Finding Sanity in the Madness

Exploring Social Media

AA #4: Twitter, Students, Learning April 23, 2011

Filed under: Article Review,Research,Social Media — karch10k @ 8:45 pm
Tags: , , ,

This article analysis will be focused on a paper I decided to read into due to it being directly related to our current Tech621 class, as well as a topic we have lightly discussed in the class.

Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2011). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 119-132. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00387.x
The Purpose:

The purpose of this particular paper is to study and determine if Twitter has a significant effect on student interaction, engagement, and achievement (grades). I liked the reasoning they chose for this article, and some of the justifications for choosing Twitter as the channel of choice.
  • The course the researchers chose to use only met once per week for an hour, so Twitter was a good candidate due to being able to quickly and easily be a medium where students could continue the conversation from the single class they had each week
  • More introverted students are able to ask questions outside of class they might not have in front of everyone else. I think this is a true advantage of this technology, as I know many people who have this issue.
  • Helped students become more familiar and comfortable with each other. I feel that during our course this semester, communication on blogs as well as Twitter helped to hasten the familiarity process that happens in any class where you are required to share out loud in front of the class. It is a stress reducer.
These are just a few of the listed reasons, but the ones I felt I most personally could associate with.
The Study:
The study encompassed seven different sections of a first year seminar class for pre-health professional majors. There were 132 students who participated in total, and 125 of them ended up taking the pre-test survey (91% caucasian, 6% latino, 3% native american).  The median age of the participants was about 18 years old. It is also interesting to note that none of the participants had ever used Twitter before.
There was a pre and post test, as well as a control group. After two weeks in the course, the students were divided up. Some of them received a one hour long crash course in Twitter, whereas the others experienced the class as normal. The study lasted for 14 weeks.
The Findings:
There were interesting findings in this article, but many of them I expected (I suppose I have a bit of an insight on using Twitter in the classroom). Some of the more interesting findings were dealing with the participation.
  • In terms of student participation, it was very easy for an instructor to sort of lead the students to begin a study group using Twitter, and after the initial help, students continued to form study groups without the push from the professor.
  • Students scored much higher in engagement while using Twitter than not utilizing it: Tweeting each other, talking online, and continuing conversations.
  • Twitter promoted experience sharing and learning in the classroom. It allowed them to easily discuss and talk about how issues in the course related to their real life experiences.
  • Study also shows a positive correlation on use of Twitter in the classroom and the grades of the students.
Thoughts:
I thought this paper was interesting, but I also feel like it was predictable. Maybe it is simply because we have been using Twitter in the course and I have direct experience with it. It has been a positive experience for me, so I hypothesized a couple of their findings before I even read the paper. I think papers like this are needed. When I tell people what I am interested in for research, and I mention social media, they sort of scoff at me, disregarding any potential use of Facebook or Twitter research. Studies like this has real use and will be important in the evolution of how education works.
A final thought is about future research, or even future implementation. The ideas behind this paper are the backbone of our course. Collaborate, communicate, and engage with fellow students online to further education in a particular field. While we are doing it to “dive into” social media and experience it first hand, you could employ this tactic into almost any subject. I would guess to say that in any major academic field, one could find people in that field Tweeting about their research, and communicating results, articles, findings, etc. I think Twitter has some very real uses and should be encouraged to be used in the classroom, no matter what field or subject area.
I also find it strange to feel about Twitter in the way I do. I was one of “those people” who began this course thinking Twitter was nothing but a stupid means of a status update. Boy was I wrong. I legitimately enjoy using Twitter as a means to touch base and stay in touch with certain individuals. It is to the point where I am all but ignoring Facebook and only being on Twitter. Hopefully in the near future, there will be more professors and other educators waking up to the realization that social media can vastly improve education.
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One Response to “AA #4: Twitter, Students, Learning”

  1. msvanessab Says:

    I agree with you that social media can and will improve education, but at the same time it’s a matter of interpretation. As long as it holds that negative light above it (regardless of how much research is done), it won’t make nay moves in any particular directions. Likewise, it isn’t helping when popular trends on it are things like Charlie Sheen, some random hash tag someone made, or it tries to ballpark what you could be interested in and misses the mark horribly.

    I’m not trying to sound overly pessimistic, but it’s how I view it. I’ve been saying for a while FB could be used for educational purposes. However, we need to drop that label that it’s just for friends to hang out, cuss at each other, and make plans for the weekend. Every time I’ve seen something class related on it, it either dies shortly after or is met with gripes from students who feel ‘they’re being forced to use Facebook for class’, and thus generates the opposite of the desired response.


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