A Framework for Teaching with Twitter

Twitter screen shotFaculty are increasingly experimenting with social media, and it’s exciting to find more and more courses incorporating Twitter, a ProfHacker favorite. Just last week on ProfHacker Ryan provided an excellent introduction to Twitter, while earlier in the summer Brian reflected on his use of Twitter in the classroom during Spring 2010. As we gear up for the Fall 2010 semester, I wanted to revisit the idea of teaching with Twitter.

I’ll address my own pedagogical use of Twitter in a future ProfHacker post, but for today I want to share a general framework for Twitter adoption in the classroom, originally sketched out in late August 2009 by Rick Reo. Rick is an instructional designer at George Mason University, and he’d been keeping tabs on the different ways instructors were using Twitter in their teaching. Rick sent a draft of this adoption matrix to the university’s Teaching with Technology listserv, and I soon began trying to situate my own Twitter use on the chart.

In the process, I adapted Rick’s original matrix, re-imagining the vertical axis as a spectrum of conversation, ranging from monologic to dialogic, and redefining the horizontal axis as a measurement of student activity, ranging from passive to active. After some other changes based on my experience with Twitter, I ended up with this revised Twitter Adoption Matrix (larger image):

Twitter Adoption Matrix

Even a cursory glance at the matrix reveals the myriad ways Twitter might be an effective tool in and outside of your classroom. It can be an effective one-way communication tool for sharing news or broadcasting links over the weekend. Or it can be used in class itself as a two-way backchannel. Or try Twitter as a platform for reflective thinking, asking students at the end of class to sum up the most valuable lesson of the day. In my experience, having only 140 characters to do so will actually make it much more likely the students give a concise and focused reflection, rather than some canned response they think you want to hear.

One point I’d like to emphasize with this matrix is that there is no single right way to teach with Twitter. And there’s no wrong way either. You don’t even have to use Twitter with the same rhythm or intent over the span of the semester; you can range across the passive-active and monologic-dialogic axes as it makes sense for your and your students’ needs.

How about you? If you teach with Twitter, where do you and your students fall on the Twitter Adoption Matrix? If you’re thinking about trying Twitter with your students this fall, what aspects of this framework sound most promising? And what’s missing here? Are there ways you’d change this framework based on your own experience?

Let us know in the comments, or even reply to us on Twitter itself!

[Twitter Adoption Matrix conceived by Rick Reo and revised by Mark Sample]

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