this remark on our class Twitter stream, knowing I would read it.

Or did she?

The next day, I got a similar tweet from a different student in a different class.

She laughed it off — although two lols seemeth to protest too much — but I saw this tweet while I was in the Center for Teaching and Learning on campus for a 20-Minute Mentor session.  I stayed after the session to show my wonderful friends/colleagues, Janet Land and Emily Robertson.  We talked. They suggested. They listened. They showed me tech tricks and shared strategies for coping. At the end of our talk, I had the foundation for a workshop to lead through CETL and a renewed confidence that what I’m doing is working, in spite of a couple of tweets.

So my questions — How does social media, like Twitter, function in the classroom to create an imagined community? How do professors foster that community? Or do we allow it to grow organically from student input and effort? What happens when students forget audience and say something offensive to the professor or to classmates? How do we set up “rules’ while allowing Twitter to be a space for play and creativity? How do we created/foster backchannels that work?

So thank you students for giving me a research topic and a question to inform my teaching.


Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Of Tweets and Teaching

  1. snpulling

    April 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    The first tweet sounds frustrated to me, like the student wasn’t understanding something and lost heart and patience with herself, but blamed the class and you for her own shortcomings. The second one sounded smug, like the student believes that she’s getting an A (although I bet she’s worried now), and wants to come across as superior. What you’re hearing in these tweets is their inner thoughts, the kind of thing that all students think at one time or another (didn’t you?), but would never say to the faces of their profs. Tweeting, I think, confuses their internal editors. They’re so used to using social media and saying things on facebook and twitter that they would never speak aloud. Makes for a strange sort of imagined community, I think.

  2. Haley

    April 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    As far as fostering that community, I think you have to let it grown organically. For example, not many of my students use Twitter, but A LOT of them are on Facebook. I rarely send friend requests (unless that person is no longer my student but is actually someone with whom I want to stay connected). However, if a student sends me a friend request, I generally accept it. If they want me involved in their lives, privy to their thoughts and able to comment, then I’ll be involved. Their sending of the request serves as a permission, I think, of engaging in a virtual community.

    Because of this permissive quality, I think we’re certainly within our rights to call students out when they’re not using social media correctly. If they update their status or tweet from class, why shouldn’t we comment? They’ve let us in. And maybe, through the guidance of others, they’ll come to understand what is and is not appropriate in web 2.0.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure that rules need to exist. Maybe it should be more of a reaction-oriented sphere rather than a limited-from-the-beginning sphere.


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