Can Twitter Improve Student Performance?

David Silver, a media studies and environmental studies professor at the University of San Francisco, required his students to sign up for a public Twitter account. His hope was that by using Twitter to announce assignments his students would create better projects and build a sense of community. Not only was Professor Silver's hunch correct, his use of Twitter also led to opportunities for cross-institutional collaboration and feedback.

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Twitter and the Classroom

Like many professors at universities, David Silver relied on course management tools such as Blackboard, a class listserv or a course blog to provide students with a forum to discuss topics and access resources. However, Silver, who was once skeptical of the public nature of social media, came to believe that the openness of Twitter and other platforms could actually benefit the quality of student work. He also thought it could create a sense of community between students.

As an attempt to incorporate Twitter into the classroom, Silver required his students to open a public Twitter account. He also asked them to tweet under their real names. Additionally, he had them check their Twitter account at least once a day. Finally, Silver tweeted the details of a project to his students. The students were required to cook a breakfast dish and document the process with a series of photos. The results of the project would then be announced by each student on Twitter and would also include the #greenmedia hashtag to make each tweet searchable.

Tasty Results

Silver found that by making his students use Twitter, their projects were of a high quality. Since the students each had a public account and tweeted using their real names, they were extremely careful about the quality of the content they made available. It was part of the public record, and Silver's students wanted to put their best foot forward. Additionally, each student's tweet not only announced their individual project but also stated an anticipation for seeing other students' work. This created a sense of community that Silver believes is severely lacking in the classroom.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a professor at San Jose State, Katherine D. Harris, heard about David Silver's project through Twitter and decided to incorporate it into her 'Food and You' class. Drawing upon this experience, Silver is now actively tweeting with professors at other universities in the hope that it will spur future collaborative projects. His hope is that the modern classroom will be more connected and provide learning experiences for students that involve cooperation and reflect the interests and desires of a diverse learning community. Given the success of his Twitter project, Silver's vision of a connected classroom through social media isn't a pipedream.

David Silver's experiment with Twitter was a success. Learn how the Rhode Island School of Design reacted to its president's stance on social media in the classroom.

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