Twitter in the Classroom
Since the incorporation of hashtags with Facebook, it’s become even more pedagogically useful. Hashtags are connective tools, so they are inclusive, however, they may be used to exclude. For example, I’ve seen hashtags that denounce someone as a Texan or ensure authenticity as a Texan. The hashtag itself was not this: #notaTexan, it was this #Texan. The latter hashtag, once a tweep clicked on it led to various conversations about what makes someone a Texan: Whataburger, Big Tex, the Cowboys, big hair (you know stereotypes). The writing assignment, then, is to argue for an interesting and contestable use of a hashtag. This requires some digging, some questioning, and some supporting. Follow the hashtag down a winding road of uses. The hashtag should be something that is already in use. How is that hashtag being used? It is humorous? Is it sarcastic? Is it to include or exclude? How do you know? How are you backing up your claim? With another tweet? Why that tweet? What about the variations of that hashtag? Who said what, when, and how? And, why is this even important?
Another option is to create a hashtag and use it. Create any hashtag you want, but consider if others will use it too. Consider the length because the hashtag counts in the 140-character limit. You should tweet at least twice a week using that hashtag. Tweet using the hashtag for one entire month, that way you'll probably have an abundance of “support” for the assertions you make. Consider intentionally using the hashtag in a variety of tones that might entice others to use it. If no one uses it after one week, change the hashtag and consider why no one uses it. The assignment then is to follow the trail of uses. How is the hashtag being used? What are the tweets that accompany the hashtag? Do not consider the variations of the hashtag; only consider the hashtag you created, not the variations.
So perhaps you have come up with a great idea for a product or book and have told a few friends who insist that you get the word out. Well, what if you found yourself in an elevator with a publicist or a proprietor and only had thirty seconds to pitch your idea? What would you say? Practice pitching your idea in a mere tweet, so if this opportunity ever comes your way, you will be ready.
Example: I have developed a filter to remove the smog from Beijing. This is an air filter for the atmosphere that will save millions of lives.
Developing a Thesis
Do you ever struggle with developing a thesis? Does your teacher often write in the margins of your paper, “thesis unclear” or “ambiguous thesis”? If so, using Twitter can help. Instead of worrying about your thesis as you start your paper, go ahead and compose your rough draft without a clear thesis. Once you have finished your rough draft, deconstruct the paper to 140 characters or less (a tweet) to arrive at your thesis. And make sure it is arguable!
Example: A likely thesis for Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech could be the following—now is the time for racial justice and freedom for American citizens of all colors, for all men are created equal.
Have you ever been told that you are too wordy, whether in writing or speech? If so, you may need to practice a cohesion exercise. And you can do so using Twitter. Using Word or even a piece of paper, don’t worry about wordiness and just write a page. Now turn a page-worth of wordy thinking into a tweet. Forcing yourself to be concise will eliminate the wordiness and get right to the point of what you are trying to achieve in your writing. Give it a try!
Textbook Summary Tweet
You’re probably reading another textbook for this course, right? Well Twitter can be a great summary tool, because once again, you are forced to be concise. So for every chapter you read, summarize it in a mere tweet. Then perhaps you could take the summaries a step further by sharing the tweets among classmates, choosing the best compilation of tweets (mixing and matching among peers), and forming a group essay out of the chosen tweets. Once all the tweets are combined, there can be an editor in the group that polishes the essay, building in transitions and parallels if necessary. The essay will be a great demonstration of cohesion as well as collaborative interaction and learning.
Lecture Summary Tweet
Depending on the style of your class, your professor may or may not lecture. Well, if your professor lectures, try summarizing each lecture in a tweet—that way you will retain the gist of what your professor was trying to convey in his or her lecture. You could also use Twitter to tweet questions or comments, after the lecture, to your professor or peers.
Example: Today Professor Smith discussed the three rhetorical appeals: ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic and reason).
Write a review of a book assigned in class using Twitter. Review all aspects of the book in a mere tweet. Choose each word wisely.
Example: Review of Out the Summerhill Road by Jane Roberts Wood—Wood unveils the secrets of three life-long friends in East Texas, as they solve the mysterious murder case of their dear friend, Rosemary.
Perhaps, you are considering introducing your students to the collection of Toni Morrison, Stephen King or Amy Tan? Why not have your students stay updated on the author's latest work, appearances, contributions, or suggested readings? "Following" an author's Twitter is a wonderful way to have students get an inside look into the minds and creativity of the author or an aspiring writer.
Example: Have students follow the verified Twitter account of an assigned author or any writer of their choice. Have students examine the digital footprint this author creates:
How do I . . .
create a Twitter account?
For APA citations:
cite Twitter general statement in APA
cite in a particular Tweet posted in APA
For MLA citations:
cite a Tweet in MLA?
Looking for more information about Twitter or how to incorporate Twitter into a classroom environment?
Twitter Classroom Response:
introduced her ELA class to
Twitter by having students create a free account for their class assignments.
Adeleline Koh is an Assistant Professor of literature and explains how using Twitter has helped student research and communication outside of the classroom.
The Tiziano Project:
For a quick introduction to important Twitter terms and definitions, The Tiziano Project has provided a small worksksheet to help brief Twitter users.
Photo: TWU Flickr