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More Professors Are Using Twitter—but Mostly Not for Teaching

Twitter is getting more popular with professors. But they’re largely using it for a purpose outside the classroom—sharing information with peers, according to a recent report about Twitter in higher education published by Faculty Focus.

Of the 1,372 people surveyed this year—the majority of them professors, but also some administrators and other college employees—35.2 percent were using Twitter. That’s a nearly 5 percent increase from 2009. The survey found that Twitter was most popular as a way for people to share information with colleagues and get news in real time. Less popular were teaching uses like communicating with students and using Twitter as a learning tool in the classroom.

The report comes as other researchers are discovering that Twitter can have classroom benefits. Reynol Junco, who studies social media as an associate professor of academic development and counseling at Lock Haven University, has found that the microblogging platform can improve student engagement. For example, students are more likely to continue discussion outside the classroom, he says, because they can log on to Twitter from their dorm rooms. With a growing number of academics on the site, he adds, students can use the network to seek their expertise.

Mr. Junco doesn’t find the study’s results discouraging. Professors, he says, have an easier time seeing how Twitter can be a useful teaching tool once they start using it to share information with peers.

And while Twitter hasn’t gained as much popularity with students as Facebook has, Mr. Junco sees that as an advantage. Twitter can become the social network they use for academic work. Before Mr. Junco started using Twitter in class, he says, hardly any of his students had Twitter accounts. “Now I hear students say, ‘Facebook is where I go to socialize, and Twitter is where I go to work,’” Mr. Junco says.

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