Using Twitter to Promote Inclusive Learning

inclusive teaching banner_FINALby Gina Merys, Associate Director, Reinert Center

While it is easy to think of social media as a place for non-academic conversations or short bursts of impulsive prose, using social media can also be a way to link students’ experiences out of the classroom with what they are learning in the classroom. Not only can this kind of practice help students see their learning as applicable beyond a discrete classroom assignment, but also it can support inclusion in a course.

In the past few years we have seen increasing attention given to the concepts of “introversion” and “extraversion” and how the associated personality traits may put a student at an advantage or disadvantage in the current U.S. American educational model. Additionally, we know that international students and multilingual students often display traits similar to those of introverts when in a classroom situation due to a variety of situational factors such as language fluency and cultural norms for participation. Turning to the use of social media to create structured assignments opens the possibility for students to engage with course material and each other in ways that are fundamentally different than interactions inside of the classroom.

Asking students to post specific insights, experiences, and observations to a social media platform such as Twitter is one example of a class assignment that can achieve the goals of learning class material and connecting it to something in daily life outside of the classroom, while also creating an inclusive avenue for that learning. In a rhetoric of social justice course, for instance, I have asked students to post observations, images, video clips, brief transcripts of overheard conversations, and the like using a shared hashtag on Twitter. They learn to apply the lessons of rhetorical awareness (identifying the rhetorical methods, applying knowledge to a new situation, analyzing the message, making conclusions, etc.) to authentic messages about social justice they encounter as they live their life. At the same time, those students who do not generally participate in the classroom through oral responses and questions have the ability to do so through an outlet that allows them to take time composing, and even revising, their thoughts. Because it is an activity that clearly links to the learning objectives of my class as well as the goals of engagement with materials and classmates, students take it seriously and gain from the experience in ways that are clear in other assessments later in the term.

This type of class assignment is easily adapted to other disciplines, lessons, and situations. In a plant science course, students could tweet photos of moss; or, in a calculus class, students could tweet examples of formula application. Other social media platforms, including a simple discussion board or blog post within a Course Management System, such as Blackboard could be substituted as well. As long as the formula (course material + learning objective + real world) matches the social media platform used, the discipline or lesson is nearly infinitely interchangeable.

If you would like to discuss ideas for inclusive teaching using social media for your classes, contact the Reinert Center (cttl@slu.edu).

Sources:

Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Broadway Books, 2013.

Carroll, Judith and Janette Ryan. Teaching International Students: Improving Learning for All.        Routledge, 2007.

Godsey, Michael. “When Schools Overlook Introverts.” The Atlantic. Sept. 28, 2015.

This blog post is part of the Reinert Center’s 2016-2017 focus on Inclusive Teaching. To learn more about the year’s theme, and about programs and resources associated with it, see our webpage on Inclusive Teaching [LINK]. To talk with someone about how you can design and teach courses in more inclusive ways, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.

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