Moving class discussions to Twitter

Staci Baird
May 20, 2015 · 5 min read

Instead of lecturing or holding discussions in a classroom, I decided (one day a week) to move my classroom online, to a social network.

I teach social media at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Calif.

Last spring, I expected to have just nine students. So you can imagine my surprise on the first day of class when students just kept coming into the classroom. I had to move us down the hall to a bigger room! I ended up with 27 students enrolled in the course. Twenty-four hours after the first day of class, I decided to completely re-think my syllabus.

Instead of lecturing or holding discussions in the classroom, I decided (one day a week) to move the classroom online, to a social network (because duh, it’s a course about social media!)

As an elective in my masters program, I decided to take a course on flipped classrooms because I suspected the lecture-homework-test method wasn’t the best way to teach. There had to be a better way. As it turns out, there is.

The flipped learning movement seems to mostly be focused on elementary and secondary education, but there are a few instructors attempting it in higher ed (most probably don’t know that’s what it’s called).

What makes my class Twitter chat a “flipped” lesson is the fact that I gave (some) control over to my students. I gave them the power to decide what they wanted to learn. This was my first attempt at applying some of the pedagogy to a real assignment in my own classroom.

Are you using Twitter chats in your classroom? How? Let’s connect! DM me @profbaird and share your experience.

The Details

Who is this designed for?
Undergraduate communication majors
Works best with 20 or fewer students. (But I did make it work with 27 students!)

Learning outcome
Students will master the art of communicating in real-time via social media (and learn all that things that come with social media conversations.)

Technical lessons/skills
Students will learn how to use Twitter in a professional setting. Eg: How to properly format Tweets. How to use hashtags, RTs, MTs, replys, favorites, etc. How to follow a conversation using a hashtag.

Twitter. Hootsuite or Tweetdeck (optional). Storify.

Weekly live Twitter chats

I was inspired by #wjchat, a weekly Twitter chat about web journalism started by Robert Hernandez (aka @webjournalist), Associate Professor of Professional Practice at USC.

How it works
Students break into teams of three and select a topic (anything related to social media). Their topic can be anything from how to use a particular social network (eg: Snapchat), to social media 101 (eg: The “rules” for social media), or even a current issue or event that occurred via social media (eg: deflatergate).

*Pro Tip: The more focused the topic, the better the chat. 50 minutes isn’t a long time.

Wednesday (week before the chat): Student teams introduce their topic for Friday’s chat via a quick stand up in class.

Wednesday: Students DM me their question about the topic for Friday’s chat. (Credit/No credit. Either they submit a question or they don’t.)

Grading Criteria
Students DM me a question about the topic. I compile the list of questions and send them to the team that’s hosting this week’s chat.

Credit — Turned in an insightful question.
No Credit — Did not turn in a question on deadline.

Friday: The discussion takes place during class time (50 -60 minutes is optimal) via a class hashtag #yourhashtag on Twitter. Students and faculty “check in” from wherever they want. (I’m often sitting in my local Starbucks.)

During the first 10 minutes, students check in (I ask them to Tweet a pic of themselves or their location) then introduce themselves to our guest(s).

For the next 30–40 minutes the host(s) post the discussion questions.

12:40–12:50 lightening round! The guest(s) provide their “final thoughts” on the topic and the discussion.

Welcome to the first #ndnusocial. Here we go!

Grading Criteria:
A — Student Tweets photo of themself or their location and introduces themself to the guest(s). Student participates in chat: Asks insightful follow up questions, answers questions and contributes links/images/video that add to the discussion (participates during the entire 50 minute chat and contributes to the discussion at least three times). Uses class hashtag in every Tweet.

F — Student did not Tweet photo of themself or their location or introduce themself to the guest(s). Student did not meet the minimum chat participation criteria as outlined above.

*Students must participate in the chat during class time. No late Tweets are accepted.

Monday: For their follow up assignment, students create a summary of the discussion using Storify.

Grading Criteria:
Storifies are due every Monday after the live chat. (Unless your team hosted the chat.)

A — Storify includes introduction and summary about the topic. Includes at least three Tweets (but really, that is BARE MINIMUM) and at least one link to an article related to the topic. Students should use their best judgment to decide how many Tweets, links, and/or images to include to explain the concepts that were discussed.

The text should be free of grammar and punctuation errors.

The Storify reads like a paper with at least three concepts (including explanations and examples (examples should be in the form of Tweets, links, and/or images). There is a conclusion that summaries what the student learned from the discussion.

Team Grading Criteria
A — Team completes the following:

Submits topic idea on deadline (due at the beginning of the semester).

Team introduces the topic clearly explains the topic and gives classmates enough information to come up with questions. Introduction presented to class on deadline (Wednesday the week before their scheduled chat).

Team reviews all questions and picks 5 to answer during the chat. Team researches questions and creates planning notes for the live chat that includes links to examples, articles and research that helps answer the questions and further explain the topic.

Team answers follow up questions during the chat (each team member must answer at least 3 follow up questions). Planning notes submitted on deadline (Friday of their chat). Team leads follow up discussion in class the Monday following their chat.

Sample student Storify work (spring 2015)

Social Media Etiquette

Twitter and Professional Athletes

So you think you know everything about a hashtag, do you?

Modern Journalist

\mä-dərn ‘jər-nə-list\ : a person engaged in gathering…

Staci Baird

Written by

Assistant Prof of Comms @ULaVerne. Mad about metrics. Tracking & analyzing outputs, outtakes, outcomes. Student pilot. I love adventure. #prprof #jprof #edtech

Modern Journalist

\mä-dərn ‘jər-nə-list\ : a person engaged in gathering, verifying, editing, organizing and sharing useful information for a public audience; especially : one who adapts to the use of new technology to tell stories.

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