Charlotte Observer: Queens Professor asks class to tweet

Article reprinted from The Charlotte Observer
April 5, 2010

Eric Frazier
Social Media Columnist

Last week, Queens University professor John McArthur committed what some in his line of work would consider sacrilege.

He used precious lecture time in his communications seminar to let kids – avert your eyes, academic traditionalists – go on Twitter.

He wasn’t buying time to grade papers. He was conducting an academic experiment, testing the belief among some educators that Twitter can be a force for educational good.

Nonsense, traditionalists say. It’s a brain-corroding digital echo chamber.

Not necessarily, says McArthur. Used properly, he says, it can become an interactive note-taking system, one that also allows students to discuss the subject matter and compare notes in real time.

His class makes a good lab for such an experiment, since it studies the use of social networks. He took one session to explore the question of whether Twitter should be used in classrooms. He used a hashtag (#comm360) to funnel students’ tweets into one place, then flashed them up on an overhead projector to make sure everyone could follow the digital discussion.

He invited other students and faculty from around the country to participate. Twitterers from Georgia, Maryland and Virginia joined in. McArthur said one student was re-tweeted by three others whose combined Twitter streams reach more than 12,000 people.

What did the class conclude from the experiment? The consensus seemed to be that while Twitter can be distracting and even addictive outside of class, when harnessed inside class it can deepen collaboration and allow shy students to join in more freely.

Tweeted one: “Wish Twitter could do my homework for me too …”

Read more at the Charlotte Observer


  1. This is very true. As a student in Dr. McArthur’s Comm306 class, when he told us that we needed to create a Twitter account for a lab assignment and post for a week, I was upset to say the least. I never understood the fascination behind twitter, but looking back now, I never gave it a chance. Twitter, for me is now a way to communicate with those that I would never normally communicate with. I can follow celebrities and listen to their thoughts as if I were with them, or I can share communication ideas with fellow classmates. Twitter and other social networks are helping change the field of public relations and integrated strategic communication.

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