Blog Post

Becoming a Careful Listener in Social Media Conversations

I just finished an online class through Hybrid Pedagogy called Twitter in the Classroom. It exploded my view of online learning, which was confined to Learning Management Systems--mostly Blackboard. Much of the class was conducted on Twitter through the hashtag #twittergo. There were stable readings on Canvas. Wonderful readings. Enough digital and critical pedagogy to fire my imagination for weeks beyond the class. Because we were open to engaging at our own pace and on our own time schedule for most of the time,  this class was a nearly 24/7 occupation, which was exhilarating. Though it might sound crushing, it was far from that. I felt that I had opened a door to an intellectual community that had always been there: people who are thinking about what digital space looks and sounds like, wondering how students can connect with public scholarship, how Twitter might change the way we imagine the academy. And they were doing this thinking early on a Sunday morning or in the wee hours of Tuesday night. There was a sense that if I stopped any moment to ponder something brought up by the Twitter class, someone else was thinking about it too. We had an imagined community but it was also very real.

The class ended with an assignment to imagine how to use Twitter in our own teaching practice. I have often tried to imagine this, and have even taken a few stabs at stumbling around with students on Twitter, but I left the Hybrid Pedagogy class with a much fuller sense of the power and the danger of public learning and engagement. And that seems just right. But how to take students into this dangerous place in thoughtful ways? Jesse Stommel, who lead the course, brought up the very rich concept of "listening" in Twitter. I'm still thinking about that. Here is my draft assignment:


Public Writing Private Selves
Becoming A Careful Listener in Social Media Conversations

Twitter is a public platform. What you write in 140 characters or less can be seen and commented on by a potentially large number of people, some of whom you won’t even know. Hashtags are a way to aim what you write at a particular public. They bring you into communities congregated around an idea or a cause or interest. What is it like to put your words out in public? You may already have an idea about that from using facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but we will be spending a semester thinking and writing about what it means to be public.

In this class you will be creating a first year writing experience through discussions among your peers here at St. Johns and with peers from the fyw class at X College. Each week, we will devote one class meeting to a live twitter chat between the two fyw classes about a question or a reading that both classes will have prepared. That discussion will take place and will be aggregated under the #hackfyw list. That way, the conversation can be saved in a Tweetdeck list so that you can consult it later. We will be doing some writing after the chats. Since twitter chats tend to move very quickly, you will be able to go back and catch up with tweets you may have missed while you were engaging real time.  

You will also take turns in small groups being the chat “eavesdroppers.”** When you are performing this role, you will not participate in the live chat. Instead you will watch the chat unfold, and later, you and your group will discuss those observations about your peers’ interactions to share with everyone.


How it will work:

Each of you will be using a Tweetdeck for this class as a way to keep track of what all the students involved with #hackfyw are talking about. For our class ENG 1000C your Tweetdeck will have two lists:
The #ENG1000C will function as a place for our class to tweet about things having to do  with our class only. It is a place you can leave a thought, ask a question or share a link with your classmates and me. From time to time, I will be leaving messages for you there too, but I will let you know ahead of time if you need to look for communication in the #ENG1000C list.


How you will be assessed:

Are there ways twitter users get feedback? What are those ways? Do you get feedback from other online engagement platforms like facebook, tumblr and Instagram? What are the differences in kinds of feedback across these digital spaces? What kind of assessment or feedback helps you the most to grow as a writer and thinker? We will be discussing this as a class and as members of #hackfyw to come up with a concept for assessment in this class.

** "eavesdroppiing" is an idea from Krista Ratcliffe's Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. Southern Illinois University Press. 2005. An incredibly poetic and complex kind of rhetorical listening, eavesdropping "is a tactic for listening to the discourses of others, for hearing over the edges of our own knowing..." (105). This is a brief description of something Rafcliffe goes into in much more detail, and is a place for more thinking as this assignment takes shape.


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