Twittering in class, what’s the big deal?

by | Thursday, April 09, 2009

Noah Ullman just forwarded me this story in the The Chronicle of Higher Education titled Professor encourages students to pass notes during class via twitter. It is amazing to me that this merited being called news. If you have been following this blog you know that this is something I have been playing with for a while (in fact based on a suggestion made by Noah). For the record, here are some links to what I had written: Microblogging in the classroom & Microblogging in the classroom II. In fact one of my students even tried it out in an undergraduate course he was teaching that semester.

I see this as a way of fruitfully utilizing the fact that all my students bring laptops to the classroom (something I have written about here and here)… seems a better solution than having them just check email or update their facebook status 🙂

It seems to me that the story didn’t speak to one critical aspect of micro-blogging, how is the twitter feed brought back into the classroom discussion. The problem is that the microblogging tends to exist in a separate “space” from what the class is doing – and coming up with strategies for integrating these two spaces (the face to face AND the microblogging) is what is key. Finding the right balance is is something we struggled with in our experiments. One thing we learned, no big surprise here, is that context matters. A tool that works one way in a doctoral seminar with a dozen or so participants works very differently in an undergraduate class with twice that number of students.

Figuring out the parameters within which these new technologies and tools can be used is what we need to pay attention to. More often than not the discussion is restricted to the “tool” not its pedagogic application. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the comments that follow the Chronicle article. Take a look at them, they tend to follow the time honored rules of talking at cross purposes, with some of the silly comments that, sadly, characterize internet discourse.

A few randomly selected blog posts…

Visualizing feeds

Sean Nash of Nashworld (recognizing a fellow data visualization junkie in me) had sent me this link a while ago ... but I just got around to it today. Check out FeedVis. So what does FeedVis do - think of it as a tag-cloud generator on steroids. Lots of fun there -...

The media debate, politically speaking

There is a recurring debate in the ed-tech community about if media make a difference. One argument is that media is akin to a conveyance system bringing in supplies (content). At some level it doesn't matter if the content is brought by a truck or a train, a bullock...

New presentation tool

Todd Edwards at Miami University just told me about this new presentation tool called Prezi.... You have to see it to believe it. Just amazing. Check it out at

TPACK in the SAGE Encyclopedia of Ed Tech

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Technology, edited by Dr. Michael Spector just got published. We have one article in it on (no surprise there) TPACK! Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2015). TPACK (technological pedagogical content knowledge). In J. Spector (Ed.),...

Open source conferencing

Just found out about Dimdim (bad name!) from Manas Chakrabarti's blog, At Any Rate. Dimdim is an opensource, free web conferencing service where you can share your desktop, show slides, collaborate, chat, talk and broadcast via webcam with absolutely no download...

The joy of learning: Of fire and trees and Dr. Feynman

Trees are some of the largest living things in the world. They can weigh tons. For instance the  One Oak Tree project measured and weighed a 222 year old Oak tree - and it's weight was 14.4 Tonnes (3.86 tonnes of which was dry weight). That's a lot of stuff! And this...

The process of design: A quote

The process of design: A quote

I have been a huge fan of Bill Atkinson, creator of MacPaint, one of the key players in developing the GUI for the original Macintosh including coming up with things as the double-click, the menu bar, marquee selection and lots of interface ideas we...

The making of “Editing is Cool”

I had posted about this really cool video I recently found (see Life is about editing). Behold my surprise when one of the comments on the blog was from none other than Allee Willis (see her wikipedia page here, and personal website here). It was just great to hear...

June 18 or June 25, 1178?

In my summer teaching I often start the day with some examples of interesting things that happened that day in history. It is a fun way to start the day, and I seek to find examples that connect with things/issues we are covering in class, often related to technology,...


  1. Mary Brown

    you always have your own unique view on things! Congratz!!!

  2. Aroutis

    I asked my self the same question….whats the big deal? Last summer 2008, Jim Reineke ( and I taught a masters course in educational technology and used twitter as one of several technologies to help in teaching the course and doing assignments.

    The University of Phoenix online announced about three weeks ago that they may have courses that are taught entirely using twitter.

    I think someone on the order like Al Gore is needed to publicize TPACK. Someone outside of academia with some star power (Bill Gates, etc.) because within academia one would look like a cheerleader and probably lose credibility. This is necessary because people would become familiar with TPACK and understand that any technology can be a learning technology depending how it is creatively re-purposed or designed considering pedagogy and content within a particular context.

  3. Punya Mishra

    Thanks Matt for your comments. A couple of other postings allude to similar ideas as well (see the guest posting on Nashworld, as well as the previous one on Translating French Lieutenant’s Woman for some more thoughts on these complex issues).

  4. Matt T.

    Well said, Punya. I previously cringed when I read about topics such as “Top 10 ways to use cell phones in the classroom” or “What do you think about using XYZ application in education?” Your TPACK framework, as we’ve discussed several times previously, has provided me with a framework to think about connecting technology tools with teaching. In response to the above-mentioned questions, my response now tends to be something like “who are your students? What concept are you teaching? What pedagogy might enable you be better teach that concept to your intended audience?”…and then “Does this particularly technology tool enable you to better teach that concept using the identified pedagogy?” Finding the middle of the Venn diagram takes knowledge in all three areas (and much thought/time as well!). As always, thanks for your insightful post.



  1. video phones - video phones... you got some good points, but i'm not really convinced of this. and i got to much confusion…

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