Livetweeting Classes: Some Suggested Guidelines

livetweeting1At ProfHacker, we’ve written a lot about using Twitter in the classroom. Mark has written a framework for teaching with Twitter; Ryan about disposable Twitter accounts for classroom use; Erin on choosing hashtags. I’ve used Twitter in the classroom for some pretty successful assignments; particularly in the case of live tweeting films (see one of my previous assignments here). Unlike the typical passive viewing sessions, live tweeting allows instructors to directly engage in the student’s learning, by directing attention to issues that they might otherwise miss.

This semester, I’m teaching a graduate seminar in the digital humanities, and one of the assignments for the semester is for students to live tweet the class and to later storify the tweets as notes. I’ve decided to implement this assignment for two reasons: (1) to provide some kind of a backchannel for more quiet students to participate, and (2) to encourage a public dimension to my students’ learning. After writing up the assignment, I did some searching for best practices of live tweeting events to help my students out, but didn’t find much that would be directly pertinent to what they needed. This post is the result. Effectively live-tweeting an event to take notes is a little different from how one would approach live-tweeting an event simply to participate. I list some ideas for best practices for live-tweeting for note taking below:

  1. Use the class hashtag. This helps in collecting tweets later on in services like Storify. Storified tweets can serve as a useful collection of notes for class once it has concluded.

  2. Focus the majority of tweets on reporting what was said. When live tweeting an event, I prefer to focus the majority of my attentions on trying my best to accurately reproduce the discussion. This helps provide an insight into the meeting for people not present. It also serves as a focusing exercise for me to see if I really understood what was being said.

  3. Retweet and favorite tweets by others that are useful. This helps users to get a sense of what the most compelling interpretations of classroom discussion are.

  4. If students notice important questions being asked on the Twitter backchannel, tell them to bring them to the attention of the instructor. A backchannel can be a very useful space to discuss issues which quieter students might be uncomfortable raising in face to face discussion. I’ve had more outgoing students comment in classes with an active backchannel that they are often surprised by how some of their more reserved classmates are so witty and intelligent on Twitter, and how they wished they would speak up more in a face to face setting. A backchannel, when done well, can encourage a new point of contact for interaction and engagement.

  5. Don’t have the Tweetstream running live on a projection screen. I’ve tried it both ways—having the Tweetstream run on a screen that everyone can see, versus on students’ devices. The former is ultimately distracting for participants, who tend to focus more on the screen than the in-person discussions. Having the backchannel show up on personal devices, on the other hand, adds to the effect of creating another outlet for discussion that does not overpower the face to face setting.

What advice would you give to instructors or students wishing to implement live tweeting in their classrooms? Please share in the comments below.

Image credit: John Dalton (varrqnuht) on Flickr

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