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Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

March 1, 2013

To tweet or not to tweet

Using Twitter to engage students

Group of young people sitting at a cafe, with mobiles and tabletDr. Alissa Ackerman, Assistant Professor of Social Work at UW Tacoma—a 2012 UW Tacoma Tech Fellow—has used Twitter in and out of the classroom to engage students in a broad conversation about criminal justice issues.

How she did it

Twitter: “Setting up Twitter was the easy part for all. Operating Twitter was a little more difficult for students. I created a ‘how to’ document for them to follow, which seemed to shorten the learning curve. Within a week or two, most students were using Twitter effectively.”

Student reactions: “Student reactions have been mixed. Some students love the instant interaction.”

Benefits for students: “I believe that Twitter enhances student learning. This is especially true when I have invited ‘guest lecturers’ to class via Twitter. I have done this with authors of books, journalists and other scholars. This allows students to benefit from the reactions of others in the field in real time. Another added benefit occurs when the students ‘tag’ authors of articles and the author responds directly to them.”

Brevity requires focus: “I believe that having to condense one’s thoughts into 140 or so characters provides focus. Some students welcomed this challenge, while others would much prefer the traditional essay.”

Leveraging social media expertise: “Students already know how to use social media, but learning how to do so in a professional and articulate way can only benefit them in the long run.”

Advice to other faculty interested in using Twitter: “Be patient and have a lot of structure regarding what you want from students.”

Learn more

This article was originally published on March 2013 as part of a UW Provost report on trends and issues in public higher education. Read Dr. Ackerman’s How-to document about Twitter guide created for her students.