An Academic down the Twitter Rabbit Hole

My post tonight is going to explore the various ways my academic life has negotiated the use of Twitter.

I started using Twitter several years ago as a platform to tweet ideas, opinions and rants about politics and education. It was not connected to me professionally until this past year when I began a series of ‘experiments’ where I live tweeted during lectures for Schooling and Society, giving students the opportunity to ‘talk back’ during the lecture without having to talk aloud. Along side a few T.A.s,  questions and comments were hashtagged with #biglecture and I turned to certain questions and ideas into group discussions.

There were successes. There were trolls. There was some drama, but for the most part, it became a new way to interact with students during the lecture. We had a discussion afterwards about what they thought about my calling on certain students comments or questions via the twitter thread. Some found it distracting to the lecture, and some found it a really great way to see what other people were struggling with. After reflecting on this with them, I decided future use of live tweeting while lecturing and projecting it on the big screen can be problematic. As a place to gauge where students are at with the theory behind the lecture, it is fantastic; but the distraction element is important to highlight too.

This week I live tweeted during a guest lecture, talking with my students online, helping them deconstruct the lecture WHILE it was happening. It was a less intrusive live tweet, as it was never called up on the overhead projector, but I wanted to give my students the opportunity to question/trouble/deconstruct the lecture as it was happening, as the topic, Racism and Anti Racism in Education, was a heavy one.

When we broke out into our smaller discussion group today, we referred back to the series of tweets I posted to highlight the lecture, and find meaningful questions/debates around anti racism. With many of the ‘main ideas’ or take aways from the lecture accessible on my twitter feed, we could do a compressed walk through of a difficult lecture.

At the beginning of this semester, I gave out my twitter handle to my students, letting them know that throughout the week I would continue the discussions around our lecture, as well as other hot topics in education and social issues that we all brought up using twitter. Of course, important questions and concerns are not allowed to be directed to the Twitter, but it’s slowly becoming a space of continued interaction with students. It’s resulted in students stopping me in the hallway to discuss an article I’ve tweeted, or to ask a question about #FirstNations issues in environmental education highlighted in the retweets of Fractured Land and it’s focus on Caleb Zabdi Behn‘s struggle for Environmental Sustainability in Canada.

Tonight, I participated in my first live tweet #moocmooc hosted by Hybrid Pedagogy . It was a fast paced, rapid fire discussion of boundaries to the classroom instilled by the structure of syllabus and conventions of industrial institutions of education. In these tweets and dialogues with others, I disrupted my notion of syllabus as a contract, and began to recognize how much I myself push at the constricting boundaries of the container of higher ed. As the hour reached it’s peak, I was sad for the conversation to end, but PUMPED at getting to connect with radical pedagogues from all over looking to cut through constricting ropes and reach students to create opportunities for them to connect with their learning on their own terms. I’m really looking forward to continuing to interact with this series on twitter each week (Next week will be hosted at 1pm eastern, follow @hybridped for info on the weekly topic of discussion)

For a wonderful discussion/resource on twitter in the classroom by Michelle Kassorla in Hybrid Pedagogy called: A Primer for EdTech: Tools for K-12 and Higher Ed. Teachers