From a previous article shared on this website on the effect of mobile phone use in the classroom, it was concluded that even when mobile phones were used as intended in the classroom, it had limited benefits on learning. However, mobile phones and computers are tools like the whiteboard in the classroom. Therefore, it is important to explore ways in which such tools can be harnessed to enhance learning. Mobile phone technology is advancing rapidly as programmers and software developers design new applications. Twitter, for instance, is a microblogging service that allows users to broadcast information and to read information shared by others.
Tang and Hew (2017) reviewed 51 studies that examined the use of Twitter in education between 2006 and 2015. In the review, the authors identified six specific ways of Twitter use in educational context. First, capture and represent. Students used Twitter to share topic-related pictures or videos that they have taken with their classmates. Second, communication. Twitter was used by instructors to disseminate content-related information, facilitate discussions among students, and to reach out to people outside the learning community. Third, collaboration. Students worked together by building on one another’s ideas using tweets or to coordinate their study activities. Fourth, class organization and administration. Instead of using twitter to disseminate content-related information, instructors also used twitter as a tool to remind students of events and organize educational activities. Fifth, reflection. Instructors had students reflect on their own work by sharing learning experience using tweets. Lastly, assessment. In-class and after-class assessments were conducted using Twitter. Instructors posted questions during class to check students’ level of understanding. Similarly, partial course grades were awarded to students who answered questions posted on Twitter by the instructor after class.
Although Twitter was used in many ways for educational purposes, only six studies in the review used objective measures to examine learning outcomes of students with and without Twitter intervention. These studies generally showed positive outcomes with the Twitter intervention. Students remembered the topics better and received higher academic scores. However, the studies compared the Twitter group to either a group that received non course-related tweets or to a control group who did not use Twitter. The additional discussions or information from the tweets could have contributed to the positive findings. Therefore, these results should be interpreted with caution. More evidence are needed to ascertain the learning benefits of using Twitter for educational purposes.
Based on the findings, Tang and Hew (2017) proposed a set of guidelines for using Twitter in educational context:
1) Increase familiarity with Twitter use by providing information and technological training sessions. Also, include interaction opportunities before class.
2) Make clear the objectives of educational activities using Twitter.
3) Award course credits to encourage purposeful tweets.
4) Support students regularly by responding to the tweets.
5) Broaden learning communities to enrich educational experience.