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Moving Class Discussions to Twitter

Instead of lecturing or holding discussions in the classroom, I decided (one day a week) to move the classroom online to a social network (because duh, it’s a class about social media!)
First Twitter chat trial run in the classroom, spring 2015 at NDNU.

I’m currently teaching a social media course at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Calif. I was expecting to have nine students, so you can imagine my surprise on the first day of class when students just kept coming into the classroom. I had to move us down the hall to a bigger room! Eventually, I had 27 students enrolled in the course. Twenty-four hours after the first day of class I decided to completely re-think my syllabus.

Instead of lecturing or holding discussions in the classroom, I decided (one day a week) to move the classroom online to a social network (because duh, it’s a class about social media!)

I’ve known for awhile, the lecture-homework-test method isn’t the best way to teach. As an elective in my masters program, I decided to take a course on flipped classrooms.The flipped learning movement seems to be focused on elementary and secondary education, but there are a few instructors attempting it in higher ed (most probably don’t know that’s what it’s called).

What makes my class Twitter chat a “flipped” lesson is the fact that I gave some control over to my students. I gave them the power to decide what they wanted to learn. (I’ll post an update about the outcome when I have more data.)

This was my first attempt at applying some of the pedagogy to a real assignment in my classroom. I writing about it in hopes of getting feedback from my colleagues.

Please let me know what you think! Are you using Twitter chats in your classroom? How? DM me @Girljournalist and let’s connect and share our experiences.

Who is this designed for?

Undergraduate communication majors.
Works best with 20 or fewer students. (But I’m currently using it in a course with 27 students!)

Learning outcome: Students will master the art of communicating in realtime via social media.

Technical lessons: Students will learn how to use Twitter in a professional setting. Eg: How to properly format Tweets. How to use hashtags, RTs, MTs, replys, favorites, etc. How to follow a conversation using a hashtag.

Tools/Apps: Twitter. Hootsuite or Tweetdeck (optional). Storify

Weekly live Twitter chats

Background: I got the idea for this from the weekly #wjchat a weekly Twitter chat about web journalism started by Robert Hernandez (aka @webjournalist), Associate Professor of Professional Practice at USC.

How it works
Students break into teams of 3 and select a topic (anything related to social media). Can be anything from how to use a particular social network (eg: Snapchat), to social media 101 (eg: What are the “rules” for social media), or even a current issue or event that occurred via social media (eg: deflatergate).

*Pro Tip: The more focused the topic, the better the chat. 50 minutes isn’t a long time!

Monday: Student teams introduce their topic for Friday’s chat via a quick stand up in class.

Wednesday: Students DM me their question about the topic for Friday’s chat. (Credit/No credit. Either they submit a question or they don’t.)

Grading Criteria:
Students DM me a question about the topic. I compile the list of questions and send them to the team that’s hosting this week’s chat.

Credit – Turned in an insightful question.
No Credit – Did not turn in a question on deadline.

Friday: The discussion takes place during class time (50 -60 minutes is optimal) via a class hashtag #yourhashtag on Twitter. Students and faculty “check in” from wherever they want. (I’m often sitting out in backyard enjoying the sunshine!)

During the first 10 minutes, students check in (I make them Tweet a pic of themselves or their location) then introduce themselves to the guest(s).

For the next 30-40 minutes the host(s) post the discussin questions. Each of my 12 students will send me a question to ask you ahead of time. I will consolidate these and discard duplicates. You answer questions and students may ask follow up questions. Aka discussion time!

12:40-12:50 lightening round! The guest(s) provide their “final thoughts” on the topic and the discussion.

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