In a society where nearly everyone is glued to a smart phone or computer, social media is literally at peoples’ fingertips.
English Professor Scott Cheney said he enjoys connecting with new technology, and he wants his students to know it can also function as a tool.
“I use Twitter almost every day in some way,” Cheney said. “I return student emails within 24 hours, but I might respond to a tweet within 24 seconds or 24 minutes.”
Cheney believes some students feel their questions seem too insignificant for email, but they are comfortable asking quick questions on Twitter, like they would if they ran into him in the hall.
While Cheney tries to build community in the classroom, he finds that Twitter allows students to interact after class lets out.
“Twitter also allows us to continue conversations after we run out of class time,” Cheney said. “I often have to cut good conversations short because the class period is over, but Twitter allows me to ask questions or offer helpful links after class.”
It’s these conversations that Cheney has discovered encourage students to write papers that matter to people.
“I have even had students interact with the authors we read in class over Twitter, giving research and argumentation a vitality many students have never experienced,” Cheney said.
In addition to Twitter, Cheney requires students write blog posts as a response to class readings. Other students then comment on those posts.
There are a number of reasons he chooses to incorporate this medium into his courses.
“The blog posts serve as a conversation starter when we meet together in class, and they also challenge students to write for an audience that is larger than just their professor,” Cheney said.
Today, many scholars use blogs to publish academic work and process ideas before publishing their research in journals and books. Cheney hopes his students use their blog posts in a similar way, to try out ideas before their final papers are due.
“Though they are meant to supplement what I do in the classroom,” Cheney said, “ultimately Twitter and blogs prepare students to write in the 21st century better than any lecture I could give.”