Blog Post

Twitter Classroom: Collaborative Publics for Students

I'm excited to be working in collaboration with a colleague, another HASTAC scholar, Laura Lisabeth. We are going to blog our progress as we plan to teach a cross-institutional first year writing class using Twitter for engagement between the classes. We have a number of goals and questions in mind as we launch from both our HASTAC blogs.

Social media has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives that it is hard to imagine a day without checking in on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or any number of social media sites. Twitter has become an especially important social media space in our contemporary moment. The proliferation of academic work online has changed the landscape for scholarship as well as pedagogy. Social media sites like Twitter allow for the creation of cross-institutional communication and collaboration. Scholars have used social media spaces to interact with scholars all over the world, and they have expanded the possibilities for academic collaboration. Teachers are also using Twitter to engage with their students outside of the confines of the classroom and institutionally controlled spaces. Twitter allows for asynchronous, less formal communication between students and teachers. In the spirit of HASTAC’s call for collaboration to reimagine learning and teaching in the digital age, our project aims to explore the use of Twitter as a cross-institutional pedagogical space. The HASTAC about page states, “The changes in our Information Age require us to think and act collectively to envision new ways of learning that can serve the goals of a global society.”  We hope to participate in creating this new vision. We particularly want to engage students in using writing and public writing communities as spaces for transformative “cross-cultural conduct” as coined by Krista Ratcliffe in Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, and Whiteness. The open public forum of Twitter can be used to build collaborative writing communities between students from different institutions. We also want to explore the notion of silence as a rhetorical practice in digital spaces.

As we plan to construct this project within our first year writing classes, we want to understand the composition classroom as a space with a long history of hierarchies, intersections and divergences created by the structuring structure of Standard Academic English. As many researchers in the field of composition have argued, the privileging of SAE creates unequal outcomes for students that fall along racial lines.  The silencing of other ways of knowing and being by SAE creates an impoverished academic discourse that carries consequences for how new knowledge is constructed, threatening to continue to reproduce troubling power dynamics in larger society.  As Bruce Horner has pointed out, twenty years ago, New Literacy Studies’ emphasis on local literacy practices outside the academy brought a necessary pluralizing  to composition pedagogy, but SAE remains a central unchanged academic discourse, and in fact is re-entrenched by this framework of in- and out-of-school literacies (Horner “Ideologies of Literacy,” Literacy In Composition Studies 1:1). In addition to responding to HASTAC’s call for collective engagement, we also answer calls from the field of Literacy Studies for challenging standard academic English as a  persistent dominant academic discourse. By way of contributing to research that imagines a decentering of SAE, we want to investigate the composition classroom space as public, allowing for cross-institutional collaboration and the spirit of empowered creative play inherent in a social media discourse like Twitter. What can we and our students learn from play as a learning disposition? How can public collaborative writing and digital “eavesdropping” (Ratcliffe) make us think differently about academic discourse?



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