What Do Students Think About Twitter Chats?

Today, I bring you a guest post from a student in my Masters class. Taylor was nice enough to share her thoughts on participating in twitter chats as a part of our course. I hope her insights help extend your thoughts on my previous posts about using twitter as an instructional tool and help you see it from a student’s perspective. BTW, make sure you check out Taylor’s awesome blog!

As a graduate student, I have enjoyed exposure to a variety of ways to participate in class – fish bowl discussions, blog posts, and even an opportunity to engage in a service-learning project. When I was told that my class would be using Twitter to participate in class discussions every other week, I admit that I was skeptical. I had been using my personal Twitter handle since June 2010, but had rarely used it for anything other than personal quips about my day and retweets of articles/stories I found interesting. The thought of using my account to discuss topics in education with my class piqued my interest, but I was unsure of what to expect.

twitter

The week before our first ‘chat,’ Leigh discussed the ground rules for our class Twitter discussions – etiquette (retweeting, favoriting, replying, etc.), selected hashtags, and the proposed topics we would be discussing. Our class chat would last for an hour, and we would each be expected to participate for the full duration. Each Twitter chat would have ‘moderators,’ two selected students to guide the discussion and pose questions for us to respond to. Leigh explained that the chat would most likely become several threads of conversation that would allow people an opportunity to pare down the whole class discussion to a more manageable size.

Now having completed a handful of virtual class discussions, I realize there are several positive aspects I had previously overlooked with regards to Twitter. I have compiled a list of four new found appreciations for using Twitter as a resource for discussion with my grad school class:

1. Accessibility: One of the luxuries of having a Twitter chat is the ability to participate almost anywhere; Twitter is supported on a myriad of devices – laptops, desktops, tablets, smart phones, etc. – and is readily available for use. I find it to be very user-friendly, with a simple and clean design. Since I live near the university, I don’t mind attending class in person, but I’ll be the first to admit that tweeting from my couch with a mug of chai tea holds a certain appeal.

2. Instant Gratification: One of the things I love most about our Twitter chats is how up-to-date the tweets are. When someone from my class posts or replies to a tweet, his/her tweet is readily available at my fingertips; the speed of the tweets is almost comparable to that of speaking in person. My Twitter feed becomes a veritable conversation buffet, offering me multiple opportunities to reply to, retweet, favorite, and explore tweets being shared.

3. Rich in Resources: Though tweets are limited to 140 characters, links are often shared in tweets as a way to support the point you are trying to make. When chatting with my class, there is often a flood of information and resources being shared; Twitter provides a way to virtually store those resources so that you can come back later.

4. Gateway for Communication: Similar to the sharing of resources, our class often discusses organizations or companies that are relevant to our conversations. Recently, while discussing the concept of social networking within education, I asked about using Gaggle (a kid-friendly email client with a social media ‘feel’) as a resource in my elementary school classroom. Shortly after our class chat ended, the Gaggle Twitter account responded to my previous tweet, offering help with integration.

tweets
I was pleasantly surprised that the company had taken the time to tweet back – but that’s one of the things I have found in my Twitter use; companies and organizations are often quick to respond.

After the chats draw to a close, the chat moderators put together a collection of our tweets and links using Storify to summarize our discussion. Using Storify allows us to have a Twitter chat in review, preserving our resources, interactions, and links for later use.

Overall, I’ve greatly enjoyed using Twitter as an interactive learning resource. While it’s something I would not have initially considered, I understand the opportunities created through its use. I’m grateful for the resources that have been shared through our chats, and anticipate many more to come throughout the semester.