The Chronicle, Fast Company and many others have picked up on this article – The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades (Junco R., Heiberger G., Loken E. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00387.x). What struck me wasn’t how many other outlets ignored the fact that it wasn’t actually “Twitter” perse, but rather engagement and novelty that may have created the result. Twitter was merely the vehicle that allowed that to happen. I would think that much of the same results could in all manner of Student Response Systems. From The Chronicle:
“One of the hallmarks of any good college education is to have students engaged, because engagement is crucial in developing critical-thinking skills and increased maturity, as well as promoting overall retention,” said Reynol Junco, an associate professor of academic development and counseling at Lock Haven University, and one of the study’s authors. He suggested that Twitter may be able to improve grades because it incorporates a feature into academic study that many students already use in their everyday lives—the “status update” that’s a part of Facebook. He said this familiarity may make students more comfortable in both continuing class discussions outside the classroom, and responding to class material. At the peak of the experiment, occurring three weeks before the end of the semester, the 70 students produced 612 tweets within a single week.”
Thankfully I’m not alone in thinking that it’s not the tool, but I don’t think entirely the students and the way that they choose to use the tool as Danielle Webb suggests in Macleans.
Whether a student uses a tool like Twitter or not can be indicative of a number of things. But it is not, by itself, indicative of a student’s intelligence, nor is it by itself capable of boosting any single student’s GPA. The possession of a hammer does not make a person a better carpenter, but simply offers them more opportunities.
I would hate to see the effects of a study like this on an impressionable young student, struggling with their course load, thinking that the answer to all of their academic problems lies in a Twitter account. Sure, in some cases, Twitter can bring a new, dynamic and sometimes valuable contribution to class life, but it’s completely naïve to think that the simple addition of this social networking tool to a classroom will turn Cs to As.
It is very much also a requirement that the instructors are part of the equation as well, creating an environment where the tool can be used to as great a range as possible. From the abstract:
This study provides experimental evidence that Twitter can be used as an educational tool to help engage students and to mobilize faculty into a more active and participatory role.
It’s nice to see this sort of research being done.
This came up this weekend talking to my wife. It seems that in her school, there is a cadre of teachers who think that kids need to learn “keyboarding” to be literate in the new reality that will be where they find themselves in the future. This remark was quickly retorted by another teacher who in her best mime-type impression of a crackberry addict gestured that the kids are not going to need to learn how to keyboard, they are going to be adept thumb typers. I don’t know where the conversation went from there, but after some more discussion, my wife and I were dumbfounded as to how some teachers are still so bound to the tools of communication rather than the process or the media.
Years ago, keyboarding was relevant because that was the only way that students could leverage these tools called computers, but what about accessing today’s devices with gesture, stylus or voice inputs? What about those devices with configurable keyboards? This is just the tip of the iceberg…
For my money, kids in K-12 today need to be literate in the ways and means to establish, maintain and explore connections (building their PLE/Ns as it were). They need to be able to create an identity online and understand what it means to have a valid identity and how to tell what parts of another individual’s identity might not be true. The tools that they will use to do this? I would not even want to guess, today they are Twitter and Facebook. Tomorrow… all bets are off… years down the road… same thing.
Creating and maintaining these relationships will require different skills, some will require adept long form writing, others will require micro form skills. Some people will need to have a full range of multimedia aptitudes, others will be able to specialize.
So if it were me giving a presentation to a school as to what the kids need to learn? I would say that they need to learn that there are different types of tools with different abilities. Some that sit on desks, others that sit in your pocket, others that sit far away. Each of these has a time and place to be used… now let’s start exploring those tools starting with…
Well now this is cool… if you want to embed a tweet, you can now hit up Blackbird Pie to get embed code. I don’t know if it will handle conversations – can’t spare the time to test it right now, but it certainly suggests that Twitter is starting to think outside of the 140 character box… and it seems that long form blogging might have just gained some new steam.
While it is only experimental, Purdue is starting to test how to make use of the “back channel” in a lecture in the form of an application called “Hotseat“. The students seem to like it.
“Hotseat is turning out to be a nice innovation. I’m seeing students interact more with the course and ask relevant questions,” Chakravarty [Professor and department head of Purdue’s Department of Consumer Sciences and Retailing] says. “The tool allows us to engage students using media they are already familiar with.” …
“The students say pretty much whatever they want,” Chakravarty says. “But this is a valuable tool for enhancing learning. The students are engaged in the discussions and, for the most part, they are asking relevant questions.”
It certainly is going to be interesting to see if this extends beyond the pilot to other courses at Purdue and beyond the single institution. I have some hope for this as many conferences are embracing the back channel, so instructors/profs/researchers are getting used to the idea of back channel from their peers, the challenge will be to see if the same can be said about questions and comments from students.
I originally put this as an update from my previous post, but then I figured that it would be better just to post it on its own.
It all seems to be a direct attack on a single user of both services (Wired):
CNet, citing Max Kelly, chief security officer at Facebook, says this attack is personal, and political: it is reporting that the motive was to silence a single person — a Georgian blogger with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and Google’s Blogger and YouTube — as part of the continuin Russia/Georgia conflict.
Little of the investigation has been revealed, but in a status update late Thursday Twitter founder Biz Stone seemed to agree that there was a single perpetrator at least on his site:
Over the last few hours, Twitter has been working closely with other companies and services affected by what appears to be a single, massively coordinated attack. As to the motivation behind this event, we prefer not to speculate. […]
We’ve worked hard to achieve technical stability and we’re proud of our Engineering and Operations teams. Nevertheless, today’s massive, globally distributed attack was a reminder that there’s still lots of work ahead.
The Guardian has some more info on this as well:
The Georgian blogger known as Cyxymu, who was yesterday the victim of a cyber assault that affected hundreds of millions of web users around the world, has blamed the attack on the Kremlin.
Speaking to the Guardian from an office in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, he said he believed the denial-of-service strike that hit LiveJournal, Facebook and Twitter stemmed from an attempt to silence his criticism over Russia’s conduct in the war over the disputed South Ossetia region, which began a year ago today.
“Maybe it was carried out by ordinary hackers but I’m certain the order came from the Russian government,” said the blogger, whose monicker is a latinised version of the Russian spelling of Sukhumi, the capital of Georgia’s other breakaway republic, Abkhazia.
He added: “An attack on such a scale that affected three worldwide services with numerous servers could only be organised by someone with huge resources.”
So in the end it seems that my musings yesterday were on the right track.
This story keeps growing:
Cyxymu might be considered the first “digital refugee“.
I remember way back in the days when search engine home pages were not reliable, when Yahoo! or MSN was down, people thought the entire net was down because they didn’t know how to input URLs. Now I don’t think much has changed in the last 5-10 years in terms of how many people use the ‘net, except for instead of search engines being the home page/tab, people have Facebook or Twitter as their starting point. Many people don’t even go further than Facebook anymore as the only reason they go online is to catch up with friends. So today’s meltdown (C|Net, Mashable) of Twitter and Facebook was certainly an annoyance for folks (and a reminder of how dependant we are getting) who had their ‘net break this morning. But outside of the traditional web, I think where this might have had a bigger impact was in mobile computing – I wonder how many people who have phones hooked into the two services all of the sudden felt the sensation of being disconnected? In my experience, the biggest drivers for mobile data, at least in my circles, have been related to social networking. People want to be able to go out and meet their friends and share those experiences with those who are not there and store them for those who are.
One of my colleagues in the office suggested that the attack on Twitter might have been some State clamping down so hard that it knocked Twitter down for everyone. I also don’t see that being that far out of the realm of possibility. But if a State did attack a company, who is there to defend them? The “cyber forces” of their home country, or some other body (the UN?). I don’t know but as services become international in use and importance, the defense of these services becomes the interest of the world as well, once again throwing fuel on the fire that is the role of borders on the ‘net.
PS. Be sure to check the update.