As a Millennial now teaching Millennials, I initially found myself trying to incorporate technology into the classroom simply for the sake of relevance. Incorporating Twitter into my first-year English courses has been one of the biggest undertakings of new media of my teaching career so far. This began as a way to connect with the students on their terms–to show them that they can blend the “academic” & “social” worlds. And I admit, it had a “cool” factor to it.
In fact, I probably relied on the relevance and “cool factor” to carry the project, but they soon wore off for most students, and unfortunately, I’d not added much more depth to the use of this technology. In fact, the discussion questions that I assigned students could have been completed on pen and paper to be handed in each class. I’d essentially ignored cautions such as Jennifer Swartz’s that “We have to make sure our use of multimedia is not simply technology for technology’s sake.”
So, I’ve made some changes this semester that come from both theory and the practice of using Twitter last semester. In fact, I’ve inserted a “rationale” on the Twitter assignment guidelines this semester that reads:
We’re using Twitter to help us be intentional about our communication in new media. Twitter—and social media in general—is a unique rhetorical space that deserves more than just passive attention. We’ll make use of this new media form as a method of collaborative learning and sharing, and we’ll also do a bit of rhetorical analysis of the medium itself.
I’ve decided to flesh out this intentionality in two ways: rhetorical analysis & collaboration.
I expect that examining any of the elements above will be contentious and difficult to pinpoint for a medium such as Twitter. For example, if one’s Twitter is not set to private, the audience could be anyone with access to a computer. The question of who they are as writers in relation to the subject matter and audience get even trickier, especially considering the blending of in-class and online identity formation.
By making such analysis more intentional, I expect students to see writing as more than just something they do the night before a rough draft or final copy of an essay is due. Learning to write in this medium and think rhetorically about it could serve them well in similar forums.
As I mentioned in my recap post of the Twitter experiment, my idealistic notion of having students conversing via Twitter about academic content was misguided. Most would answer the response questions, but none would ever interact with someone else’s responses. It’s possible that this never happened because I never made this an intentional part of the assignment.
For the next semester, I’ve designed intentional collaboration as part of the Twitter Experiment. We do a lot of collaborating in class, but perhaps realizing the benefits of collaboration in this format will have an even more meaningful impact. So far, this requirement has been working well, as students are heeding my warning to avoid the trite “I agree” replies.
As promised in my previous post about Twitter in my courses, I’ll keep the blog updated on any breaking developments and especially of the semester-end recap & student survey on use. Here’s to hoping innovation works the way I’d like for it to!
Swartz, Jennifer. “MySpace, Facebook, and Multimodal Literacy in the Writing Classroom.” Kairos: Praxis Wiki. 10 December 2011. Web. 3 January 2013.
The full assignment guidelines are here.