With social networking tools like Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, and MySpace becoming norms in students’ daily lives, all educators alike have reason to be concerned about classroom distractions. After all, with so much electronic noise going on, how can students settle down enough to listen to a lecture or engage in a class discussion? Educators vying for their pupils’ attention might want to remind themselves of the old phrase "if you can’t beat them, join them." Meaning, if they find that their students are being distracted by these technologies in class, they might want to consider incorporating them into the curriculum. This is becoming more and more popular as educators are realizing the benefits of utilizing tools like Twitter in the classroom.
Twitter is a messaging service that allows users to send out short notes or "tweets," which are 140 characters or less, to a specified audience. These messages are received by those in their virtual social circle either as text messages, on phone applications, or Twitter’s Web site. Users can choose to accept or deny subscribers who request to receive their messages or "follow" them, and can subscribe to receive or "follow" other users’ tweets as well. Users are encouraged to send messages to let others know what is going on in their own world, and receive messages in order to learn about what is occurring in the worlds of other people. This constant exchange of information creates a continuous discussion that isn’t limited by time or place.
According to Quantcast data, 45 percent of Twitter users were between the ages of 18 and 34 in May 2010. Of all users, 38 percent had completed or were enrolled in college and 13 percent in graduate school. Conclusively, it seems as though those within the college age range are likely to be familiar with this type of social networking and willing to put it to use. This is good news for professors looking for a new way to engage their students. Rather than sending out long instructional e-mails to a class list, professors can request that their students follow their Twitter feeds. Not only can they send out useful class reminders, but they can also post relevant Web sites, articles, and videos that might supplement course material. Depending on what type of academic subject the course pertains to, professors can encourages students to follow the Twitter feeds of professionals working in a related field, politicians who are campaigning on relevant issues, or organizations promoting associated causes. When it comes to Twitter, anyone in the educational field should consider the countless possibilities of this social networking tool to provoke class discussions, encourage student interaction, and inspire a higher level of learning.
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