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Learning while Tweeting: Why Not?

Using smartphones in class?  Don’t students have enough distractions?  Doesn’t tweeting or texting make students disrespectful to the professor in class?

As a professor myself, I certainly understand how distracting a smartphone can be to a student in class, but at the same time, I also believe using smartphones and tablet computers can enhance students’ learning experience if they are used appropriately.  Here is my experience.   

When I taught at Texas Tech, I had a strict policy that prohibits students from using laptops and cellphones in class.  I adopted the same policy when I first moved to Syracuse University (SU).  It made sense at that time because I wanted students to engage with me in face-to-face and verbal discussion. 

Time has changed, however.  When I developed and taught the social media class at SU and RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology).  I turned to the opposite direction.  I requested to teach in a computer lab.  Students were encouraged to used laptops, smartphones, and tablet computers, and they were required to tweet during class.  I administrated class discussion on Twitter.  Afterwards, either a student or I would summarize the class discussion on Storify.  Students could refer to class discussions (notes) on Storify at any time.  It seems to me students were engaging on Twitter.  In the end, they also became very familiar with Twitter as a communication tool, which was also one of the learning outcomes of the class.  I have found it very helpful by allowing students to use tablets or smartphones in class. 

Will students take advantage of the lenient policy?  What if they also check on something that they are not supposed to, such as writing a none-class-related post on Facebook or shopping online?  I take it this way – if students are good at multi-tasking, which means they are able to engage on Twitter and do other things at the same time, I respect them and let them continue what they are doing in class.  If they are not participating, I will “pull” them back to the class by asking them to elaborate what is said on Twitter. 

Very soon, I will be teaching in The Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona.  I feel fortunate that I can teach in the “smart” classroom, which can be controlled with an iPad and has multiple screens.  I am encouraged to replace the professor-centered idea with a student-centered pedagogy.  It doesn’t matter what subjects I am teaching, I will definitely encourage students to use smartphones and/or tablet computers to interact with me, in addition to face-to-face conversations.  I am looking forward to trying out new educational apps and new teaching tactics in the “smart” classroom.  Please stay tuned for more updates.

In the end, I would like to share with you a Wall Street Journal video, which is also about using smartphones in classroom.  In your opinions, should students be allowed to use smartphones in class?  Why or why not?  What are the best practices for professors to engage with students in class?

Relevant discussion:


Reference:
The picture was downloaded from Kellimarshall.net 

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