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Using Twitter As A Teaching Aid

Using #Twitter As A Teaching Aid-Some Interesting Figures

by stuarthepburn on March 2, 2011

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 (100%) and their enthusiastic and positive feedback that the experiment of using the new media in this way has 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 ,feedforward and reflection, using the #TWFTV hashtag.

There are 50 students in the current 2011 cohort. Since week 1 of the Module in February 2011, from a base of zero,  there have now 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. We will set up some  focus of groups of the participating  #TWFTV students to delve deeper into their attitudes and reactions to the whole process.

We plan to present the next set of  figures at the April 21st Meeting of TeachMeet at the University Of The West Of Scotland. For details Tweet #tmayr

For a real time update, carry out a #TWFTV search on Twitter right now.

*Having read my blog, Catherine Millar,  a  colleague on Twitter(  @catmill )has just tweeted to tell me that in fact it IS possible to use a new Group facility on Facebook where you can form a group without following it’s members. I find that very interesting so I will follow that up. 0ver 90% of students use Facebook and it may well be that it is a more suitable platform for that reason.  I will be looking at the implications of using Facebook groups to enhance the learning experience soon.

 


Glasgow city centre panorama from Lighthouse t...

Glasgow, City Of Film!

I am indebted to Linda Campbell for important news of a new Initiative from Write Camera Action in Glasgow. For more information email Linda Campbell at writecameraaction@hotmail.co.uk
A lot of Scottish Film makers have embraced the ethos of WriteCameraAction and gone on to form collaborations and get those ideas which were originally workshopped at WCA actually produced – Well Done! With the support of their host venue the CCA in Glasgow, Linda Campbell is now organising an event to showcase films that have been workshopped or have collaborated with WCA prior to their production. At this early stage what she is looking for is an indication of how many of these films are out there and a little of their history.

Please check requirements below and if relevant contact Linda at writecameraaction@hotmail.co.uk about your project with subject heading ‘WCA Indie Initiative’

The script of the work produced must have been workshopped either in whole or in part at WriteCameraAction in a monthly WCA or an advanced WCA workshop booked by Linda, AND/OR have some collaboration directly with WCA that contributed to the work being produced. It must be a no-low budget production e.g. not funded by a public body (no Student Graduation films) That’s it!!!

The rest is detail: You should say what the Title of work is, genre, duration, brief synopsis, and brief history of ‘idea to fruition’ e.g. Did you utilise the WCA mailshot, did you cast from participants cast during your workshop or seen at another performance at WCA etc. or not. Who were your crew and did you meet them through networking via WCA or not. Has it been shown anywhere else e.g. Film Festivals, GMAC, Youtube… That’s it. More than one entry is not only allowed, it’s applauded! No limit to the number of films you enter as long as they fulfill the criteria. If you have a work in progress send Linda the details if it’s likely to be completed in the next few months. Please note: Do NOT send any films at this stage. Linda expects to see varying standards of production values so don’t let that put you off – Write Camera Action is about supporting and developing Home-Grown Produce!!

If in doubt of eligibility contact Linda for clarification. Enquiries on this event from relevant writer/filmmakers only. Once the Event is fully realised and dates and ticket prices fixed, she will send out an email to everyone. You know she will :)))

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