Real Life Stories
Tweeting the Benefits of Twitter
Being a certified human resources professional as well as a certified marketing professional at LaSalle College has enabled me to.teach a wide variety of courses in the disciplines of Fashion Marketing 571 and Business Management 410. I also participate in the AEC in Media where I coordinate some of the internships. My most regular course assignment is Introduction to Marketing and Consumer Behavior. In brief, I'm ready to take on new challenges and I've got to be flexible. IT in my classes is an invaluable asset.
About five years ago, I became aware of Hi5, Friendster, MySpace and Facebook. These sites intrigued me because I realized that a lot of my students were using them. My students were inviting me to sign up, to see their page or their blog. It was intriguing for me to realize that as a teacher, I was being guided into this environment by students and not the other way around. At that time as well, LaSalle was starting to use data projectors where this sort of information could be quite easily integrated into a classroom presentation.
Maggy with her students at a benefit for The Dove Self-esteem Fund hosted by LaSalle students and publicized in a tweet
How did technology get its start in your classes?
I started discussing mass e-mailing in a class. I saw it as an tool for my students in marketing to learn about a way to start spreading news about their events. From then on, I started creating projects that involved a mix of marketing with mass media. These projects included fashion shows for charities which were promoted on Facebook and special events such as 1000 Nights at the Menara Restaurant in the Old Port. Students wrote their own blogs which were used in their classes. One student made a website for the Pink Cancer Drive. She was lucky that she had friends who were in the web design program. The Association for Cancer Site was linked to the Renovatio site, an agency that students at LaSalle created in order to do fund raising for Pink and the cancer society in general.
Tweeting the Benefits of Twitter
Even now, some students do not have an email address. Can you believe it? Facebook is their only online presence. When I first started using IT, I tried Facebook to communicate supplementary class information, but I was hacked. As well, one of my students had an acquaintance who created a fan page for her on Facebook. Although this sounds quite positive, it meant that the content of that page was effectively taken out of my student's control. I realized that my solution for supplementary information had to be quick, easy, secure and short term.
My solution for this situation turned out to be Twitter which I began using in the Fall 2009 semester for my classes. All of my students can be tweeted to receive a link to follow. When I send a link, I shorten the length of it by using TinyURL and Bit.lyin order to respect their 140 word maximum message length. The short nature of Twitter messages encourages professional concision and allows instant back and forth communication.
Now, when I start a course, I ask all my students to go on Twitter. To reinforce the course, I talk about the virtues of interactive communication, and then, I tweet students a link to a related site, a video and a youTube link to make them aware of the variety as well as the potential of IT. I'm on Twitter at least three times a week. I have separate accounts for all of my courses at the moment, but I am considering consolidating them all into one to promote a more integrated approach to the information that I am disseminating.
LaSalle fashion marketing students demonstrate creations of local designers as part of their participation in the Dove Self-esteem Fund event.
At LaSalle students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and countries, and not all students embrace the technology. Some really don't like it, and therefore, my students are not forced to tweet back to me. On the other hand, one of my students recently expressed the idea of using Twitter more to get herself better known because she's a fashion designer. You can tweet pictures, and although I generally don't do this, the potential is there.
There are pedagogical drawbacks to tweeting as well. Once you tweet a message, it's gone! This makes it difficult to keep records from one course to another BUT the transitory nature of Twitter is great for impromptu information to make a specific course come alive and be at the leading edge of where trends are at. There is a retweet function, but there's really no ‘save tweet' function, although the tweets stay in chronological order in your history. As well, you can lose your account if you lose your password.
I feel strongly that it is my job to encourage IT diversity. My students have increasingly used all kinds of media including Twitter, Facebook and blogs. I now give extra information in class suggesting links to sites of interest on Twitter. I make sure that my students understand that my own IT solution is exactly that, my choice. I do not want to force students to use just the medium that I have selected for myself.
I feel that I am at the leading edge of IT using Twitter. I have talked about it around my department, but so far no one else has taken the plunge. I heard there's a math teacher that used Twitter to send answers for homework problems. I wonder if Twitter could be used as part of a test. I feel that this story in Profweb is a way of getting the message out to interested teachers throughout the Quebec College Network. Share your opinions about Twitter with your colleagues by using the Comments feature below.