Today's Lesson Plan: Twitter

While most students took a welcome break from school this summer, chances are they didn’t do the same when it comes to social media.  As students return to classes, teachers can help them dust off their thinking caps by leveraging their appetite for social media to enhance learning.   

Hundreds of excited literary authors use Twitter to engage with readers, making it the go to place for students to tap into some of the great minds they’re studying in their classes. It is an ideal platform to help students understand the process of mediated communication and dissolve classroom boundaries, said Dr. Mary Chayko, lecturer at Rutgers University's School of Communication and Information and, beginning in January 2014, the school's director of Interdisciplinary Studies.  

Dr. Chayko teaches courses such as Mediated Communication in Society, The Structure of Information and Leadership in Digital Contexts where she allows students to follow her Twitter handle, and the Twitter handles of course authors. Once connections are made, she initiates question-and-answer tweet sessions to spark critical thinking regarding the selected texts. “The authors seem to enjoy this because they get direct feedback from those who are using their work in an academic setting, and the students appreciate the answers to their questions,” Chayko said. 

Extending the use of Twitter even further, Chayko encourages real-time note taking by asking her students to live-tweet her classroom lectures. Many of her students tweet quick summaries about class videos, lecture responses, and even continue to ask questions after class. “When students’ minds wander, they can turn to twitter and remain engaged with the class, rather than disengaging altogether,” she said. “They also appreciate being on their devices instead of being forced to put them away, and seem intrigued by having their technology use incorporated into the classroom.”

Twitter makes it easy for students to network and learn with a larger audience. She said some hashtags, such as #com432 and #com152 help catch the attention of some true scholars.

Whether it’s summer recess, winter or spring break – social media can keep students in sync with course content and learning beyond the timetable of the academic calendar.