Monday, March 12, 2012

Social Media in the Classroom: Twitter

Twitter ( is an online application that combines elements of blogging, social networking and instant messaging in order to let its users let others know what they are doing., What makes this unique is that users are limited to just 140 characters in doing so. Each message, known as a “tweet,” lets the user post information about what they are doing, or whatever it is they wish followers of their tweet to learn. Once a tweet is posted, you can read it, forward it to others (“retweet” it), or respond to it. Tweets can be sent from personal computers, laptops, tablets or even from cellphones and other SMS clients.

I am mindful that my students are products of a later era of learning than I am. They are more comfortable with technology, have grown up using it in their personal lives as well as in their educational programs, and may expect their teachers to use the same technology they do. And we have responded nicely; we have faculty who use web-based learning, have their own web pages, are comfortable with programs such as Word and Excel, use clicker technology, and develop blogs and facebook pages. But I am not familiar with our faculty using twitter as a learning platform. To that end, I am attempting to incorporate its use into my own class on evidence-based chiropractic practice.

It will be basically an add-on. For those with twitter, I intend to use it to accomplish several purposes. One is information. I will provide users with links to supplementary information that supports topics and learning objectives from class. If, for example, I discuss odds ratios in classroom lecture, I can then- as did- provide a link to a webpage that defines the term and demonstrates its use in a “fun” kind of setting (in this case, your odds of catching fish with or without use of bait). I can also use twitter to allow for response to a question. In this case, I would ask a question, such as “Can you think of a time when you used EBC in practice?” And I can then see how people respond back- keeping in mind that they are limited to just 140 characters.

The twitter “timeline” allows participants to see the responses as they are posted and in the order they are posted. This keeps a connection between the group, similar in a sense to water cooler conversation that occurs in office settings. I am seeing papers that investigate its use in education (1), and I think there is promise in its use, if used well and thought out in advance. I will let you know how it goes.

1. George DR, Dellasega C. Use of social media in graduate-level medical humanities education” two pilot studies from Penn State College of Medicine. Med Teacher 2011;33:e429-e434

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