I read a great article last week titled "How to Present While People are Twittering". I was reminded of it today during an email conversation with ZDNet's resident social media guru, Jennifer Leggio. We were joking about Twitter and she said,
Chris, you're becoming more obsessed with Twitter than I am. And that's sorta terrifying.
I'll admit that Twitter has certainly caught my fancy and I continue to mull over ways to integrate it into classroom settings and make it both educationally appropriate and useful. No matter what Jennifer says, however, my mere 560 followers and 1200+ updates are a far cry from her almost 9000 followers and 20,000+ updates.
Regardless of my Twitter inferiority, if we look at the tool itself, as I've noted before, it could be a viable (and even superior) tool versus interactive response systems. Where this falls apart in the traditional classroom is that students are Tweeting instead of watching the projector constantly to respond with their "clickers". Notice that I said this falls apart in a traditional classroom. It doesn't have to be a bad thing, which is where the article on presentations while people are Twittering comes into play.
As the author points out (I've cut out a bit here and taken liberties with bullets, but the text and ideas are all there),
...presenting with the back-channel is challenging. Prepare yourself for what it will be like. We’re used to having eye contact with our audience and using that eye contact and audience reaction to measure how well we’re engaging the audience. Now when you say something brilliant, instead of nods of appreciation, there will be a flurry of tapping. Here’s the positive spin:
- The typing means you’re provoking interest
- You’ll get immediate feedback
- They won’t fall asleep
The article concludes by asking an important question:
Presenting while people are twittering is challenging. But isn’t it better to get that feedback in real-time when you can do something to retrieve the situation - than wait till you read the evaluation sheets a few days after the conference - and find that you bombed?
Obviously, this is addressing a more formal presentation setting, but there is no reason not to solicit extensive and immediate feedback from students. If you're going to be greeted with a wall of laptops, then use those laptops to get students engaged rather than passively taking notes (or sending emails or surfing Facebook). The Twitter stream itself, if properly hash-tagged, will be something of a living transcript of the lecture and is easily searched later by the teacher and students.