December 28th, 2009

Expert Recasts Texting and Tweeting As Teaching, Learning Aids

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Educators commonly ban texting and tweeting as classroom distractions, but a media literacy expert advises them to take another look at these instant messaging tools. The advice recasts texting and tweeting as ergonomic aids – as performance enhancers – instead of a hindrance to learning.

Carol L. Tilley, a professor of library and information science at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana said that schools and libraries should consider embracing texting and Twitter, the popular micro-blogging site that lets users tweet text-based messages that can’t run longer than 140 characters, as a means of engagement rather than simply outlawing them.

For educators or librarians looking for new ways of to reach out to teens and tweens, then texting is one possibility, Tilley said in a recent university news release. “Over 70 percent of teens have a cell phone, so I think it’s a viable alternate means of engaging with that age group.” When used as a tool for ubiquitous learning, text messaging and tweeting wouldn’t be tools of distraction, she explained, but a means of engagement for this generation of gadget-obsessed teens.

Professor Tilley said tweeting is easier to integrate into instruction than text messaging because tweets can be disseminated to a wider audience than texts.

Teachers could send reminders about assignments, links to study guides or updates on their progress grading major projects by text or by tweet, according to the professor. Students could text reference questions to school librarians without having to ask for a hall pass or having to wait until lunch, Tilley said, and librarians might tweet about new materials added to their collections.

“Young people learn about the importance not only of argumentation but also how to deliver a certain message to an audience, especially given the limitations of the medium itself,” she said. “From an educational standpoint, that helps students become more in tune with language.”

Teachers could also challenge students to craft micro-stories complete with a climax and a denouement in 140 characters. Tilley noted that the flash-fiction genre has a distinguished lineage: the famously laconic Ernest Hemingway once wrote a story using just six words – "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" – and is said to have called it his best work.

But the “cool” factor could interfere with the success of any move to recast instant messaging as a teaching tool, according to the professor. By the time teachers get around to bringing something new into the classroom, it’s already passé, she noted. “There’s always that danger when embracing something in a school setting that you kill it for the students.

Source: University of Illinois

 



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