Tweet the Teacher: Using Twitter as a Mechanism to Increase Classroom Engagement

Letting Technology Ask the "Stupid" Questions for you...

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Over the last 10 years, the term “digital native” has been coined to describe those who grew up with technology, not knowing a world where technology was not a part of people‟s everyday lives. These digital natives see the world differently than the previous digital immigrants and are involved daily with the use of social networking tools and technological mobile devices that keep them constantly connected to a global communications network. In fact, Smith and Caruso (2010) conducted a longitudinal research into the use of technology amongst USA undergraduate students and found that 93.5 % of 18 year olds and 95.4% of 19 year olds used social networking on a regular basis.

Further, a frequent complaint from academic staff is that undergraduate students are “passengers” in their classroom. While they attend, these students struggle to interact with the teacher and often pretend that they understand so as not to offend. This phenomenon is particularly apparent for international students, where cultural and social issues such as a desire not to contradict an authority figure or speak out for fear of reprisal are often blamed for their lack of participation. This research project surmises that this lack of participation by students in their chosen courses is resulting in a subpar understanding of the course content, therefore resulting in poor grades.

Using social networking tools, this project hopes to enable these “passengers” to become more active participants in their learning. Through the use of technology, students were able to tweet the lecturer during their class from their own device and have their queries appear on the lecture slides. After a successful implementation trial last year which was reported on at ISANA 2011, this model was rolled out to a course running on eight campuses of CQUniversity at the beginning of 2012. Preliminary data analysis of survey data collected at the end of term and presented at ISANA 2012 showed that staff buy-in was a significant factor in the uptake of the technology in the classroom, with many students indicating that the use of the technology was not encouraged. However, results from students that did participate were encouraging, suggesting room for future work. 

To discuss this project with members of the lab, please contact Dr Michael Cowling via the contacts page of this site.