Twitter improves student learning

October 21, 2012

Twitter has become a new literary format that is improving student learning, according to Christine Greenhow, assistant professor of education at Michigan State University, who found that college students who tweet as part of their instruction are more engaged with the course content and with the teacher and other students, and also have higher grades.

Twitter use among U.S. teens has doubled in less than two years. There are now more than 200 million active users posting more than 175 million tweets a day, according to the study.

Greenhow analyzed existing research and found that Twitter’s real-time design allowed students and instructors to engage in sharing, collaboration, brainstorming, and creation of a project. Other student benefits included learning to write concisely, conducting up-to-date research and even communicating directly with authors and researchers.

In teaching a college class that focuses on Twitter, Greenhow said her students participate more when they use Twitter than they do in a conventional face-to-face class setting.

“The students get more engaged because they feel it is connected to something real, that it’s not just learning for the sake of learning,” Greenhow said. “It feels authentic to them.”

Twitter comes with its own set of rules, such as using hash tags, URL shorteners and leaving enough characters blank to allow retweets. Magazines, newspapers and TV shows run Twitter content, encouraging readers and viewers to engage in the conversation online.

“One of the ways we judge whether something is a new literary form or a new form of communication is whether it makes new social acts possible that weren’t possible before,” Greenhow said. “Has Twitter changed social practices and the way we communicate? I would say it has.”

Another MSU study found that first-year college students value texting more than any other writing style.