Public Speaking, Death and Twitter in the Classroom

How many times have you said something about public speaking or your reluctance to give speeches and had someone come right back with the threadbare cliché about how “one study” found that “the average person fears public speaking more than death?

Who conducted this study, exactly?

Regardless of whether or not this “study”/cliché can be validated, it is true that most of us—especially our students—have an aversion to public speaking.

Some might argue that students should learn to confront their fears by being forced to speak up in class. That’s a worthy conversationone that I’d like to take up in subsequent blogs—but not one we are going to take up in this article.

As an alternative to forcing students to talk, using Twitter in the classroom is one way—not necessarily the only or the best way—for every student, both bold and shy, to participate equally. As you’ll see, the benefits of using Twitter in the classroom go far beyond satiating our students’ fear of public speaking.

If you have considered using Twitter in the classroom, here are 5 ideas to get you started:

  1. Use Twitter as a Steady Stream of Calendar Updates: Just picture all the times you go home, are washing the dishes, and think, "I sure hope they remember that Project X is due tomorrow..." Now you can send a Tweet in the same time it takes to think the thought, and all of your students will be reminded. Magic.

  2. Engage Students in Discussions. Whether you encourage the use of Twitter inside the classroom or not, there are all kinds of ways to incorporate Tweet-based discussions.  Make "Tweeting one discussion question and one discussion reply" a homework assignment; then use the following class day to discuss the questions and comments.  You may be surprised to hear from some little birds who have never made a classroom peep. You can have students write their questions in class and have TAs Tweet them later. Whatever way you decide to use it, a Twitter-based discussion format can help level the participation playing field.

  3. Use Twitter to Connect to Real Life.  Tweet news feeds, links to YouTube videos, or even your own pictures or thoughts regarding real life objects or events that are related to your current classroom lesson(s). Students love interactive learning. Your Tweets will keep them in the intellectual loop or introduce them to new and exciting concepts you might not have had time for in the classroom.

  4. Keep Parents Connected.  Using Twitter in the Classroom can also be a 2-for-1. Parents can follow the Twitter stream and will feel connected and engaged. Plus, they are much more likely to be on your side when it comes to missing assignments or "forgotten" test days.

  5. Build a Progressive Something. Imagine your students voluntarily engaging in school work over the weekend. Start a poem or a math equation. Input one fact about a historical person or setting. Anyone following the feed can only add one line, step, or fact and watch it build.  It's good practice for everyone!

I’d like to end by raising a question: I’ve heard more than a few teachers argue against classroom technology like Twitter and Student Response Systems. These teachers argue that this type of technology caves to our students’ insecurities and fails to prepare them to navigate the give-and-take of “real” conversation. I’d like to hear your thoughts. Is there any truth to this?

If you are interested in reading more blogs like this, you can check them out here. Thank you for reading.

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Tags: classroom, educational, engagement, in, student, technology, the, twitter


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