I congratulate the history professor who’s giving the use of Twitter a fair try in her classroom. (For an great Twitter overview for newbies, see this CommonCraft video)

After all, whether you teach college or give professional seminars, there is nothing more annoying than all those electronic devices being accessed while you are presenting.  It might not mean they aren’t paying attention–they could be taking notes or tweeting your pithy comments–but it is a game-changer and challenge to presenters.  

So generally, I have a policy that in the college classroom, we turn off cell phones and the like.  

Not Dr. Monica Rankin, a history professor at University of Texas, Dallas.  She knew it might be “messy” as she dove into this experiment, but it was worth the try.  Limited to 140 characters, tweets are brief but it does force people to get to the heart of their comments. 

In a 50 to 60 minute class, Twitter does give an instructor a way to get everyone to participate, even if the flow of conversation is monitored later. Dr. Rankin has a class of 90 students–quite large.  Yet, participation can be challenging every for smaller class settings. I know my daughter recently complained about her high school honors English class, where participation every day is expected–but they run out of time to call on everyone and if you aren’t aggressive, your grade can suffer.  For those less outgoing or with diagnosis like Asperger’s (colleges are finding more and more students with this diagnosis–see ABC coverage of this here), this allows students to get beyond their comfort zone or simply get a word in.   

It can also allow the presenter/instructor to have a history and track what was going on. 

The professor was likely managing this with hashtags–a short abbreviation you choose preceeded by the # sign.  A search on this term will pull up tweets from everyone using is.  I’ll cover more of that later.  For now, check out the video.  I think you’ll get the inspired to try this for upcoming presentations.