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Twitter in the Classroom: Distraction or Modern Approach to Encourage Participation? .
21 Jun 2011
My 15-year-old sister Mallory has just finished her first year of high school, and just like most young adults from Generation Z, one of her preferred methods of communication is Twitter. Generation Z - or the Internet Generation - are those born between 1992 and 2010, and are one of the leading target demographics for brands and businesses. While Generation X and Y are familiarising themselves with the importance of social media, Mallory and her contemporaries are sharing and promoting the latest trends, ultimately influencing the way we interact and buy online.
The importance of social media continues to be promoted by experts and advocates alike, and big brands like Coca Cola and Levi's have found success in reaching customers online, many of them from Generation Z. Twitter has been adopted as the place to go to advertise deals and offers in the hope that followers will retweet them to gain more exposure and attention. If these young decision-makers are interacting with brands and businesses on Twitter and Facebook already, surely it makes sense in the classroom as well? In a recent CNN article, Enrique Legaspi, a history teacher in Los Angeles, shared his experience with using Twitter in his eighth-grade classroom. Legaspi said he had an "aha moment" after attending a tech convention in San Francisco. While the use of social media in classrooms is not universally adopted in the US, this example of modern interaction is something educators, like Legaspi, are hoping will catch on. But what are the benefits of using platforms like Twitter during lessons? When I was in high school, my goal was to sit in the middle of the classroom so I appeared neutral in my quest to learn; sitting in the front meant you were a nerd and the back meant you couldn't care less about being there. As we did not have the ability to tweet our answer, we were forced to speak our answers and opinions, with not only the fear that it was wrong, but also that your fellow students would laugh if it was. As explained by students in the article, Twitter gave them a 'voice' so they could be noticed. For students who would otherwise not participate, I think this is a good tool to keep the conversations going in the classroom. However, some parents and teachers are on the fence about whether this is the best use of time at school. One of the downsides is the lack of originality in answers. Since Twitter updates instantly, students can easily piggyback off their friend's answer to form their opinion, rather that generating one themselves. This back and forth communication, while good to promote brand awareness, is perhaps a step too far for classrooms. Whether this method of teaching will be adopted by all schools remains to be seen but according to a recent survey, less than two per cent of teachers use Twitter in class. While in the minority, these 'pioneers' like Legaspi argue that using social media engages students in the lessons. Like with any powerful form of communication, there are risks and limitations. How do teachers control the use of idle chatter when conducting these lessons on Twitter? Unlike a response in the classroom, comments on Twitter are on record for all to see. While teachers should encourage 'lively' debates, can you properly explain the benefits of the Industrial Revolution in 140 characters? What do you think of using Twitter in the classroom? I would love your comments either on here or on Twitter - @YorkshireTexan.