Article reprinted from The Charlotte Observer
April 5, 2010
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 …”