10 Ways Twitter Is Reinventing the College Lecture

by Staff Writers

Gone is the time when PowerPoint was the most impressive communication technology in the lecture hall. These days, students and professors enjoy the power of Twitter, a tool that allows for digital discussions to supplement and even guide lecture sessions. So how exactly is Twitter changing the college lecture as we know it? Read on to find out about 10 different ways.

  1. Mobile devices are welcome in the lecture hall once again:

    Not long ago, cell phones were met with intense hatred in the lecture hall, villainized as noisy distractions. But using Twitter in the college lecture hall has turned these mobile distractions into a learning tool, offering students a way to use their cell phones productively in class.

  2. Lectures become a conversation:

    Without Twitter, lectures are often a one-way street, with professors lecturing for about an hour, mostly uninterrupted. It's difficult to get students to speak up in a huge lecture format, but not so with Twitter. With Twitter in the lecture hall, more students tend to not only participate in the primary discussion with the professor, but even spin off into their own intellectual conversations with classmates. This turns the one-sided lecture into a multifaceted conversation for the class.

  3. Bashful students are speaking up:

    Thanks to Twitter, students who might be afraid to raise their hands and speak up in a large lecture hall are given a less socially intimidating way to contribute. Students who would have remained quiet can now share their ideas, explore the conversation, and become more engaged in class without feeling intimidated.

  4. More students get connected in large lectures:

    In a large lecture hall, chances are good that most students don't know who all of their classmates are. They might recognize them, but it's not likely they know their names or have connected with them in any way. But using Twitter in the lecture hall, students can connect with classmates without regard to distance and unfamiliarity. This allows students to enjoy a better conversation, and even get to know more of their classmates.

  5. Students stay engaged beyond the lecture:

    Lecturers like David Parry, a professor of emerging media at UT-Dallas, find that using Twitter in the lecture hall helps them to stay connected with students long after class time is over. As students follow professors like Parry on Twitter, they are able to further engage outside of class time, alerting them to world events, issues, and interesting articles that are relevant to class.

  6. Dorm discussions don't happen as much anymore, and that's OK:

    In decades past, students would gather in dorms to discuss and share ideas, but now that many students are moving out of dorms, and working jobs, there's not much opportunity for these discussions anymore. But with Twitter, the dorm discussions go online, allowing even remote students to participate in idea sharing with their peers. Students can get answers not just from their professors but from their peers, as well.

  7. There's more information saved now than ever before:

    Students once had to furiously scribble notes in class, but in lectures where there's a Twitter backchannel, much of this information is now stored online. Using classroom hashtags creates an archive of each class meeting that students can reference in the future. Of course, students do still need to take notes, but now they might do so through their own Twitter feeds, or simply note keywords that they can use to search through archived tweets later.

  8. Students think about lectures even when they're not at school:

    As professors use Twitter and lecture-specific hashtags, students are able to stay in the loop on class wherever they are. Any time students log in to Twitter and see these tweets, they're able to keep their class in mind.

  9. Review sessions happen anywhere:

    When it comes to review and test prep, students have historically been on their own, or, with particularly accommodating professors, enjoyed in-class review sessions or take-home sheets. But with Twitter in the lecture hall, professors can share test-prep questions to reinforce key points throughout the semester. They can even assign a hashtag to these questions so that come review time, students can go back to check them out.

  10. Fewer classroom disruptions exist:

    Although some worry that Twitter in the lecture hall can be a major distraction from the task at hand, the fact is that Twitter often saves lecture time. Review questions or confusions from a single student no longer take up valuable class time; instead, these tasks can be taken care of on Twitter, often by TAs. And due to the short format of Twitter, question and answer sessions happen more quickly. As professor Karl Gude points out, "students can only ask a short question and I can only give a short answer."