A recent study by Dr. Reynol Junco published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning examines the growing usage of social media amongst students and its effect on engagement and grades. The report details the semester-long study of a first-year seminar class for pre-health professional majors at Lock Haven University, where an experimental group using Twitter for class was pitted against a control group using a Ning message board. Basically, you know how this ends: the tweeters ended up with far better grades and were more engaged than the non-tweeters.
The study highlighted several implications for leveraging Twitter as a part of the classroom learning experience:
- Student-faculty contact was improved
- Students became more cooperative and helped each other out with class material.
- Twitter extended the class discussion beyond the classroom and helped to build a strong learning community
- Twitter provided prompt feedback for questions related to assignments and issues students faced
As a student myself, technology has established a growing presence in class. Last quarter I was required to participate in an online forum setup by one of my professors. While it didn’t provide the same immediacy that Twitter offers, it gave me a place for me to interact with other students in my class, asking questions about assignments, exams, and projects. In my previous classes, without the aid of any forum, contacting the professor or the TA for help was a long-shot considering that 200+ other students were probably doing the same thing.
Whether it is another budget cut or a reluctance to change, education systems in the many countries are badly in need of a shot in the arm. Technologies like Twitter promotes collaboration and sharing, and should become a regular part of classroom participation.