Speaking Up in Class, Silently, Using Social Media

[The running online commentary]…instead of being a distraction ”” an electronic version of note-passing ”” the chatter echoed and fed into the main discourse, said Mrs. [Erin] Olson, who monitored the stream and tried to absorb it into the lesson. She and others say social media, once kept outside the school door, can entice students who rarely raise a hand to express themselves via a medium they find as natural as breathing.

“When we have class discussions, I don’t really feel the need to speak up or anything,” said one of her students, Justin Lansink, 17. “When you type something down, it’s a lot easier to say what I feel.”

With Twitter and other microblogging platforms, teachers from elementary schools to universities are setting up what is known as a “backchannel” in their classes. The real-time digital streams allow students to comment, pose questions (answered either by one another or the teacher) and shed inhibitions about voicing opinions. Perhaps most importantly, if they are texting on-task, they are less likely to be texting about something else.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Education, Psychology, Science & Technology

2 comments on “Speaking Up in Class, Silently, Using Social Media

  1. Teatime2 says:

    Great — another way to discourage necessary social skills. It is important for students to become well-spoken and assertive — not hide behind electronic devices.

    Do the teachers buying into this really think that they’re doing the kids any favors here? What happens when they go for job interviews or need to ask questions or for help in the real world?

  2. David Hein says:

    Teatime2: you’re right.

    “Before Hot Seat, ‘I could never get people to speak up,’ Professor Chakravarty said. ‘Everybody’s intimidated.’”

    Well then, Professor, you need to think smarter and work harder. In one of my undergraduate classes this past semester, students had to write abstracts of the readings. Believe me: when I asked a question, I got responses. If I did not get responses, I’d just go down my list: “Judy, what did you think of _______?” They have to respond. I make it clear on Day One that this class has only four goals: Reading, Writing, Thinking, and Speaking. Not nec’ly in that order. Students have got to learn to read, think, and speak coherently, as well as read, think, and write coherently. I tell them directly what, yes, most of us did not have to be told: You will be working in a job one day in a small group or a committee or a task force and your ability to analyze the problem quickly and to respond with good solutions will make all the difference–to the success of your company in general, to your success as an employee in particular. Gracious. They already know how to voice their groundless opinions on Facebook. I am interested in their grounded arguments and supported positions, which they bring to the Magic Circle of class discussion. And, yes, please no more distractions. I am banning all electronic gizmos from class from now on. I want teacher, book, chalk, students, table, blackboard. The students’ real need these days is to learn how to concentrate and do one thing well. They already know how to multitask and do many things badly.

    “’It’s clear to me,’ he added, ‘that absent this kind of social media interaction, there are things students think about that normally they’d never say.’”

    Yes, I’m sure. And I generally don’t want to hear them.

    “But the technology has been slow to win over faculty. It was used in just 12 courses this spring.”

    Right–for good reason. This is an idea that has won great favor with administrators and donors, not with those of us in the trenches trying to teach college students who don’t know how to write a term paper after all these years.

    “Sandra Sydnor-Bousso, a professor of hospitality and tourism management, said Hot Seat did not mesh well with her style of walking around class to encourage a dialogue. ‘The last thing I want to do is to give them yet another way to distract themselves.'”

    Sounds like she knows what she’s doing and how to make a real connection.

    It is much easier for a student to hide behind a laptop than to hide behind a paperback text. Much of education is about learning to stay on task to completion. In fact, more and more that’s what separates the achievers from the non-achievers. I suspect that many administrators who favor this idea were not able to stay on task long enough or think well enough to write a scholarly book or complete a first-rate article; so they realized they had to step down to administration.