I have blogged in the past about using new media platforms as a learning & teaching resource. The entire content of our  BA (Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting Programme at the University of the West of Scotland is delivered using Twitter, Posterous and Youtube at the very core of Teaching , Learning and , crucially Assessement. From it’s inception in September 2010, student engagement with these platforms was developed gradually over the first 15 weeks of the programme. In the second trimester of the programme there is now 100% participation from  the students and participating  staff across a wide range of New Media . However I had carried out no empirical research on the pace of takeup from the students. This was due to the fact that September 2010 was the first time I had run the programme and I had other things on my mind more pressing than research.

However it has become clear from the level of student engagement and their enthusiastic and positive feedback that the experiment of using the new media in this way been a qualified success. Obviously I was hampered in that I had no data to demonstrate to what degree this had been the case . I also did not know if the alacrity with which my small group of 15 Performance students engaged with these new platforms could be replicated across the board with other Creative Industries students. The students had, after all, been interviewed and recruited on the basis of using these new media platforms as the key deliverer of their creative screen acting work.

My colleague John Quinn and I teach a module on the Film Making and Screenwriting Programme here at UWS titled “Team Writing For Television.” You can read about the background of TWFTV as I have blogged previously about the module here .We
decided to attempt to use Twitter as a platform at the centre of the module for student feedback ,f eedforward and reflecti0n, using the #TWFTV hashtag.

Since the start of the Module in February 2011, there have been over 300 (and building)  separate #TWFTV responses from the students. You can carry out your own #TWFTV search on twitter to have a look at them right now.  They range from reflections on  lessons, suggestions for new themes and Television Series to studied , and real time comments on shows I have asked them to watch out of class.This has been a voluntary process. Every time John or I get an interesting tweet on #TWFTV, we RT this to our own followers. There are no marks or brownie points for the students, other than the fact that we have shown them that we read their tweets, and will respond to them if we can. The sight of a student’s face when you reveal that you are indeed going to analyse their favourite long running TV series because of a casual mention on Twitter makes the whole exercise worthwhile. Thus, they KNOW that we listen to them , and the engagement goes up steadily as a result. A point to note is that the content of the students tweets,( contrary to fears expressed by colleagues) has been overwhelmingly positive and creative as the take up has grown steadily. It takes a bit of courage to throw open the doors of the classroom to one billion potential eyes and ears, but so far no one has flamed us online, and even if they did, as is the way with Twitter, the dogs would bark, and the caravan would move on. At least I hope that is what would happen. We shall see.

As the module has progressed,John Quinn and I have been monitoring, reflecting and reacting to the tweets, and have now carried out a short interim survey of the up take and use of Twitter and feedback from the students, to see if we can draw any general conclusions. We are specifically interested in exploring the use of Twitter as a tool for enhancing the Teaching and Learning experience from the perspective of the student.

There have been some serendipitous events as a result of this process. Peter Kosminsky (@kosmoSFL )  tweeted back to us on our response to his recent mini series “The Promise”. Francis McKee of the CCA in Glasgow  ( @CCA_Glasgow) RTd one of our responses also using the hashtag.  Reaction to our discussions have come from followers of The Glasgow Film Festival, Step2CollaboTV, and even as far afield as the States and Australia. In this way, the #TWFTV hashtag, which started off as a modest attempt to engage some students in Ayr with their teaching and learning has spread its wings far afield. It’s no Justin Beiber, but at least it is causing a small ripple or two in the Tweetoshpere. I even recieved an email from New Zealand asking me about the module and if we taught it by distance learning!

Below are some of the preliminary data and findings of this anonymous survey.
It is worth noting that the *12.82% of students who had used Twitter in the past for academic communication were all studying on my Contemporary Screen Acting programme. None of the remaining students had used Twitter in this way before. This survey was carried out in Week 5 of a 15 week module, so we are one third of the way through the process.

Response rate 78% (39/50)

1. Prior to the start of the TWFTV module, had you ever communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: *12.82%
No: 87.18%
2. Since the start of the TWFTV module, have you communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: 53.85%
No: 43.59

3%. Do you think that social networking platforms are a useful tool in communicating feedback to your peers and tutors?
Yes: 94.87%
No: 5.13%

4. Would you like to see more modules using social network platforms for class feedback and engagement?
Yes: 82.05%
No: 17.95%

5. Do you prefer using tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Docs to the university VLE Blackboard for feedback and communication?
Yes: 76.92%
No: 23.08%

We also asked for comments from the students about the use of Twitter. These were almost wholly positive .

One note of criticism was that ” It’s not fair that students who don’t use Twitter have an advantage by getting their views across.” my response to that was , if you think that they are gaining an advantage, then engage!

Another comment was ” You should use Facebook. Students don’t like Twitter”

Actually we ARE using Facebook, all my Tweets are delivered to my Facebook site, and at least two of our  teams use Facebook pages to communicate with one another, as well as Googledocs and , suprise surprise, Blackboard. However I am happy not to use Facebook directly, as that’s where students tend to hang out and discuss…well everything. And I don’t want to hear everything, I only want to hear about stuff relating  to TWFTV. I don’t have to follow them or find out what they did on Friday night, but I am able to key into their thoughts and comments every time they decide to use the TWFTV  hashtag. I make sure that I do a #TWFTV search once a day , and then RT any interesting material, and also ensure that I act upon any good suggestions. One very interesting corollary to this is that it is many of the most reticent students who use Twitter, the ones who never ask questions in class, the silent majority. Twitter gives them the ability to ask questions and make points without having to intervene at class.

I should add that Twitter is used exclusively as an ADD ON platform to our VLE, Blackboard. All important messages, assessments,dates, pdfs of lectures and the like are posted on Blackboard, and these are supplemented by a weekly videocast from me which you can see on the blog above.

These findings were  presented and discussed at the Student Engagement in Learning & Teaching Forum (SELT) in the classroom of the Future at the University Of The West Of Scotland on Thursday 3rd of March at 10.45 GMT. We carried out a real time discussion with the students and staff, and  demonstrated  a real time Twittter Ticker on display. The idea that a group of students can contribute any where , any time , to a discussion about the delivery of their own teaching and learning is a relatively innovative idea, and one that I will continue if I present the final figures. Another interesting point which came up in discussion is that we fully expect the students to continue engaging in online discussion using #TWFTV after the module has finished. We will archive the searches and use them as a resource for next years class. It may be the case that this cohort of students will carry on this method of feeding back in other classes. Time will tell.

We will continue with the monitoring process as the weeks go by, and share our data and findings in a concluding blog. along with a set of  conclusions.

Watch this space, and for a real time update, carry out a #TWFTV search on Twitter right now.

I will be presenting the final results at the TeachMeet event at UWS Ayr on Thurs  April 23rd.