Project Documents History Prof’s Use of Popular Service as a Teaching Tool
An Arts and Technology student’s video account of a professor’s classroom experiment with Twitter is making waves on the World Wide Web, capturing thousands of viewers on YouTube and prompting an article in U.S. News & World Report.
UT Dallas graduate student Kim Smith’s video, “The Twitter Experiment,” shows how Dr. Monica Rankin, assistant professor of history in the School of Arts and Humanities, uses Twitter to engage her 90-student history class in discussion. The communication application helps overcome the logistical issues involved in having scores of students interact in a short time span and encourages shy students to participate in the course.
“The video is a living example of what my Content Creation and Collaboration course with Dan Langendorf was all about: using emerging media technologies as a tool for education, collaboration with other fields, and documenting the experience for everyone to have access to,” said Smith.
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that lets users send and read each others’ updates, known as tweets, in short posts of 140 characters or less. The Twitter video was a course project for Smith’s digital video class.
The video, which took roughly 20 hours to record and edit, was shot during two class periods, one at the beginning of the semester and one at the end. Classmate Joe Chuang helped with the video and editing.
The collaboration of Smith and Rankin began when Smith documented a class trip to Guanajuato, Mexico, in 2008. They kept in touch via Facebook, and developed the idea of using Twitter in the classroom at the beginning of the Spring 2009 semester.
Smith worked out details on Twitter with Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC) faculty members Dr. Dave Parry and Dean Terry, who referred her to individuals who had done similar experiments. To get students comfortable with using Twitter in a classroom setting, Smith created a simple how-to video and attended class to help Rankin introduce the idea to her students.
The video was first released on Facebook; Terry and Parry both tweeted about it on Twitter and it went global within 48 hours. New-media icon Howard Rheingold tweeted about it, which helped it further circulate in the “Twitterverse.”
“I have gotten several direct messages from people saying that they were more ‘traditional’ and would not have considered using the social networking and micro-blogging tools in this way, but opened their minds after seeing the video,” said Smith.
A few weeks later Smith posted the video on YouTube, and an entirely different wave of viewers picked up on it. On Monday, June 1, “The Twitter Experiment” registered 500 views in a few hours. Read Write Web and other popular blogs had picked up the video, causing views to skyrocket.
“I love my classes and experience at UT Dallas and want to master how to use what I learn in EMAC to help professors like Dr. Rankin, who are willing to consider new technologies intelligently and experiment with what they offer,” said Smith.