Twitter Used As A Teaching Tool At Colleges

By Staff

June 3, 2009

Some professors are using Twitter--a micro-blogging service--to help their students better communicate and network during class.

U.S. News & World Report notes that college administrators and professors are beginning to utilize Twitter in class, which allows people to send 140-character messages, or "tweets." Elaine Young, for example, a marketing and online business professor at Champlain College in Vermont, used Twitter to help teach students about ways that business and marketing students can build networks and make connections in the professional world.

The biggest challenge, said Young, was getting students to give Twitter a try. Indeed, reports on a new study by the Participatory Media Network and Pace University, which indicated that only 22 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds use Twitter. Meanwhile, 99 percent of them have profiles on social networks like Facebook or MySpace.

"This is a classic 'glass half full' scenario for Twitter," said Michael Della Penna, Participatory Media Network co-founder and chairman, "because it's clear that Gen Y has an appetite for social networking, but still hasn't fully embraced micro-blogging. There is a tremendous opportunity now for marketers to develop strategies to get this important group active on Twitter too."

Many professors agree. Monica Rankin, a history professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, organizes comments, questions and feedback posted by students to Twitter onto a giant image in front of a 90-person lecture hall. She notes that the method allows many more students to participate in classroom discussions.

"Most educators would agree that large classes set in the auditorium-style classrooms limit teaching options to lecture, lecture, and more lecture," Rankin wrote on her school Web page, which was quoted on "And most educators would also agree that this is not the most effective way to teach. I wanted to find a way to incorporate more student-centered learning techniques and involve the students more fully into the material."

David Parry, a professor of emerging media at UT Dallas, has his students create Twitter profiles and follow his updates and those of friends outside the university. Some of his students have even used Twitter to let classmates know about issues that were relevant to the course.

"One thing that has changed about higher education is the idea that people come and sit in a dorm and after class, they share ideas," said Parry, who was quoted in U.S. News & World Report. "A lot of that is gone now, because students work two jobs, they don't live in dorms. . . . But Twitter is making up for it, in a way."

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