In 140 Characters or Less…

As the CTL Blog takes shape and gains in popularity, I will be inviting guest bloggers to join the party. This week, help me welcome Deb Armstrong, Assistant Director of the CTL, as she shares some interesting thoughts on the Internet’s latest superstar. We are, of course, talking about Twitter! You may be surprised to learn that Twitter has a number of educational uses. When a website’s name becomes a verb (as Google did), you KNOW it’s time to take notice! Do you “tweet?”

Is it true that we don’t deeply understand something until we can explain it succinctly? If so, Twitter is a great tool to help students summarize and share concepts, theories, and even stories in your discipline. Consider this: In early 2009, subscribers to Twitter (the microblogging tool that supports quick-hit communication in 140 characters or less) were challenged to summarize Shakespeare’s plays in Tweets…

The results may not pass muster for an essay question on an exam, but the writers had to demonstrate a good grasp of the story lines and carefully select language that would give them the “biggest bang for their buck.” Here’s the Tweet synopsis of Shakespeare’s Richard III: Edward IV dies, a caricatured villain usurps, murders innocents, & dies on a battlefield in sore need of a horse. The Tudors win. The Hamlet Tweet goes like this: Mommy issues are just the beginning for a prince with a murdered father and new Uncle/Step-dad. Most everybody ends up dead. The summaries might function as the beginning of a whole-class discussion on story plot or character development.

Here are some other ideas: Tweet a fictitious conversation between several characters on a specific topic. For example a three-way discussion on the nature of democracy between a president, a senator, and a supreme court justice. You could use Twitter to bring the Minute Paper into the 21st century! About mid-way through your class, ask students to Tweet their questions about the content you’ve been discussing, then address the most common questions.

So, what concepts do your students struggle with and how might summarizing those concepts help students’ understanding? What disciplines might not be suited to this mode of communication? Tell us what YOU think in the comment area below!

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