How Twitter Saved my Literature Class, 1

Welcome to the first installment of “How Twitter Saved my Literature Class: A Case Study with Discussion.” Read the full text.


More than anything else, what distinguishes a great class from an adequate class is the attitude of the participants. As Shakespeare (1623) reminds us in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” When an instructor’s course objectives are clear, when a professor brings enthusiasm to lectures and to class discussions, and when he or she sets high expectations for all of the class’s participants, then learning can take place. But primarily it is the participants’ reaction to these necessary elements of a class that can make that class truly successful. As teachers, we treasure students who are curious, enthusiastic, optimistic about the next class meeting, and reflective about course content after the proverbial bell has wrung. We can inspire such students to pursue a lifelong intellectual relationship with the content of our courses, and perhaps also inspire enthusiasm about the importance of learning itself. When we identify and adopt the methods and tools to sustain that motivation and enthusiasm, we make the learning experience richer and more satisfying for our students and for ourselves.

In order for such a course to exist, in order for this transformational learning to take place, the instructor and students together must face down an array of obstacles and distractions. Many of our students are overworked, committed to taking too many units, and tempted by a great number of electronic, networked and video-based distractions. Some students resent having to take our class if it is a requirement, while others may question its relevance if it is an elective. For these and many other reasons, some students bring to class an attitude of borderline complacency, a hope that “just enough” work in the class will be sufficient to allow them to pass, or even do well. The lecture format of the larger classes we teach may contribute to this attitude; in many large enrollment classes students slouch in their seats comfortably, almost languidly, as they might do on the couch at home, and expect to be entertained or at least informed. We oblige them with our preformulated lectures and our slide shows, hoping that they will stay awake, and that some of the students in the front rows may ask or answer questions at the end of the lecture. Many of us leave such a class confident that teaching has taken place, if not always learning. Often we settle for the mode of teaching that was used with us, rather than considering to the modes of learning that appeal to our students. I will suggest that a professor can fruitfully adopt the ubiquitous micro-blogging tool Twitter as a means to inspire students to achieve a course’s learning objectives, and to eagerly anticipate and enjoy the classroom experience.


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.

Post Author: Simon Dvorak

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