Welcome to installment 7/10 of “How Twitter Saved my Literature Class: A Case Study with Discussion.” For more on teaching with twitter, read the full text.
As my students continued to read assigned texts more and more closely, I discovered why the class discussions were so productive and elicited such thoughtful responses from the participants. Tweeting together about assigned texts the night before a class discussion, students would ask each other clarifying questions about the basics: questions about plot points, and questions that sought explanations of the differences between key characters. My discussion of the Hemingway (1927) story “Hills like White Elephants,”for example, did not have to begin with the standard question, “What are these two characters talking about?” Everyone who had read the tweets from the night before knew that the two characters were discussing an abortion; in fact, they could see all the tweeted evidence that supported that conclusion. We could stipulate this fact and move one to deeper analyses of the story. The class conversations benefited from the many voices heard, with students responding to each other, rather than engaging in a series of dialogues with me. With the support and investment of my students, we could take on more interesting challenges, and focus on higher order thinking tasks.
In his taxonomy of thinking tasks, Benjamin Bloom (1956) argued, among other things, that while it was often appropriate for middle school and even high school students to focus on the recall and comprehension, by the time students came to college, they should be focusing on thinking tasks such as application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
Indeed, as a teacher, I have often considered what strategies would help move my students away from memorization and recall, and move them towards a more holistic practice of advanced critical and creative thinking. Twitter helped me dramatically with this endeavor, for students would, among themselves, review the basics of assigned stories, with some students leading some of their peers to a basic understanding of assigned text hours before the class met with me. As a result, in my class students eagerly presented insights that reflected a deepened and mature understanding of the short stories they read, and I rarely had to take time to clarify the plot of the story that some students might have read hurriedly, or not at all. Because of the extra research and discussion that my students were completing via Twitter, my undergraduates came to my class prepared with the sort of reflective wisdom that one would be pleased to see from advanced English Majors sitting around the table of a senior seminar.
Jones, A. “How Twitter Saved my Literature Class: A Case Study with Discussion.” (2011). Teaching Arts and Science with the New Social Media. A collection edited by Charles Wankel. United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 91-106.