Twitter in the Classroom Improving Students' GPAs?

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

Twitter in the Classroom Improving Students' GPAs?

Here’s something for all you Twitter fanatics out there looking for the coolest new fact to tweet: Proper Twitter use in the classroom can actually bolster a student’s GPA and classroom engagement, when done correctly (140 characters exactly -- boy, have I become good with Twitter!).

While this fact might seem farfetched – especially as tweets about #Top10FavouriteOasisSongs, Kim Kardashian, and the fact that Bachelor Ben choose America’s most hated woman Courtney as his wife last night abound Twitter cyberspace – it has merit as studies indicate that when used correctly, Twitter can boost student grades and inspire those who are typically less engaged to communicate with their teachers.

The study found that while social media in the classroom vastly hurts the learning environment and students’ performance, it can help “in big ways” when done correctly. Researchers recently completed two case studies to compare the effects of Twitter on schools. In the first case study, Twitter use was required and in the second it was optional. In the first example, the social networking site was used for class discussions, asking questions, forming study groups and required Twitter assignments and other relevant class materials; in the second group, it was used for class discussions and projected on screen during class. The results of the survey indicated that the first group had an average GPA that was 0.5 points higher than the other group.

But how can that be when 18- to 21-year-old students are bound to be more interested in checking to see if their school made it into the NCAA tournament (go Cuse!), then they are with commenting on social hierarchies and feminism in “Jane Eyre.”

Well, researchers contend that the GPA can improve but only when three best practices are followed for using Twitter in the classroom. The first is that professors must participate because when professors don’t engage with students on Twitter, optimal benefits cannot be reached. Moreover, Twitter use must be structured. The final step is that Twitter must be required.

As someone who is a bit doubtful as to why we really need social media for personal use, I have to say that I am not all together that shocked by these survey results because I have never for a second doubted the ability of social networking to bring advantages when used for commercial or educational purposes. And, just as businesses need to be on Twitter and Facebook, as that’s where their consumers are, schools need to figure out how best to use these social networking tools in the classroom as that’s where their students are.

The one thing that is resonating loud and clear every day more that I am in the “real world” is that social networking is huge for businesses – from the large enterprise to the SMB. Employees need to know how to use social media for business purposes so that they can help their companies grow their fan bases, increase their exposure and refine their customer engagement strategies.  I’ll go so far as to say that in another few months don’t be surprised if you are inundated with job postings from companies looking for a Social Media Manager (if you haven’t seen them already) – someone whose chief job is to handle companies’ social networking sites and respond to negative critiques immediately. The real world expects you to know how to use these sites, so why not get a head start using them in college?

Sure, tweeting about a homework assignment or holding a group discussion via Twitter is a bit different than having a customer discussion through Twitter, but the overall goals are the same – figure out how to communicate your point in 140 characters or less; develop respect for the importance of real time answering; and become adept at using 21st Century technology tools.

I am happy for the schools and teachers who have already realized that bringing Twitter and Facebook in the classroom – in the right format – can be of great service to their students. You are preparing them for a business world that will not only expect them to be familiar with these tools, but practically demand it.


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