Tweeting Teachers

As a teaching tool, PowerPoint can be awful. Is Twitter any better? One promotes passivity; the other, connectedness and interactivity (unless you follow people like us, who are about as responsive as a dining room table). The Chronicle of Higher Education raises an interesting question: should professors be tweeting with their students? Or is it a poor substitute for face-to-face interaction? Of course, some say brevity is the soul of wit, and 140 characters is very, very brief. [%comments]


Could be that methods of communication that require less cognitive effort gain popularity quicker?

Look at teens who prefer texting to talking. When you have a conversation, your brain has to process body language, tone, etc. and when reading a text message you just process the message.

Maybe people seek out more passive means of communication because they do not like to think or aren't used to it.


"Or is it a poor substitute for face-to-face interaction? "

Bad question. Why would it be an either/or situation? Why couldn't Twitter be used along with face-to-face interactions or for other purposes such as announcements? Except for the length of the message would it be any different than email?

I don't understand why when something "new" comes along some people assume the only way it can be used is to replace something else.

James McGarry

Of course Twitter is a poor substitute for face-to-face interactions, but I doubt anyone would suggest supplanting such face-to-face interactions with Twitter. Rather the question is, "Does Twitter have a use in a classroom or in public discourse on a topic?"

I think Twitter is excellent for briefly answering a question of general interest within the context of a course. (E.g. Yes, @student the final exam _is_ in Room 101 #coursenumber) Or in developing a network of students (and non-students) interested in the subject matter beyond the course materials.


This is a ridiculous false dichotomy! Why can't professors have face-to-face meetings AND internet communications? I've never had a prof on twitter, but I've had a few who did a late-night chat room on the night before exams or major assignments to help out students who had last-minute questions, at a time when people wouldn't be on campus. A great addition, and a situation where minus the internet, the interaction just wouldn't be able to happen at all.

Rich Wilson

What if a student is opposed to the terms of service required to sign up for Twitter, or Facebook?

What if an instructor used their own website to disseminate information, and required registration and accepting terms of service made up by the instructor?

What if the site carried ads?

How many of us have actually read those privacy agreements?


Twitter/Facebook are extremely poor substitutes for face-to-face interaction. Period.

If only students in classes where I was the T.A. actually took more time wrestling with the material instead of disseminating that they hate the class...


I've not seen many professors (at my university) use Twitter as a substitute for the phone. Many even say "come in to talk to me" if a student emails or phones them.

I've seen Twitter used more so to suppliment emails. For things such as "emails the entire class" messages such as "Chapter 7 will not be on the test as I didn't get to it in class" or "Class is canceled as my (pretend excuse)". More students get Twitter messages sent to their cell phones than their emails.

withheld smith

As a grad student in an online course starting this summer I never knew professors to "phone it in" so much.
Just as some students might abuse the chance to take a course online and do everything last minute or skip readings, one professor has gone so far as to neglect to grade assignments for the better part of two weeks, fail to give feedback and use twice weekly emails not to make up for this lack of communication, but to make excuses for herself. Not to mention, she is a very mercutial grader in these invisibility cycles!
If a student would pull this act they would surely fail.
Maybe making a prof like this stay in regular contact might either cause her to change her ways or give up taking an online course-load she obviously can't or doesn't want to handle.


I firmly believe that there is a place for Twitter alongside face to face interaction. Students with professors that allow "backchanneling" during lectures often report higher levels of understanding and satisfaction with the task. Today's generation needs a variety of input and output methods. They are multitaskers and professors must meet their learning needs.

Science Minded

Teaching is teaching--with or without all the new and old instruments/tools/paraphanalia. My daughter's math teacher last year required that they merely memorize formulas --as if such tools would enable her to solve math problems by rote and never mind understanding the problem that they were meant to solve. She did not learn a thing. What the teacher did not teach her to do is to think for herself and on her own. By understanding the problem, she would not need the formulas in order to be able to solve it. And if she understood the formula, she would be in a position to use it and understand what it offers. Perhaps that's the problem, the teacher did not understand what he was doing well enough to be able to convey his knowledge to students--hence the formulas.

I fear that until the Science of Mathematics is really understood, we may continue to produce students who don't have a clue about it. The same applies to most subjects. I had an English teacher in hs, who gave us the greek myths to read, but did not explain or help us to understand what they offered in the way of understanding the human problems we all confront. I had to figure this out for myself and it took a long, long time (which most people don't have). If you are fortunate to have a good teacher, that's great. But how many of us are so fortunate.


Johnny E

Teachers are busy writing books, reading students' thesese, writing articles for journals, going to meetings, preparing classes, collaborating with colleagues, writing research grants, doing research, teaching classes, reading journals, etc. It's lucky you can find them at all outside of class. They are usually on tight deadlines. Unless you want a long discussion about something where you'd need to set up some kind of appointment, informal or formal, it would be best to handle the smaller matters by email. I don't know if twitter would be as reliable, universal, or useful preserving a permanent record of the interaction.