A 'tweet' experiment in undergraduate course
Jill Scott incorporated what she calls “MicroWriting” – writing on social media sites – into one of her courses last term to engage students in complex material, encourage class interaction, and develop effective writing skills.
“What makes a good tweet is no different from what makes a good sentence. It’s using all your words and characters well,” says Dr. Scott, an associate professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. “You write convincingly to the extent that you are clear and concise. You just keep working with your 140 characters to hone, develop, trim, and tweak your utterance to give it the maximum expressive impact.”
Students in Dr. Scott’s course, Conflict in Culture: Literature, Law, and Human Rights, were required to tweet at least three times each week with a group of peers. They responded to questions about the readings, and they used it to prepare for discussions in class or share relevant links. In sum, the students posted about 3,000 tweets.
The level of student engagement impressed Dr. Scott. The on-going activity on Twitter meant that students were consistently in dialogue with each other, creating an online learning community to supplement in-class learning. Dr. Scott posted “Twitter essays” each week to initiate discussions online before the class met. Students worked in small groups during class as well, with lectures only taking up about half the class time.
Dr. Scott purposefully chose to employ Twitter and group work in her blended-learning style course. A social media platform like Twitter allows her students to exchange more information than they can in a traditional lecture course. And, working closely with each other in groups over a long period of time lets students appreciate how conflict and resolving conflict are part of their own worlds, not only concerns in different countries.
Dr. Scott’s research in undergraduate pedagogy has received funding from the Centre for Teaching and Learning and a Proctor and Gamble Higher Education Grant.