Noah Ullman just forwarded me this story in the The Chronicle of Higher Education titled Professor encourages students to pass notes during class via twitter. It is amazing to me that this merited being called news. If you have been following this blog you know that this is something I have been playing with for a while (in fact based on a suggestion made by Noah). For the record, here are some links to what I had written: Microblogging in the classroom & Microblogging in the classroom II. In fact one of my students even tried it out in an undergraduate course he was teaching that semester.
I see this as a way of fruitfully utilizing the fact that all my students bring laptops to the classroom (something I have written about here and here)… seems a better solution than having them just check email or update their facebook status :-)
It seems to me that the story didn’t speak to one critical aspect of micro-blogging, how is the twitter feed brought back into the classroom discussion. The problem is that the microblogging tends to exist in a separate “space” from what the class is doing – and coming up with strategies for integrating these two spaces (the face to face AND the microblogging) is what is key. Finding the right balance is is something we struggled with in our experiments. One thing we learned, no big surprise here, is that context matters. A tool that works one way in a doctoral seminar with a dozen or so participants works very differently in an undergraduate class with twice that number of students.
Figuring out the parameters within which these new technologies and tools can be used is what we need to pay attention to. More often than not the discussion is restricted to the “tool” not its pedagogic application. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the comments that follow the Chronicle article. Take a look at them, they tend to follow the time honored rules of talking at cross purposes, with some of the silly comments that, sadly, characterize internet discourse.