Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Blog Assignment #1: Article Review

Junco, Reynal, C. Michael Elavsky, and Greg Heiberger. “Putting Twitter to the Test: Assessing Outcomes for Student Collaboration, Engagement and Success.” British Journal of Educational Technology 44.2 (2013): 273-287. EBSCO. Web. 26 May 2014.

The authors of this article conducted a study of using Twitter in two university courses, concluding that required use of Twitter with actively engaged faculty results in increased student engagement and academic achievement. In the study, one class was required to use Twitter and the faculty actively engaged with students on the platform, answering student-tweeted questions or offering tweets of encouragement in response to student tweets expressing anxiety. In the other class, Twitter use was optional and the faculty rarely interacted there with students. The authors used a mixed method with both qualitative analysis of tweet content and quantitative analysis of student grades and engagement survey responses. They find that students in the first group had significantly higher engagement over the course of the semester than the second group. Additionally, the first group had significantly higher grades and greater rates of improvement between a pre-test and post-test. Interestingly, the study found that there was no difference between students in the second group who used Twitter voluntarily and their peers who chose not to use it. This leads the authors to conclude that “faculty engagement on the platform is essential in order to impact student outcomes” (284). This article would be especially helpful to anyone interested in the pedagogical uses and benefits of Twitter. The authors clearly outline an effective strategy for use: requiring student use, meaningful course integration, and faculty interaction. I also recommend this article as an example of a systematic study of a pedagogical tool. Often studies of classroom techniques and tools rely on qualitative analyses only, such as anecdotal narratives. However, when arguing for the introduction of new tools in a department or asking for funding, quantitative or “hard” data is usually more convincing. Having a study like this that controls for external factors and uses reliable statistical analysis to show an unequivocal improvement in engagement and achievement is particularly useful. I also find this article helpful in supporting a position that faculty interaction is often the key ingredient in student success and building a sense of community.

5 comments:

  1. In which subject area or areas were the classes studied? I have a colleague in journalism who uses Twitter extensively, but I don't know whether it is pedagogical. I have a hunch that it could be a natural part of journalism, whereas in some content areas it could be meaningful to use but would have to be done quite intentionally.

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  2. Hi Laurie, the authors only identify the classes as "a one-credit first-year seminar course for pre-health professional majors." From the text, it appears that the students read a common text about medical relief work in Haiti, then met for discussion on the reading and to provide other support and learning activities for students in health majors. It seems to me that the study found that intentionality was key to student success and increased engagement. The classes required to use Twitter did better in those regards than the ones not required to use it. Another point was that the students bonded more closely with one another, building a cohort effect much like other social media platforms have done in distance education.

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  3. I think engagement is also by age, in that I agree that faculty participation is critical to keep students interested, but my adult students were in a class this term that required them to use Twitter and they had a fit, since this wasn't a technology they used, and as a result, felt that their social-personal lives were being forced to cross into their academic side and they felt exposed. An interesting study for the positive findings in used a social media tool in the classroom.

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  4. That's interesting, Carol. That thought crossed my mind this semester briefly, too, not that it worries me much. In other words, when we start putting ourselves "out there" for a class, we're still "out there," and we don't know who else has access to or interest in in our public personas.

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  5. While this certainly appears to be a valuable addition to the use of web-based tools in pedagogy, I found myself wondering if, in fact, the results weren’t primarily based upon the instructor’s engagement, more so than the use of Twitter itself. Indeed, they mention that “faculty engagement on the platform is essential,” and while I certainly recognize that Twitter can be used to some degree in an OWC, one could argue that regardless of the platform, the instructor is the variable factor. That said, however, I think this study does encourage the instructor to give Twitter a try and see how it can be utilized in their coursework. Further, I think they stress that if in fact one chooses to do so, they would do well to maintain an active level of engagement. To use it without frequent interaction would seem to dampen student motivation/engagement and thus, if the instructor doesn’t have the time to incorporate it with intention, it’d be best left out altogether. I, too, agree with you that having motivated, highly-engaged instructors have a tremendous impact on both my desire and indeed my ability to learn - whatever platform we're engaging on.

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