The Next Step
Both research and practice with social media in the classroom has yielded positive results, but educators still seem turned off by the idea. Just recently, CNN cited a study done by Person Learning Solutions in which half of the 1,920 U.S. teachers polled said social media sites in the classroom are “harmful to the learning experience” (Simon). However, less than 40 of those polled use micro-blogs in college lectures.
Yet Twitter has shown it can improve communication in classrooms—either during lectures or continuing conversations outside of class. Utilizing Twitter in these forms allows students to control their classroom presence through words, but more concentration should be focused on how students construct language in this new space—the special codes and abbreviations of tweets, the code switching from other forms of writing, and the rhetorical choices that are made with each tweet. The social networking site has potential to do more than simply replace the hassle of checking email. Instead, Twitter should be used to discover how students are changing the ways they compose and to help them improve the way they write. By examining the theories that have inspired previous use of social media in the classroom, composition instructors can develop practices that help their students communicate successfully—both in the micro-blogosphere and long after they leave the writing classroom.
Of course, the digital divide prevents some educators from implementing these technologies into their classrooms. In a 2004 article called “Becoming Literate in the Information Age,” Gail E. Hawisner, Cynthia L. Selfe, et al. stress the importance of computer literacy for both students and citizens:
"In the United States, for example, the ability to read, compose, and communicate in computer environments—called variously technological, digital, or electronic literacy—has acquired increased importance not only as a basic job skill but also, every bit as significant, as an essential component of literate activity. Today, if students cannot write to the screen—if they cannot design, author, analyze, and interpret material on the Web and in other digital environments—they may be incapable of functioning effectively as literate citizens in a growing number of social spheres" (642).
Now, almost a decade later, this importance is continuing to grow. It is up to educators and scholars, therefore, to study if and how these technologies can be valuable teaching heuristics. And if they find positive results, the next step would be to advocate for funding of these technologies.