Incorporating Twitter Into My Media Classes

I’ve been making a big push to give Twitter an increasing amount of attention in my journalism and mass communication classes.

I discovered during the spring semester, sort of by accident, that using Twitter at the start of class is an effective way to get students warmed up and ready for our primary discussion. I would simply share some of the interesting and notable items I came across from my Twitter account (@ButlerCain) and then encourage students to send along interesting items to share with the class on another day.

The students responded positively, and in increasing numbers, throughout the semester.

That prompted me to incorporate a Twitter assignment into my summer International Journalism class. It was a pretty simple one-liner in the syllabus:

“You will use Twitter to provide tweets related to global journalism for the Society of Professional Journalists’ International Journalism Committee Twitter account, @SPJ_IJC.”

Students had to submit four tweets throughout the course of the semester for a total of 100 points. It went over well, even for the student who thanked me for dragging her into the 21st century by forcing her to establish an account. (At last count, she was up to 52 tweets.)

As I was preparing my syllabi for the fall semester, I decided that I wanted to give Twitter an even more prominent role in my daily class discussions and assignments. Here’s what I included this time around, with some minor changes depending on the particular class (this is for New Media):

“Twitter has emerged as a highly regarded and respected new media application. Internship coordinators and hiring managers are turning away applicants who cannot use Twitter effectively. You will be required to tweet to me (@ButlerCain) three times during the course of the semester. Each tweet must contain the appropriate text, hash tag (#) and shortened link to the content you wish to share. To earn credit for the tweet, you must also talk about it in class, so be prepared to discuss it. Tweets must be related to topics across any mass communication field or platform (e.g., journalism, advertising/PR, social media, newspaper, television, etc.).

I limited it to just three because this is a class of nearly 50 students, and I’m hoping to maintain a little bit of control. But I’m expecting my students to get a few lessons out of this requirement.

1) They’ll have to maintain a Twitter account and learn how to use it. That includes how the “@” and “#” symbols work.
2) They’ll have to learn how to shorten their links and write concisely, yet professionally, to accommodate Twitter’s 140 character limit.
3) They’ll have to actually read the content they tweet in order to explain it to the class. The lesson here, I’m hoping, is that they should never tweet anything without reading it first.
This is also the first semester in which I included my Twitter contact information at the top of my syllabus. It’s all still a work in progress, but Twitter has emerged as a viable and powerful tool for professional mass communicators, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t make it a significant component of my classes.
Comments
One Response to “Incorporating Twitter Into My Media Classes”
  1. Seriously check out the hashtag #Gillettetrial before it is gone. @ProNews7 started the hashtag and started live tweeting the progress of the trial. @amarilloglobe tried to use the hashtag and played catch-up until the end of the trial. None of the other news outlets used live tweeting in their reporting.As more newsrooms move towards a digital newsroom for the news consumers there will be more situations like this twitter battle.

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