After participating in the #digped chat on Twitter today, I have been thinking about how best to use Twitter in the classroom setting. The topic of the chat was specifically about the use of hashtags, but near the end of the chat, a conversational exchange took place that would end up capturing my thoughts for the next few hours.
One of the primary goals of setting up a ‘backchannel’ in Twitter is to benefit people who are not in attendance. We see this commonly at events and gatherings such as conferences and workshops. But during the chat, I also shared that I was keen to create a backchannel for students that would be attending a face-to-face class this fall. Not for the benefit of outside parties, but for ‘reflection’. I used the term reflection a bit off-the-cuff, and if you have participated in a Twitter chat, you know that (at least for an INTJ like me) keeping up with an active chat robs you of the time you need to find ‘just the right word’. One of my MA classmates, Danielle, (who is much sharper than I, and not an INTJ, I’m sure) immediately questioned my suggestion of using Twitter for student reflection, when other tech tools such as blogs, wikis, or message boards would be more appropriate, due to the opportunity for longer-form writing. (Side note: make friends with people who are willing to disagree with you. It advances your learning wonderfully.)
She’s absolutely right, and this became my catalyst for deeper thinking on the subject. A Twitter post is not a good place for thoughtful self-reflection. In fact, what I hadn’t managed to say in 140 words at the time was that my strategy this fall with my new students IS to get them using blogs for reflection and self-assessment. However, my thinking is that some low-level ‘ideas generation’ on Twitter might be just the thing to get the process started. Enter my idea for using a backchannel. In choosing the word reflection, I was thinking about it in the ‘internal’ sense. What goes on inside the head of the learner. Of course, the formal activity of written reflection and the forming of advanced ideas through constructive thought is just not going to happen inside 140 characters. But that intrinsic ‘spark’—a little nugget of a question, could that kick off the process? Alison picked up on that and shared:
Process is a key part of adult learning. As Knowles, Holton, & Swanson (2005) state in The Adult Learner, “the [traditional] content model is concerned with transmitting information and skills, whereas the process model is concerned with providing procedures and resources for helping learners acquire information and skills” (p. 115). For me, encouraging the students to begin a process of discovery by starting with some short thoughts in Twitter, then progressing to a longer, more formal reflection on a blog or class message board makes sense, and contributes to andragogical process.
In order to wrap up this short train of thought, what really brought this all home was this tweet:
@apeswithbooks Yes. And to revise our thinking during the Twitter chat. A single tweet is not our final thought on a given subject. #digped— Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) August 2, 2013
As Jesse points out, a Twitter chat is a living process where ideas flow, and are formed by, the participants. It is often true that one leaves the chat with some new insights that they may not have expected to gain from simple 140 word exchanges. As I write this, it’s easy to see that this whole exercise is in itself, meta: I voiced an opinion on Twitter, and had it examined and processed by others who then added to the discourse. I took that information away, thought about it some more, and then wrote this blog post about it. I can always tell when its been great Twitter chat, because my web browser has numerous tabs open to sites with topics I want to explore further. That is exactly the type of experience that I would like to create for my students. Twitter may not be the right tool for formal written reflection, but it is a great pedagogical (andragogical) tool to stimulate such further reflection.
Thanks to @jessifer for hosting a thoughtful chat, @ebooks_dani and @alisonseaman for your thoughts, and to all of today’s participants for their insight and expertise.