How Twitter Saved my Literature Class, 9

Welcome to installment 9/10 of “How Twitter Saved my Literature Class: A Case Study with Discussion.” For more on teaching with twitter, read the full text.

Dr. Andy teaching

Sometimes in class we would take a break from all of the deep textual analysis to have a meta-conversation about the class, and these discussions helped students better understand how it is they learn, what motivates them to learn. I would ask a number of questions, and delight in their answers:

Why does Twitter work better than Facebook for the sort of social media-assisted, outside class work that we do in this course?

Facebook offers too many distractions. Using Twitter and the specific hash tag for this class (in our case, #ucdf), we can form our own interpretive and mutually supportive community without having to worry about looking like dorks in front of our Facebook friends.

To what extent does the use of Twitter improve your writing, even though you have only 140 characters to work with?

Well, we have to be so careful and precise with the words we choose.

Why must you make every word count?

So we can do a better job sharing assertions with our friends. Plus we appreciate all the practice writing thesis statements, and hearing the arguments of our peers.

When do you have your most fruitful discussions on Twitter?

Between 11 PM and 2 AM.

Why during that time?

Because that’s when we do our work, and we like being able to share our discoveries as soon as we make them.

Why do we have so many confident speakers in this class?

Because we have rehearsed our thoughts at home with our friends.

What makes a tweet valuable?

A valuable tweet is clear, insightful, assertive, and obviously succinct.

What quotations should I ask you about on the midterm?

Those we have discussed in class, and those we have most discussed on Twitter.

Could you name all (30 of) the students in our class if I asked you to?


Have you made any friends in this class?

I know more people in this class than I do from the rest of the classes I’ve taken a UC Davis, put together.

I loved this approach to teaching a literature course, and I feel using Twitter judiciously could enliven any class that depends upon, or would benefit from, class discussions. Recent research into academic uses of Twitter suggests that this new communication medium is helping many faculty engage with their students (Posetti, 2009; Wesch, 2008; Young, 2009), and reach classroom goals. From my perspective, I noted at the end of my summer experiment that all my students became more autonomous learners; all of them improved their ability to analyze texts, and share insights verbally and in written form; and all of them saw how the extra work they chose to do with their peers improved their grades and heightened their commitment to our course objectives. I also felt that the class validated the multiply-mediated way in which Millennials live and learn, but without sacrificing the sort of deep and sustained thinking that was necessary for students to excel in the class. Our students are ubiquitously-connected, and wise use of Twitter can help a faculty member harness the opportunities provided by this reality, rather than lament or try to ask students to suspend those connections while doing academic work.

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.

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