November 15, 2010

"Students chatting on Twitter both inside and outside the classroom got higher grades than their nontweeting peers..."

According to a recent study reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
At the end of the semester, the tweeters had grade-point averages half a point higher, on average, than did their nontweeting counterparts. And students who tweeted were more engaged. Twitter users scored higher than those who didn’t use the tool on a 19-question student-engagement survey over the course of the semester—using parameters like how frequently students contributed to classroom discussion, and how often they interacted with their instructor about course material.
I have a lot of colleagues who oppose computers in the classroom and even ban them, and I wonder if this will flip any opinion. I've always been very pro computers in the classroom.

53 comments:

traditionalguy said...

First, words must be written and spoken to have their full impact on students. Twitter is a succinct writing down of those words. Why try to make learning harder just to be the Professor who beats up his students. Second, the added Twitter feature is that it is akin to a translator's task that must get across the meaning of a speaker in a few well chosen words.

Maguro said...

All this study says is that students who use twitter are more outgoing than those who do not.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Is it because one twit is twitting the answers to the other twits?

traditionalguy said...

Oh yee of cynical mind. Are not students who are trying to learn more than sneaky little creeps? We were all in school once, and many of us tried our best and never thought of cheating. There maybe a hint of an Oedipusian preemptive strike in men who are always demeaning young men.

David said...

This does go against what most people would think would be the result of such interaction with Twitter in the classroom. I think it says alot about the negative connotations social media sites have been getting over the past couple years. It's time we all realized that Twitter and other clients are forms of communication, and that is seldom a bad thing.

SteveR said...

Which can first the ability to get goods grades and then tweeting, or tweeting and then the higher grades?

Big Mike said...

I wonder if this will flip any opinion.

Heck, Lady, I remember back in the mid-1970's when engineering professors routinely banned calculators in their classrooms and during exams even though calculators had become cheap and ubiquitous. University professors are, in my experience, the most techno-phobic people on earth (comp sci professors, and yourself, exempted).

traditionalguy said...

Maybe the professor can declare a Twitter length comment rule for one day and see how many of us can be concise. Trooper always manages to get his meaning into a sentence or two. That rule would exclude Ritmo on his bad nights, but he is smart enough to adjust. I always did a double take when I read a scripture in a Gospel said that if all of the things Jesus did and said were written down, there would not be enough room to keep all of the books. So, even the Holy Spirit believes in saying what needs to be said in the fewest words needed to say it.

Real Debate said...

Hey @Fellowclassmate is the answer to #32 a, b, or c?

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'm still waiting for the BrainPal.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I have a lot of colleagues who oppose computers in the classroom and even ban them, and I wonder if this will flip any opinion. I've always been very pro computers in the classroom.


I like to knit. Can I knit in your classroom?

I really enjoy playing World of Warcraft, that won't be a problem will it? I'll keep the sound down.

I'm writing a cookbook. Since I can multi task, you won't mind if I spend some of my class time composing.

I also need to do the book work for my husband's business on the computer. I can reconcile the accounts while you are talking about....whatever it is you are blathering about while I'm busy with my computer....

I really want to discuss my daughter's pregnancy with her and download patterns for some quilits I plan to make, so you won't mind if I Tweet or instant message her and get some ideas of the colors in the new nursery, will you.

If students are using the computer to take notes and refer to classroom materials, I don't see a problem.

However, they aren't. SO.... if it were me....no computers. It might even help them with the lost art of handwriting.

traditionalguy said...

The Indian internet guys already offer to do any home work assignments overnight for a fee. But a professor might spot the polite wording of a young Mr Patel. It would not be written in scurrelous enough prose to seem American.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Heck, Lady, I remember back in the mid-1970's when engineering professors routinely banned calculators in their classrooms and during exams even though calculators had become cheap and ubiquitous

And now, we have students who can't make change for a dollar, nevermind adding, subtracting, or doing division without a calculator.

The ignorance is ubiquitous.

HDHouse said...

pow bam zoom right over her head.

of the zillion variables that could have caused a 1% difference Twitter is the only possible explanation? half a gpa point...define please...if it is 3.0 v. 2.5 or a different scale?

19 questions...i guess that isolates all the variables you want to isolate - like none.

Leland said...

"They're cheating I tell you... the whole lot of them... that's all they do is pass around the answers like little cheaters. Not a one of them actually knows the subject."

Just guessing that's the mindset of teachers/professors that oppose the concept. In the business world, we look it as coworkers properly collaborating. Millions is spent in IT support to allow it to happen.

wv: liblab (seriously!)

Irene said...

My favorite thing to say in class is, "Google it! Now!"

Jessica said...

I'm a recent former law student. If I ever become a professor I will definitely ban computers. I used my computer to chat on the internet making fun of the professor, shop online, read blogs, and send email. I think I used it to take notes or do relevant research 10% of the time. I think it's delusional to believe computers are necessary or beneficial in the law classroom.

Beth said...

I teach freshman writing in computer classrooms; I don't have any problems keeping students focused on discussion or in-class writing and research - but classroom software allows me to view their screens and send a little message if I notice someone playing WoW - "Eyes front, DQB." Or I guess I could join in a round myself; huh, I never thought of that until now.

What significant writing tasks are done by hand anymore? My students aren't going home and writing their papers longhand, with an encyclopaedia at hand. Why must they do so in the classroom?

In my lit classes, I have no objection to students having laptops, iPads, smartphones, whatever. It's great having ready references when questions come up about the texts we're reading. Some have the texts on their devices, in Kindle or iBook form.

College students are adults - young adults, but adults, still. It shouldn't take more than one failed quiz for a student to realize she needs to be taking notes, not updating Facebook, in class.

Big Mike said...

@DBQ, by the time you're taking engineering at a college level you can do elementary arithmetic and make change.

The expectation of the engineering professors of that era was that their students would use slide rules on the exams, just as generations before them had. Of course, real engineering firms were already banning the use of slide rules, but, hey! Even engineering professors don't care very much about the skill sets that industry is looking for.

Jennifer said...

If we can't expect people to take responsibility for their own education by the time they are in law school, what hope is there?

Knit, chat, do whatever the hell you want in class. Why expect a law professor to force you to allow yourself to be educated? Why not let the uncommitted weed themselves out?

Pogo said...

If i were a student, I would fully support other students using twitter and facebook and the rest during class time.

Helps the curve.

Big Mike said...

I like you more and more all the time, Beth. Yes, that's exactly it. Modern students do not pore over encyclopedias and Cliff Notes and other sources and painfully transcribe things by hand. Everyone is computer-literate and modern pedagogy needs to address modern skill sets.

Now if only I could fix your politics.

;-)

traditionalguy said...

When at Amelia Island, we like to go to the Beech Street Grill in Fernandina that has a wonderful piano player. After dinner in a large room is under way he will play theme songs and ask what it is, or what movie it is from, or who sang it. The person who correctly guessed the answer would usually tell how they remembered it. This used to lead to much fun and comraderie and we quickly saw who were the music experts in the room, especially from the 1950s who were usually older folks. Now that damn Google on I-phones lets one guy beat everyone else to the answers. The fun is gone.

Freeman Hunt said...

So what's the computer for? Is it the means to virtually check out of a class you would skip if not for the professor's attendance policy?

Palladian said...

I allow my students to sleep, goof off, fuck up and fail, if they choose, as long as they're not disturbing the rest of the class. As I tell them during the first class of the term: This is not high school. I'm not here to police you and prod you into doing your work. You need to become self-motivated and responsible for your own success or failure.

That said, isn't it about time for "Twitter" to curl up and die already? Jesus, what a stupid phenom that was. I could never get past the irritating name and the lingo - Tweets! - makes me want to punch @ someone.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that we may be talking correlation, and not causation.

One theory is that some students are smarter than others and/or are better prepared for the class. Thus, they are more likely bored by it, and have the time to twitter, etc. back and forth. On the other hand, some students maybe not be as smart, or maybe as well prepared for the class, and have to concentrate to try to keep up.

Thus, the correlation is likely really with smarter and better prepared students, and they both do better on the tests for that reason, and don't need the lectures as much to understand the subject matter.

Thus, as I said, it may be caused by correlation with a third variable, and not one causing the other.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@DBQ, by the time you're taking engineering at a college level you can do elementary arithmetic and make change.


LOL

This is true. However, I was thinking more on the lines of the 'mission creep' that has happened with computers and calculators taking over the mental tasks before the students have learned to do the math (so to speak) on their own.

I remember my first hand held calculator that I bought in 1971 for my chemistry and physics classes in college. Texas Instruments and it was really REALLY expensive. I think I paid over $100, which was a lot in 1971 when minimum wage was something like $1.50 hour. Large and clunky...but WOW....it was a major techinlogical leap beyond the slide rule (which I never really mastered anyway).

I guess, as long as the students kept their computer usage in class devoted to class activities, learning, note taking etc it wouldn't be a problem. However, if the students want to screw off and tweet and facebook in class time, I would hope the teacher would flunk them and not coddle the little precious snowflakes.

traditionalguy said...

Once they have seen twitter, how are we going to keep them down on the farm?

Beth said...

"Now if only I could fix your politics.

;-)"

Big Mike, I was thinking exactly the same thing. In those exact words.

Royal Tenenbaum said...

I graduated from law school last year, and this is what most students did during class: get on facebook/google chat, go shopping, update a facebook status, browse the news, watch videos, etc.

We sometimes took notes, too. Yet for the most part, computers allowed us to zone out.

Now, if computers are banned from a classroom, the professor may need to make some changes to their teaching style. One big piece of advice: SLOW DOWN.

Chip Ahoy said...

Pardon, you wrote something there? Something about nineteen higher grade students got engaged? And of course they got material for their engagement? And now people flipped to computerized classrooms? Sorry, I was busy on my Blackberry.

Kirk Parker said...

DBQ,

Given that the "lost art of handwriting" is a, ummm, lost art, why should anyone care about it outside a small group of historical reenactors?

Ankur said...

In business school, not having a laptop in class would have been a major obstacle.

1) It is insane to print out 50 page HBR cases when you can refer to the PDFs on your computer - and using appropriate software, you can underline, add notes right onto the PDF, etc. It becomes even more insane if you are going through 40 or more cases every semester.

2) One cannot run statistical simulation software on paper.

3) One cannot quickly build excel based models and charts.
___________________________________

Downside of using computers:

A power surge one day destroyed by laptop hard (including hard disc) and my backup external drive simultaneously. That meant two years worth of class notes, cases, small business consulting contracts, etc - and it cost me $2400 to get the drive repaired.

PWT said...

All it shows is that Twitter is a better cheating tool than the others.

MadisonMan said...

However, if the students want to screw off and tweet and facebook in class time, I would hope the teacher would flunk them and not coddle the little precious snowflakes.

I don't care what they do if they're not bugging other students. As long as they know the class content, I'm passing them. (My grades don't include a lot for in-class participation)

prairie wind said...

DBQ, I was surprised to learn that you can still spend $100+ on a calculator. Sure, it's got some scientific functions and sure, it's a different $100 from your 1971 money, but still.

veni vidi vici said...

I'm with Palladian.

Oligonicella said...

Totally depends on what the class is.

DBQ - I've got to agree with others. I type almost as fast as I form the sentences, so why in hell would I write long hand? It also hurts my fingers. Nope, I type whenever I can. When I can't, I hatchet-hand block letters so others can read it.

David said...

Bullshit survey.

The kids with the electronic devices are more likely to be affluent, which is the single greatest correlation to academic achievement. (It's about the same as parental education level, which corresponds to affluence.)

The real question is whether the achievement of the privileged group would be better without twittering.

The students at my alma mater, supposedly a highly selective small liberal arts college, can neither write cogently nor think through a complex problem in writing.

They think they are smart, but actually they seem quite stupid.

But since life is graded on a curve, they are coming out on top, so far.

David said...

This is almost certainly a spurious correlation.

Lem said...

So an active, engaged brain is able to retain and recall more than a less active brain..

If its true for the old gizzards like me it should be more so for the lame/bra .. excuse me for the young.

traditionalguy said...

Never underestimate Alertness. That is a missing ingredient in most people. Their minds stay in hibernate. But a twitter tweeter is alert all of the time. That's why we make it illegal to drive and text...their minds are engaged at a high level, elsewhere than on the traffic.

Alex said...

All this study says is that students who use twitter are more outgoing than those who do not.

Which leads to creating more social networking connections and better future prospects then non-tweeters.

Alex said...

The expectation of the engineering professors of that era was that their students would use slide rules on the exams, just as generations before them had. Of course, real engineering firms were already banning the use of slide rules, but, hey! Even engineering professors don't care very much about the skill sets that industry is looking for.

Somehow an entire generation of engineers who never used a slide rule hasn't impacted innovation in the hi-tech sector.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Given that the "lost art of handwriting" is a, ummm, lost art, why should anyone care about it outside a small group of historical reenactors?


Ummmm. Just in case the power goes out at some time? If you are forced to write a note to someone, without using your computer and you might like them to actually be able to read it.

We all drive cars. That doesn't mean that we forgot how to use our feet or have had our legs amputated.

Actually, I find that I remember things better if I write it down or see it in writing. Just typing into the computer doesn't do it for me. But...everyone learns in a different way.

@ praire wind.

I use a HP12c Platinum. Over $100. It does all kinds of things that I 'could' do by hand or with brain power, such as calculate IRR, cumulative statistical analysis, standard deviation, mean, weighted mean, and linear regression. I really appreciate that the calculator can do those things for me.

However, when I took the CFP exam, we were required to know how to do those things without a calculator and to be able to spew up the formulas. Click on the link in this page to see the forumulas.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't use computers in the classroom, just that you should be strictly using them for class purposes. Tweeting or whatever is not a class activity.

ricpic said...

Isn't there a concentration on what the instructor or professor is saying in a class functioning at optimum level that would be broken if several of the students are "elsewhere," in the sense that even though they are physically present they are focused on their computers, not the professor? Though intangible, the aura of intense encompassing concentration...or it's lack, is real.

Big Mike said...

@Alex, no it hasn't.

I had spent a summer in the lates sixties working in a petrochemical research firm, where old-line engineers were complaining that management would absolutely refuse to accept analyses done on the slide rule, then came back to school where the professors refused to accept calculators and insisted on slide rules in exams.

I switched into mathematics. I like to build things and see them work, but mathematics doesn't insist you spend a picosecond solving the problem and twenty minutes converting from grams to long tons and from degrees Centigrade to degrees Rankine.

traditionalguy said...

ricpic...The answer is yes for some students and no for others. Many can handle more that one thought at a time. We always joked that if you want something to get done, then give it to a busy man. Using devices that keep one alert is an art that should be allowed since it is not interfering with anything except the Prof's ego. Don't make the fast students learn at the speed of the slow students.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Shoot....broken link.

http://www.cfp.net/become/library.asp CFP examination formulas

ricpic said...

I allow my students to sleep, goof off, fuck up and fail, if they choose, as long as they're not disturbing the rest of the class.

I'm going to take this statement at face value since Palladian actually teaches. But it still seems to me that a student asleep in class or goofing off in class does have an impact on class concentration, or class cohesion. He does disturb the rest of the class.

When I was seventeen I started attending the Art Student's League on 57th Street in Manhattan. It was a revelation to me. Why? Because I wanted to be there. And all the other students in every class I attended wanted to be there. And we were all concentrating. Whole classes would pass in near silence. It was almost like a chapel. After coming from places where only some wanted to be, only some wanted to learn, and many goofed off in the hell of boredom and lostness, it was wonderful.

That's why I don't see how you can even call a class a class (alright, in the platonic ideal sense) without all the students being present.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

DBQ,

If I tried really hard, I could still dig out my old college notebooks from the 80s, back when we had no laptops to distract us. If I did, I know what I would find. In the classes where I was learning, I'll find copious notes and questions. In the classes which were poorly taught and boring, I'll find doodles of dinosaurs, strange runic alphabets, computer programs, game designs, musical scores, and plans for the weekend. If I forced myself to take notes in those classes, I'll find a few lines of half-hearted notes, slowly degenerating in penmanship as I fought to stay awake, until the notes become mere wandering lines.

If there's an attention problem in class, the fault belongs with the teacher and the students, to varying degrees. The laptop doesn't change that.

Bob_R said...

I have several students who take notes (math class) on tablet style laptops, so banning laptops seems over the top to me. Too controlling and paternalistic anyway. If mommy and daddy keep signing the checks, you can keep acting like a fool.

As far as the study goes it's the usual big correlation/causation mess. More verbal students get higher grades. Big surprise.

Sigivald said...

Note from the actual article:
... 70 students were assigned to use Twitter to both access information and complete four class assignments required in a first-year seminar course.

The control group of 55 students completed the same tasks on a Web-based program that functioned like a typical course-management system’s discussion board.


They were not using Twitter to do random interactions or post their plans to their friends or react to cute pictures of kittens, or any of the things that "normal" Twitter use is all about (other than a complete waste of time and effort).

They were using it in a directed manner specifically to do their coursework - and the other half were not "not using computers", but were using a website to do the same thing (and I suspect, given how bad most forum software is, not a very good website, either).

So this study, Ann, tells us nothing about "computers in the classroom" vs. "no computers in the classroom", since both groups were online - and it's not clear that EITHER group was online in class.

(Also, note the metrics - ... a 19-question student-engagement survey over the course of the semester—using parameters like ... how often they interacted with their instructor about course material.

Being pestered with stupid questions more because it's easier to ask them than to think it through - that's how I read that one.

This is not an improvement, either for students or the instructors.

"Engagement" is not what I want to be the criterion for classroom techniques. The point of a class is not to get the students to "interact more with the teacher and other students", it's to get them to learn things; in the case of a 100-level survey, to learn pretty specific things.

The lack of test results related to what they actually learned suggests one of two things:

Either the study designers didn't even think to test it, which is depressing.

Or, there was no difference or it was actively negative, which is a great reason not to push Twitterizing For Lernin'.)