The Power of We: Collaboration in the Classroom.
Or, How I Live-Tweeted My Class With My Class
We were 9 students (7 tweeting) and 1 instructor, tweeting for 3 hours,
and we sent 200 Tweets!
Today, Monday October 15 2012, is Blog Action Day 2o12. Rather unfortunately hash-tagged #bad12, Blog Action Day is a day that brings together bloggers from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day (BlogActionDay.org). The topic of 2o12 is The Power of We. In the spirit of the We, bloggers share and circulate their #bad12 posts via the various digitally-connecting networks that unite Us. I would like to begin my reflection with the ending line of Ernesto Priego’s flowing #bad12 contribution, The Power of We: Social Media as a Platform for Collegiality: “The Power of We means believing, sometimes against discouraging evidence, that there’s strength in numbers, and that collective intelligence and collaboration are quickly becoming the default mode of 21st century research.”
Last week in my undergraduate 21st Century Media class I not only challenged my students to live-tweet our class session, but I also joined them in so doing. It was an incredible success. Truly. It. Was. An. Incredible. Success. Knowing that attempts at both in-class and outside-class Twitter assignments have resulted in wildly differing outcomes (see Adeline Koh’s reflections, for instance), with some "digitally native" students disliking or even resenting the project, I started with a casual challenge, Let’s Experiment!, untethered from rubric requirements or obligatory participation, and went from there.
Challenge: Let’s Tweet!
Result: We were 9 students (7 Tweeting) and 1 instructor tweeting for 3 hours and we sent 200 (meaningful!) Tweets! You can read our Storify here: 21st Century Media, Live-tweeting class with my students
. One of my students said it was the 'best' and 'most interesting' class she'd had in 3 years!
Here’s how we got there:
The class assignment for our session last week was to 1) read the assigned readings – selections from Ian Ayres, Sandy Pentland, and Ian Foster – and 2) choose a life-logging or data-mining tool or method from the research list I’ve compiled and distributed and be prepared to present your chosen tool/method to the class. Fortunately each student is already in the practice of bringing his/her laptop to class, so I did not need to specify. Prior to class, I asked each to tell me if they had a Twitter account but I did not tell them we’d be tweeting the class.
In class, I prefaced with a bit of the following: In my experience, there are three foundational methods of learning: reading, teaching, and ‘doing’. In our 21st Century Media class, it seems ever more appropriate to appropriate ‘doing’ & ‘making’ into our course curriculum. In our unit on data-mining and life-logging this week, it seems even ever more relevant to use our 21st century media tools to learn, and to add our own data to the world as we talk about the data that we knowingly and unknowingly release via our various devices and connectivities.
And then I challenged, but did not require, them to live-tweet the class. One of my students did not have an account and another chose not to participate. The rest of us were onboard. After asking if any of the students had ever live-tweeted a class or event before (No!), I realized a bit of prefacing would be required. I gave no proper specific instructions but did give them a brief recitation of what a meaningful vs a useless Twitter act might be. For example, Tweeting ‘oh dear’ is a rather useless tweet and adds no real relevant information to the world of the digital classroom. Tweeting interesting reflections, questions, and or relevant links is a meaningful twitter act. This was key for both those new to Twitter (“I have an account but don’t use it…”) and those who use it for decidedly non-academic reasons (“I had breakfast with my mom! #yummypancakes”). I then went through a few specifics (see list below) and then we started.
My students were brilliantly savvy and were easily able to multitask – they tweeted (meaningfully!), responded to classmates’ tweets, and carried on an energetic in-class discussion all at once. My quiet-in-class students flourished in the online space. My active students expanded their vocabulary of possible participation routes. I recognize this might be a rare success but I recommend you give it a shot. I challenge you to challenge your students AND yourself to create innovative learning environments that mobilize the affordances of our contemporary networked condition. Ending again where we began, I return here again to Priego: collective intelligence and collaboration are quickly becoming the default mode of 21st century research. And teaching and learning can indeed benefit from the modes and methods of the collective – and collectively connected – We.
Important preparations and suggestions for live-tweeting class:
- I had previously chosen a hashtag that was not yet in use and wrote it on the classroom black/whiteboard. I added my own twitter name to the board and then add the names of all the other students to the board as well. With only 9 students, this was quite easy.
- Mobilize your own Twitter networks to solicit participation from those you think might add to the conversation. Announce your intentions to live-tweet along with time, topic, and hashtag to be used. We had a professor in Boston (we were in Durham, NC) and a visiting scholar from Philadelphia participating with us.
- Make sure all N00bs know how to use hashtags. Choose a hashtag that is not yet in use.
- I did not require my students to tweet nor did I ‘assign’ they do so.
- I did, however, give them a brief recitation of what a meaningful vs a useless Twitter act might be.
- Storify or otherwise archive afterward!
- Tweet with them! They loved it. And with the student-presentation + seminar conversation format worked beautifully to allow me to do so. It was remarkably seamless and it added depth, bulk, and annotation to our in-class conversation.
(Lucky) Plusses that may have facilitated our success:
- We have met as a class already sans Twitter and thus have already forged connections between us. I can see how using Twitter on day one might stunt the growth of this sort of in-class interconnected relationship.
- The class topic was especially appropriate
- The class format was especially appropriate: Each student was assigned a brief presentation on a data-mining or life-logging tool. When one student was ‘on’ the others could tweet.
- My students were brilliantly savvy and were easily able to multitask – they tweeted, responded to classmates’ tweets, and carried on an energetic in-class discussion. I know this might be a rare group.
- Each student regularly brings a laptop to class so I encountered zero tech access issues.
- Each student, save for one, already had a Twitter account. Though only a few were Tweeting with any sort of regularity.
- I had a small class. We were only 10.
- I was tweeting along with them.
- We shared links via twitter and could collectively look at websites and share information about the data-mining tools we were presenting. Example: After grabbing the web link from Twitter, one student looked at the About page for the project while another looked at the Project Theory page and both were actively telling us (in class) about what they were reading.
Again: go, do, take up the challenge: create innovative learning environments that mobilize the affordances of our contemporary networked condition and the Power of the We.
Amanda Starling Gould