New lesson plan: Temple professor invites students to tweet during class

It’s no news to most professors that students who bring their laptops in class do more than take notes.

One professor at Temple University decided it was time to start to take advantage of that tendency and make Twitter part of his class.

As Jordan Shapiro’s students waited to begin their last class before spring break, nearly all of them had their phone out. As class got under way, a lot of phones stayed out on the students’ desks.

The course is part of the core curriculum taken by every Temple student. Shapiro calls it the “cocktail party class,” as in giving students enough familiarity with classic texts such as Plato and Freud to get them through a cocktail party.

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His was inspired to use Twitter when he first sat down with other instructors’ class syllabi to plan his own.

“I get to this section in all of them — almost every single one — that says absolutely no cell phones in class,” Shapiro said. “Cell phone must be turned off. No tweeting, no text messages, no such and such. Blah blah blah blah.”

So he tried an experiment — asking students to talk about the class on Twitter. Their short messages were projected onto a screen at the front of the class.


Questions are the engine that create answers…we must always ask questions #mosaic1

— Aaron Stevens (@AaronJo89) March 8, 2013


On Twitter, he observed, “It just makes you think, makes your head spill out ideas.”

Students occasionally tweet that they’re lost in the lecture. Shapiro said that’s good to know.

“We’re also speaking outside of class,” he noted. “We’re interacting back and forth. I regularly get tweets in the middle of the night — you know, ‘What we were talking about in class, I just experienced that in a bar on such and such street.'”

If a student is sitting in a bar thinking about Freud, Shapiro said, teaching with Twitter is succeeding.

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