Welcome to installment 8/10 of “How Twitter Saved my Literature Class: A Case Study with Discussion.” For more on teaching with twitter, read the full text.
Whereas I appreciated that students were using Twitter in class conversations to create these somewhat interesting assertions that might make up a thesis statement for a submitted essay, students understandably were mostly excited about the social opportunities and rewards of talking about literature outside of class. Starting about midway through the summer session, I would sometimes find almost half the class in their seats already talking with each other as I arrived, each of them with our class anthology already open, rather than working through crossword puzzles or thumbing through email on their cell phones. Because of Twitter, and because of the group collaborative presentation assignments, those minutes before class resembled smiling reunions, with students alluding to each other’s tweets, as well as the jokes, the asides, and the plans for study groups. Once class discussion began, the peer pressure moved towards the direction of contribution rather than silence. Students sometimes complain that professors in a large lecture classes will welcome questions from their smartest or most talkative half-dozen students while the rest of the class sits watching the conversation, sometimes hoping that it ends soon so that the professor can return to the business of covering content. I have heard from students in office hours that sometimes the silent majority even resents the talkative minority, and wishes that these garrulous “A” students would succumb to peer pressure and pipe down. In my class, that dynamic was reversed. Students who chose not to speak felt left out. Students who missed the Twitter conversations of the night before might feel as if they had missed a great pizza party, or at least a TV show that all their friends had watched without them. I enjoyed calling on many students that summer, but I found myself pressuring fewer silent Bartlebys (Melville, 1856) than ever before.
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.