• Using Twitter to sharpen critical thinking and writing skills

    Dr. Alice Louise Kassens

    Teaching the principles courses can be more than just presenting the fundamentals of our field. It is also an opportunity to develop young students’ critical thinking and writing skills. Twitter is an online microblogging utility, permitting posts of up to 140 characters called tweets. I employed Twitter as a complement to traditional lecture in a principles of macroeconomics course to engage students and develop their critical thinking and writing skills.

    Watch the Video: http://youtu.be/eKCMk65dKKs

    Often undergraduates struggle with focusing their questions, comments, and thoughts which is evidenced by essays that wander, hypotheses that are not fully addressed, and an inability to articulate confusion on a topic. Given Twitter’s 140 character limit, effective statements and questions must be succinct and precise. Often it is more challenging to communicate an argument in 140 characters than it is in a 500+ word essay; one must edit out all extraneous words.

    A series of Twitter assignments were graded in my macroeconomics course using a rubric developed collectively by my students and me. Throughout the semester students were required to tweet answers, comments, or questions pertaining to class material and guest economists tweets and while watching the State of the Union Address. A successful tweet, according to our rubric, must be specific to the topic, clearly written, and follow the assignment directions. Over the course of the semester students’ ability to analyze an issue and articulate their thoughts improved tremendously.

    Other benefits emerged. Students who were reluctant to ask a question in class were often more comfortable tweeting their question. With a live feed projecting our Twitter account on a large screen I was able to see the questions and address them quickly. Additionally, Twitter expanded our class beyond the physical walls of the classroom. We were able to interact with classes at other institutions and comment on current events as they unfolded. For example, we were able to see and comment upon the reaction to the BLS Employment Situation Report in real time.

    The included video reviews the simple steps needed to get your course up and running with Twitter, our grading rubric, and a variety of ways to incorporate it into your class. Feel free to follow our class @kassensecon122. We will next be in action in the spring of 2014.



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