Twitter Alternative To Raising Hands For Shy Students

    January 17, 2012
    Zach Walton
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Twitter was always considered a distraction when I was in school, now it might be a teacher aide.

The Courier Mail in Australia is reporting that new research from Southern Cross University has found strong benefits for the use of Twitter in the classroom by shy students who might not be comfortable raising their hands.

Southern Cross business lecturer Jeremy Novak and Central Queensland University’s Dr. Michael Cowling studied Twitter use among university students as a way to ask questions during class.

The Twitter method received positive feedback especially from international students. The research team is convinced that Twitter could be used by high schools and even primary schools.

“Twitter is another exciting teaching aide that is highly under-utilised by lecturers and teachers in the education sector,” Novak said. “Hopefully it would lead to fewer passengers in the classroom and allow those students who are less likely to engage with teachers, for social or cultural reasons, to participate.”

Under the study, university students were given the ability to send anonymous tweets to their teacher asking for better explanations or more detailed answers during lectures.

Novak did acknowledge that there would be some obstacles in getting Twitter use approved for the classroom. I know that in my university classes, students would abuse this to send texts and update Facebook during class. Novak agrees and while students would already do this, making Twitter acceptable would make it harder for teachers to point out those who were genuinely using it to learn and those who are just using it to socialize.

The researchers also fear for teachers who have less experience with social networking than their students. The generation gap may be too wide in some cases.

“Teachers would have to be savvy with the technology, but if those things were overcome there is no reason this could not be used to augment teaching methods,” Novak said. “We don’t see Twitter replacing actual class participation or interaction, but it could be a very valuable tool to add to the teacher’s toolbox.”

I for one welcome a new way to interact in class besides raising hands. I suffered from a speech impediment growing up and the stigma made me interact less during university classes. Tweeting to the teacher during class would be a revolutionary way for students who suffer from similar problems to interact with the material during class.

  • A teacher who cares

    As a high school teacher I went to the conference where I saw these two presenters Jeremy Novak and Michael Cowling, talk about their research. Their presentation utilised a ticker bar on the PowerPoint slides, and we could enter a # tag and asked questions or make comments that were displayed on the PowerPoint slides. I and others were extremely interested and impressed by their research.
    They made it very clear that the implementation of Twitter into the PowerPoint slides was to see if international and shy students would engage in class. They did emphas ise throughout the presentation that this was another way for the student to give feedback and ask questions on the PowerPoint slides and in turn help build their confidence to start asking questions verbally.
    As Jeremy Novak from Southern Cross University stated in the Courier mail article “We don’t see Twitter replacing actual class participation or interaction, but it could be a very valuable tool to add to the teacher’s toolbox.”
    I have further looked into the use of this technology for my year 10 students and after having conversations with one of the researchers, it’s is clear that these tweets are used in class and students tweet the PowerPoint slides and not me. As I do not need to set up a personal Twitter account to receive any of the tweets that are displayed on the PowerPoint slide, the issue of impropriety is negated.

    For all teachers and parents who may read this, please do your own investigation into what these researchers have said about the implementation of Twitter into the classroom and what other researchers and educators are saying about using technology in a positive way into the classroom in 2012. I also suggest you have a look around at your students and see how many of them are using the technology and take the step forward into the 21st century.
    I hope this stimulates some positive and informed debate.