This semester I’m teaching an iPad pilot course. My Composition I students were each given an iPad for use during the semester. I received a Macbook Air for use during the semester, and I created an iBook for the course with it. The course has fifteen students — some passed Critical Literacy last semester (our remediated remedial comp course) and some had failed 101 in the fall. So this is an experiment — how does this first-year population use mobile learning technology? What can we do with iPads in comp that we can’t do otherwise?
Until today, the class just hasn’t been going well. It felt disjointed — here’s how we use this technology and here’s our comp activity today. I was rather flustered and out of my usual comp zone, and they just weren’t talking. So today I opened class by asking them to brainstorm about ways we could improve group discussion and class participation. They suggested several things, but one students said, “Let’s use Twitter for class discussion. Like for the whole class time.” We immediately liked that idea and tried it out.
Having finished excerpts from Walden, the students are about to begin a simplicity experiment in which they give up something that complicates their lives for a week and journal the experience. (Yes, a bit ironic in an iPad pilot course. Funnily enough, not a single student picked a tech oriented thing to give up for the week.) I had planned to use a wiki to coordinate their ideas, but the Twitter class idea seemed even better. So we all got on Twitter (we had already set up accounts during the first week of class) and began tweeting our ideas using #simplicityexp as our hashtag.
Here’s the Storify of our class tweets:
They talked more on Twitter today than they have in four classes. They interacted with each other and with me in productive and playful ways. In our separateness, we were more together than we have been all semester.
I’m not sure what to make of that yet. Twitter is the social media that I personally love; I do feel connected to the people from around the country and the world that I only know via Twitter. I’ve made friends on Twitter. And I believe they are real friends, not just people I tweet with. One student said that it’s easier for shy students to connect via computer than face to face, and as a shy student, I understand that. What will be interesting is to see how they interact on Thursday — will they be more talkative and confident because they go to know each other via Twitter?