Undergraduate Blog / First Year at Babson

Twitter and the First Year Seminar

Back in July I blogged about Twitter and the First Year of College and indicated I would try to integrate Twitter into my First Year Seminar class this fall. The goals of this experiment were to:

  1. Engage with students outside of structured classroom setting.
  2. Educate the class on contemporaray issues.
  3. Educate the students of the trends in social media in an education environment.

The following is a brief summary of my experience:

With my introductory e-mail to the class, I asked the students in my class to create a Twitter account. At our first class meeting, I explained what Twitter was all about and what my plans were for the semester. My expectations were modest, at least once a week post an update in Twitter using the #FYS1300 hash tag. There was early skepticism since many students were not familiar with Twitter and they did not necessarily make a connection to the course.

Many students tweeted throughout the semester (and are still tweeting), I would reply and retweet their posts as appropriate.  Since the class only meets once a week, it was nice to extend our informal communication via Twitter, this type of engagement would not have happened with e-mail or Blackboard. I also added a widget into the class Blackboard site that would feed tweet updates using the #FYS1300 hash tag.

We always discuss current events at the start of every class; so we used the trending topics as way to get the conversation started which turned out to be effective and fun.  In class, I also introduced various twitter applications such as Tweetdeck (great for integration of other applications), Brizzly (informative for trending topics), and Trendsmap (allows for focusing tweets in a geographic area).

I also wanted students to understand and practice the technique of “microblogging”, so every week I asked the students to write a tweet that was based on their experience from the previous week on an index card.  I collected these index cards and read through and summarized them every week.  I was able to read the students “tweets” without having used Twitter application.  This also provided me some insight as to what was going on in their world that week.

The twitter experiment was reasonably successful. Like all social media, there is a certain degree of persistence that is required to make this a useful exercise. I reminded them in class every week and sent a follow up e-mail reminding them to post an update in Twitter. Hopefully the students who warmed up to Twitter will continue to use the application and our engagement can continue beyond the formal class.

I will continue to follow the evolution of Twitter and monitor how other colleges are using Twitter in the classroom. I anticipate expanding the use of Twitter next year. If you are in the Babson class of 2014, get your Twitter account ready if you are in my class!