Below you'll find a list of tips on using mobile devices to enhance communication in class. Specific advice on using Twitter in the classroom:
Using communicative or social technology without structure can quickly escalate into unproductive class time. Provide definite boundaries and rules for it’s use to ensure students know how and when it’s appropriate.
Communicative or social technology can often be exciting to use but may become distracting if ignored as a force all it’s own. Consider using strategies that help hone attention on you, the instructor, rather than the digital conversations which may be happening while in class. For example, realize the potency of a projected screen displaying a Twitter feed. The screen could usurp attention away from instruction you might want to provide.
Some students may choose not to be identified online. Make sure you outline that they may have a non-identifying username or call sign but that you need to be notified on which one is theirs. In this manner a student can feel more protected in asking or answering questions without the added stress of embarrassment. Remember, this is a FERPA issue.
Similar to in-class clicker use, a common strategy involves letting students ask or answer questions using communicative technology. Using this technique provides students additional routes of input that normally aren’t addressed via hand-raising or calling out loud. As an added benefit it also allows you to provide some anonymity for your students, which may contribute to more fluid conversation without embarrassment.
Unless you’re supplying them, not everyone will have the same device. Even if they do, there’s little chance they’ll all be completely compatible with each other. Try to strike a balance with apps or features that are readily available across multiple platforms. For instance, Google Voice has apps available for iOS and Android, but also can be accessed over any web browser.
Try not to spend too much time on setup in-class. This can waste valuable time - especially for those who might already have or be familiar with what you’re wanting to use. Write up or point to already existing documentation on setting up the app or service for particular devices. This may not eliminate all problems, but is likely to lessen the time spent on getting to actual course content.
Whether it’s because the internet is down or a mobile device is broken, always have a non-technical backup plan. Technology is always improving but there are still times we need to be prepared to teach without it. Ensure you don’t lose a class time by having a backup plan in your pocket just in case.
Some students may feel that using a particular app, service, or device is legitimately objectionable. Most of the time it is within their right to do so - you cannot force them to use something which isn’t required for the course upfront. For these cases be sure you have a suitable alternative which will engage them on a similar level.
When considering student motivation for mobile communication in class, try not to be too particular. For instance, with Twitter grading per tweet could become cumbersome to track for both you and the students. By the same token, don’t be too lenient either. Try to strike a balance that urges quality interaction at an acceptable rate.
Opening up new lines of communications can be empowering for students - sometimes so much so they forget their responsibility to behave politely as a member of the academic institution. Be sure to include statements about their safety, privacy, and for all behaviors online.
Below you'll find a list of tips on using mobile devices to enhance communication in class.
Specific advice on using Twitter in the classroom: