World War II, fought out on Facebook

April 11, 2010

It’s not exactly family safe, so I’ll link.  For a college class, I’d ask students to determine if the piece is accurate, and if not, what really happened.

What would it have looked like had World War II been fought with Facebook postings?


Edith Wharton on Facebook: What a horrible thought!

January 3, 2010

Nancy Sharon Colllins, reporting after her recent work at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, including reading some original letters and other writings of Edith Wharton, wonders what would be the effect on history and literary studies, had Edith Wharton used Facebook instead of keeping her journal and writing copious numbers of letters.

And that got me thinking: What if Edith Wharton had Facebooked? Had she lived in our time and communicated digitally, I wonder what her literature would be like. Looking at five days of cursive writing and personal letters made me realize that her compulsion to jot down her thoughts was no different than ours today when we tweet about what we had for lunch or share some fab link we just discovered. The difference between a letter written longhand and a Facebook post is that one takes a little bit longer (and leaves a more lasting trace), but the purpose is the same. Whether we live on a grand, Whartonian scale or a quieter, more ordinary one, we feel more significant when we share intimacies about ourselves with others.

There’s a good warm-up and/or journaling exercise in there for literature teachers.


Using Twitter in the classroom, for coursework

June 27, 2009

Older son Kenny nears graduation there, but we still get the newsletters to parents bragging on the school, and there is much to brag about.  The Good Folks at the University of Texas at Dallas asked us to share this story.  It’s right up the alley of a blog that worries about education, so share it I will.

After all, when was the last time you heard a teacher raving about students using their cell phones and Twitter during class? (Yes, I’m about three weeks behind the curve on this.)

Here’s the story from the press office at UTD:

ATEC Student’s Twitter Video Makes Waves

Project Documents History Prof’s Use of Popular Service as a Teaching Tool

June 11, 2009

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.


Media Contact: Karah Hosek, UT Dallas, 972-883-4329, karah.hosek@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, 972-883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

UTD, where the football team is still undefeated.  Seriously, have you thought about using twitter in class, for coursework?  Please tell us the story in comments.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering just how I could make this work, in a district where cell phone use by students is against the rules (ha!), and where students are discouraged from using laptops in class.  In Irving ISD, where every high school kid gets a laptop, this could offer some great possibilities (anybody from Irving reading this; anybody try it yet?).  I’ll have to check to see if our network can handle such traffic, and I’ll have to get an account on Twitter; we have 87 minute class blocks, and smaller classes, but it’s tougher to get kids to discuss in high school.

With the layoffs in Dallas ISD, support for new technology tricks in classrooms is essentially non-existent.  Can I do this as a guerrilla teaching project and make it work before I get caught?

I may have to get some of these people at UTD on the phone.  If you’ve already overcome these problems, put that in comments, too, please.


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