Twitter Makes For Better Students
October 18, 2012

Listen Up Professors – Twitter In The Classroom Could Help Make For Better Students

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Many inventions, products and services are seen as frivolous, pointless or even worthless when in their infancy. Apple´s Macs were first seen as “toys,” not capable of performing any real work. Many assumed the Internet would never catch on, calling it a waste of time.

It´s hard today to imagine what a world without the Internet and Macs (or Mac-like computers) would look like. So it goes with Twitter and other social networking sites.

In its infancy, Twitter was mocked as something only self-centered people were interested in. After all, what kind of person would want to send out into the world – in 140-character bursts – exactly what they are doing at any given time? Furthermore, who would want to read such updates? Since its 2006 debut, Twitter has become a very popular social service, enabling users to directly connect with their favorite artists, authors, movie stars and professors.

That´s right, professors.

According to a new study from Michigan State University, students who use Twitter in the classroom are not only more likely to participate in class by Tweeting their professors, they´re also more likely to retain what they learned there.

Christine Greenhow, an assistant professor of education at MSU, has conducted a study to understand how students interact with the world via Twitter.

“Tweeting can be thought of as a new literary practice,” said Greenhow, explaining her results.

“It´s changing the way we experience what we read and what we write.”

In her paper on the matter, entitled “Twitteracy: Tweeting as a New Literary Practice,” Greenhow claims Twitter usage among American teens has doubled in less than 2 years. There are now more than 200 million active users on Twitter, each sending a collective 175 million Tweets a day.

According to Greenhow, today´s students stand to benefit greatly just by using Twitter in the classroom. The “real-time” nature of Twitter allows students and professors to collaborate and communicate quickly, as well as share information, such as Web sites or videos, with incredible ease. Since these students have to operate within a strict, 140-character limit, they learn how to write concisely and explain themselves more efficiently. Since new information is always coming in on Twitter, these students also learn how to perform up-to-date research and were even more likely to reach out directly to the authors of the research for clarification.

Greenhow didn't only reach these conclusions as a result of compiling data. She also teaches a class which focuses on Twitter and has said her students will interact through the micro-blogging service more than they would in a typical face-to-face setting.

“The students get more engaged because they feel it is connected to something real, that it´s not just learning for the sake of learning,” explained Greenhow.

“It feels authentic to them.”

Twitter has become such a part of our cultural lexicon that Greenhow even suggests it has become a new literary form, presenting a brand new way to communicate with one another.

“One of the ways we judge whether something is a new literary form or a new form of communication is whether it makes new social acts possible that weren´t possible before,” said Greenhow.

“Has Twitter changed social practices and the way we communicate? I would say it has.”