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Shy students should be able to tweet their teacher in class, study finds

There could soon be a whole lot more twits in our school classrooms. A new research from Southern Cross University has found strong benefits for the use of Twitter by students too embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask teachers questions in the time-honored raised-hand method.

Southern Cross business lecturer Jeremy Novak, along with Central Queensland University’s Dr Michael Cowling, studied the use of Twitter among university students as a method for asking questions and gaining feedback without having to stand the stares and scrutiny of fellow students.

The positive feedback from students, particularly international students, has convinced the research team the use of Twitter technology could also be embraced by classrooms at high school and even primary school level. “Twitter is another exciting teaching aide that is highly under-utilized by lecturers and teachers in the education sector,” Mr Novak said. “Hopefully it would lead to fewer passengers in the classroom and allow those students who are less likely to engage with teachers, for social or cultural reasons, to participate.”

Under the recent study, students were able to send anonymous tweets to teachers asking for better explanations or more detailed answers to questions during university lectures. The tweets were sent directly to the teacher’s computer and accessed through PowerPoint presentations.

However, Mr Novak said there would be some obstacles to overcome to ensure Twitter became an effective classroom tool and not the time-waster it can be among other demographics of society. Students who pretending to tweet questions to teachers while really texting friends or updating their Facebook status would be the 21st century equivalent of mischievous school kids hiding comic books inside their textbooks.

“Computers are already commonplace at all levels of schooling so this is where it would be up to the teacher or lecturer to set clear boundaries on what the technology is used for,” he said. There would also be the issue of having Generation Y students with vastly superior social networking skills to those of teachers who learnt their craft before the computer era arrived.

“Teachers would have to be savvy with the technology, but if those things were overcome there is no reason this could not be used to augment teaching methods,” he said. “We don’t see Twitter replacing actual class participation or interaction, but it could be a very valuable tool to add to the teacher’s toolbox.”

 

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