I've been rediscovering Twitter lately, adding more users that I follow and generally feeding my growing fascination with social media. Other educators have also been exploring its utility in and out of the classroom. According to a post on Ars Technica, some are finding that they can reinforce classroom experiences and enhance connections between classmates and instructors with Twitter:
As an experiment, [Dave Parry] made Twitter a class assignment and got his students to engage in microblogging as homework. He observed how Twitter became the link that connected conversations inside and out of class. "Because the students had the shared classroom experience, when something came up outside of class that reminded them of material from class time, it often got twittered," he notes. "This served as a reinforcement/connection between the material and the 'real world.'" He also discovered that it changed classroom dynamics in a positive way, encouraging more respectful and productive interaction between students by turning the class into a community.
Parry posted several additional thoughts here on so-called microblogging services in the classroom and followed up recently with another article elaborating on its use. While he provides a fairly lengthy discussion, he concludes by noting,
Some critics have suggested that this could get overwhelming, 50 students a class twittering, or a student twittering for three different classes. Maybe, but since I see its use for building a community of learners across classroom spaces I think some of this “large network” might be a positive thing, and for now at least I really don’t see so many professors using it that it gets too noisy. Others have suggested that this just illustrates a problem in our society whereby we replace face-to-face communication with mediated communication. Two things, first I often use Twitter to foster face-to-face communication, and second there is no such thing as none [sic] mediated communication (even face-to-face is mediated). As I have pointed out on multiple occasions, I find that some students have actually increased their participation in class, once we began using Twitter.
Of course, at many secondary schools, cell phones are banned, so in-class uses would be limited. However, I could certainly imagine my physics class tweeting like mad as they ponder over homework sets in the evening. I'll give it a shot and report back.