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What do Vampires and Twitter have in Common?

What do Vampires and Twitter have in Common?

While I'm not sure the Twitter bird shares Dracula's thirst for blood (and I highly doubt vampires share the bluejay's affinity for posts under 140 characters), Twitter and Dracula do have one thing in common: they make for excellent class discussion. 

While there's likely much other potential for Twitter in academia, my undergraduate English class at UW-Green Bay has utilized the social media feed as a medium for collaborative note-taking in our discussion-based course.  Here's how we do it: we start with 6 books, 6 projects, and 6 groups; throughout the semester, the projects rotate between groups as we work through the different texts.  My group was assigned the Twitter project for our time with Dracula.  This project called for the six of us (in a class of roughly 35) to Tweet notable points of our classroom discussions on the book.  We used the hashtag #Eng333Dracula to categorize our Tweets, and the hashtag's live-stream appeared on the board during discussion.  Following class, we uploaded the Tweets to a Storify document, deleted duplicates, and added categories and explanations for confusing posts.  You can find the end result here.

What's the value of such a project when students could simply take their own notes with the tried-and-true ways of the past?  For one, the "collaborative" nature of the project allows us to preserve far more of the discussion than if we were to note-take individually. For another, the entire class can easily access our database of Tweets.  Students no longer need to focus on writing everything down (or worse, writing nothing down), and can instead direct their full attention to the discussion, where it belongs.  We can now have the best of both worlds: we can fully participate and pay attention in class, and we can go home to a comprehensive account of the class period. 

Though we didn't include this in our project, one could set up a way for the class to comment on the discussion online, outside of scheduled class hours.  Such in-depth documentation allows the class to view book conversation throughout different class periods, and draw connections between the way different days of discussions relate to one another.  Students can analyze how discussions have changed based on further progress through the texts, and perhaps redefine or hone previous class readings of the story.  Bonus: Professors end the semester with a detailed account of discussions throughout the course, including  snapshots of the class's humor and mood via tweet. 

Tweeting class discussions brings course dialogue beyond the classroom, into a more interactive and practical realm of learning.  Watch out, Twitter world.  It's time for school.

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1 comment

I think the first semester we did this the results varied. But looking at the Storify for the Dracula notes and discussion, I found this to be one of the most comprehensive accounts of our class discussion and interaction to date--basically, we're getting better. So, congratulations on this successful endeavor! The more I've been thinking about this, I'm seeing the next step is to pair this specifically with a writing assignment that would require this as source material, with one side benefit being that we would learn MLA citation formnats for Tweets, etc.

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