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In this guide, we outline three examples of how one could use Twitter in the feminist classroom, based on syllabi we found around the internet. We break down each example into 1) the syllabus description of the purpose of the activity, 2) the students' role and responsibilities, and 3) how Twitter is incorporated into the class as a whole. Next we include two example activities for Twitter. Finally, we compile a set of resources for getting started as a feminist educator on Twitter, including our favorite people to follow.

Example #1 - syllabus example
Example #2 - syllabus example
Example #3 - syllabus example
Example #4 - Twitter note-taking activity
Example #5 - Twitter movie-watching activity

"Tweeps" to follow and other Twitter tips for beginners

Twitter Example #4

Twitter Note-taking Activity

Activity Description:

As a university student one of the most important things to learn fast is to be an engaged reader. Taking good notes, writing in the margin of the book or article, or highlighting every word in the book until your page looks like you smashed a canary on it. This activity is intended to have students engage with their readings through Twitter. Students will be asked to use Twitter posts in moments of engagement with their readings, instead of writing in the margins, write it on Twitter. By participating in a public space the student can connect with classmates before entering the classroom to continue a conversation that has already started.

Goals for the Activity:

This activity will allow students to participate and engage with assigned readings in a public space where connections with fellow students are encouraged. By requiring certain number of Tweets per reading, students will have a structured and organized method of note taking that can be easily accessed for future reference. This form of note taking can start the conversation about assigned readings before entering the classroom, which can lead to richer dialogue in class.

Intended Audience, Strengths and Limitations:

This activity would work for any classroom where students have required readings. While a smaller classroom may have a more intimate discussion about the readings, having a large class can lead to more quotes and thoughts of readings. In a large classroom, the Twitter site can serve as a rich resource but can translate into a focused conversation among a few students.

Including student's thoughts on important parts of the reading can also assist in understanding different perspectives in class. By including the moments students pause to write notes or highlight in a book, we are able to see focus on parts of the readings that may have passed others by. Still, this can also lead students to not participate fully in fear of going against the standard thought of the class. However, the engagement with the readings and note taking can potentially guide the instructor to address questions and conversations happening on Twitter during class time.

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Twitter tips

"Tweeps" to follow and other Twitter tips for beginners

OK, so you are thinking about using Twitter in your class, but you don't use it regularly yourself (or you need to help first-time users in your class).

First things first: Twitter's own sign-up guide

Some readings/tips on Twitter compiled by Sara Puotinen:
* Orenstein, Peggy. "I Tweet, Therefore I Am"
* Fisher, Berenice Malka. "Chapter 2: Is Women's Experience the best teacher?" (No Angel in the Classroom)
* Zandt, Deanna. "Chapter One: The Power of Sharing"
* A Blog Cluster on Sharing and the limits of empathy:
1. Johnson, Joel. "Why I Stalk a Sexy Black Woman on Twitter (And Why you Should,Too)"
2. Johnson, Joel. "So this Hipster Tech Douche Stalks a Sexy Black Woman on Twitter"
3. Zandt, Deanna. "Privileged Voyeurism"
4. Shani-o. "The Odd Habits and Foibles of Sexy Black Women on the Internet"

Twitter and subversion:
In addition to sharing information, Twitter is also a valuable feminist tool for engaging in subversive activity. In the classroom, students may post real time reactions to discussions, lectures or activities . In this manner, Twitter acts like a snark valve of sorts, allowing students to react in both critical and humorous ways.

Hash tags provide another option for subversion. Hash tags are made simply by prefacing a word with the # symbol. They can be used to group tweets (for instance, by a class or topic), but they can also be used to indicate sarcasm or to raise attention about a particular topic. One controversial example is the #livetweetingabortion tag, which allowed women to give voice to a process so often kept secret.

Our favorite "tweeps" to follow:

@ColorLines - twitter stream of website about race, culture, and organizing
@Racialicious - twitter stream of blog about race and the media
@adbusters - twitter stream of anti-consumerist magazine
@tcimc (twin cities indymedia) - twitter stream of website about local activist events and news
@feministing - twitter stream of the blog
@Bitchmedia - twitter stream of Bitch magazine
@FeministHulk - funny and inspiring feminist commentary
@MHarrisPerry - Princeton professor, MSNBC commentator, and Nation columnist who live-tweets her classes
@undisciplined - feminist professor experimenting with all kinds of social media
@mary_churchill - feminist higher ed admin who tweets and blogs about pedagogy
@feministteacher - feminist educator and activist
@emiledurkheim - sociological levity

And finally, us!

Other informational websites about Twitter:
Tweeting Feminists

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Twitter Example #3

syllabus example

Reading Media and Technology in Contemporary Literature and Theory with Brian Croxall

According to the instructor of this course, the purpose of the Twitter assignment is "to use an interconnected, mixed media system and to see if it changes the culture or society of the class in any appreciable way." The instructor for the class has set up a class Twitter account, and should be somewhat familiar with how to use the technology in order to help the students. This particular activity model is for an English class about technology.

Student responsibilities
For this class, the Twitter component takes place for a specific subset of the semester (other technology is explored intensively during other weeks). For one month, everyone in the course is required to register for a Twitter account and post at least once a day. Students must list their twitter screen names and follow each others' twitter accounts. For three specific days, everyone is required to connect Twitter to the text messaging on their phone and follow at least 5-10 people that way (some allowances/changes are made for those without unlimited messaging). Students are encouraged to use a class hashtag when posting, and at the end of the month, they turn in a 1-2 pg paper reflecting on the Twitter assignment.

Incorporation into the class
It's not clear from this example how Twitter is incorporated into class time, but it seems as though the Twitter interaction is likely discussed in class as part of the readings and ideas that the class is exploring at that point in the course. The Twitter assignment counts for 5% of the grade breakdown for the class.

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Twitter Example #2

syllabus example

Graphic Novels with Mark Sample
This particular course is designed for the course 'ENGL 685' that uses theories from literary criticism and visual culture studies to analyze the potential of graphic novels in addressing academic issues of racism, terrorism, immigration etc. The instructor has not mentioned the size of the class and the academic level (5000 level, 8000 level or undergraduate), but since the website has the twitter list of the class as well as the blog posts and comments (like our class), I could ascertain that the class included about 8 (most likely graduate) students. The class goes on till 10 pm and s/he advises students to not enroll if participation is an issue. In the instructor's words "This course places a high premium on participation" and s/he expects students to tweet at least once every other day both inside (real-time) and outside of classroom. In addition, s/he encourages students to post 'thick' tweets with more than 1 layer of information that may be in the form of a question (aka Freire's "learning to question" technique) and that adds new information and has the potential to further the conversation. The intent is to use twitter as a back channel conversation. This seems to require a lot of investment on the part of the instructor as well.

Student responsibilities
Everyone has to register for a twitter account on the first day and begin tweeting using #ENGL685. S/he has created a twitter list for everybody to follow the tweets. S/he does not provide instructions should the students not have a laptop for real-time tweeting in the classroom. There is also no information provided regarding whether technology is provided if access to computers is an issue. The activity does not seem to require viewing of comments as a whole in the class as twitter serves more as a back channel.

Incorporation into the class
Twitter as a back channel included as a component of class participation is given equal weightage as the other four components in the class i.e 20% of the grade. This includes real-time tweeting in the class as well as outside the classroom so that students tweet at least once every other day. The other components include blogging, final essay, presentation and a project.

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Twitter Example #1

Syllabus example

Introduction to Electronic and Digital Communication with Kim Knight

The syllabus for Introduction to Electronic and Digital Communication includes a page about an ongoing Twitter assignment. The instructor begins by acknowledging the ways in which Twitter has been discounted ("I don't care what you had for breakfast") but explains that students will use Twitter to engage with each other throughout the semester. Because new media has come under much scrutiny , instructors will have to consider how to address those attacks.

The instructor here gives no hard and fast requirements about number of tweets throughout the semester, but the professor says they will create requirements if an online community does not arise organically. However, the professor offers clear guidelines about online etiquette expectations: "Our many online assignments will require vigilance to ensure that we are always preserving an atmosphere of mutual respect. Disagreements may arise and consensus may not be possible. We can, however, respect each person's right to an opinion. Name calling or menacing behavior will not be tolerated." The author also notes the general requirements of critical engagement and willingness to be open, have fun, and experiment with new media.

The syllabus also places the course website and Twitter account at the top of the syllabus (under contact information) so students have easy access to the information. This tactic conveniently makes it more difficult for students to claim they didn't know the class Twitter account.

Student responsibilities
Students are required to have a Twitter account, email it to the professor, follow everyone in the class, and use a designated hash tag for class related posts. Students are expected to engage with other students' tweets-- through replying or retweeting-- as well as the broader intellectual community.

Incorporation into the class
The instructor expects that Twitter activity will allow students to react to and engage with class readings and assignments. Twitter is also expected to inspire other assignments, such as class discussions, blog posts presentations, and the final project. Twitter and other social media provide a repository of class ideas and discussions.

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Aditi • Meg • Daniel • Madison
Feminist Pedagogies, November 17, 2010

Activity Description:
Our Twitter learning activity assignment uses the idea of a Twitter backchannel to (hopefully) enrich a more standard classroom activity: movie watching. For our activity, we are going to show a short movie to the class, asking you to focus on critically analyzing the content from a feminist perspective. In addition, we are asking those of you with Twitter access in the classroom to live tweet your reactions to or thoughts about the movie as it is playing. This should work in our class context; in order for it to work in any other course, there would have to already be some Twitter component so that the students would actually have Twitter accounts and be likely to see each other's tweets while the movie is on. Because we want to acknowledge that many students have laptops and/or smartphones in the classroom and can tweet, while others stick to paper and pen, we have not designed the activity to require that everyone in class participate in the Twitter conversation. Instead, we think of this as a Twitter backchannel allowing at least some students to engage more actively with the material as it is presented. In other words, in an actual classroom setting, Twitter would not be the purpose of the activity, but a way to enhance an activity we might already be planning, providing students an additional outlet for their thoughts and another avenue for discussion. Once we have completed this activity, we want to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using Twitter in this way.

Statement of the goals of the activity:
The goals of the activity broadly are to encourage students to critically reflect on the relationship between media and power in the circulation of knowledge in society and to engage in a dialogue about how the various participants engaged with the media or not and why. The use of Twitter as social media is to enable participants to express in short, crisp phrases their spontaneous reactions (critical and/or uncritical feelings and thoughts) to a media clip while they watch it. The hope is that a comparison of engagement with the media text through verbal dialogue and Twitter can help one to understand how these two methods can help/hinder in making the classroom a safe place to voice one's experiences, reactions and opinions.

Questions to think about after watching/tweeting about clip:
1. Were you honest about tweeting what you felt? Were you cautious?
2. How did tweeting help/hinder you in voicing what you thought or felt freely?
3. How do you think seeing other people's tweets can affect one's own tweeting? Is that a strength, a limitation or both?
4. How did people without access to Twitter feel while watching the clip? How does mixed access to Twitter affect the class dynamics or discussion?
5. How would the situation be different if everyone had access to Twitter? What difficulties might be avoided and which would remain?

Intended Participants of Activity:

Today, this activity will be used in a relatively small classroom in which some technology is available. We hope that this setting will mimic the larger undergraduate classes at the University of Minnesota. In many cases, technology may be available to share a media clip with the class, either through TV or streaming on the internet. However, we also want to recognize, highlight, and interrogate the mixed availability of technologies such as Twitter to students. What is gained and/or what challenges emerge when we utilize classroom exercises dependent on these technologies? In what settings might this activity work better and what limitations cannot be avoided?

Perceived Strengths and Limitations as a Tool for Feminist Pedagogy:
In this activity, Twitter can potentially break down some boundaries of time and power that traditionally shape the classroom video-watching experience. Instead of keeping thoughts contained until the end of the video, students can tweet their reactions in real time. Tweeting can also allow the students to foster a richer dialogue than that which might otherwise take place. The ability to see each others' tweets while watching the movie can facilitate a dialogue but some voices may be silenced. Moreover, the engagement with the movie itself may be compromised. Seeing the tweets of the class after watching the video may have the advantage of a 'surprise' element that can kick-off the dialogue in the classroom.

In addition, using social media websites like Twitter as a tool for feminist pedagogy allows for the development of these thoughts outside of the classroom. After class, students can reflect on and return to tweets made during class. While many of us are reluctant to take our scholarly discussions into our social lives, (due to culture, language, or because you're leading a double life as a friendly mild-mannered reporter by day and super scholar by night) internet spaces like Twitter allow people to reflect on their knowledge in whole new ways. By enacting feminist pedagogies we are able to decenter the notion that education only happens in books, classrooms, and lectures. Here we can use new ways to connect, create, and grow our understandings as to how social justice work is done.

Still, these spaces may not be accessible to all. While it is true that many people in the U.S. do have access to computers, these spaces continue to be a place of the privileged. By creating a knowledge base that is spread through the Internet, we are centering a particular voice that has accessibility to funds to purchase computers and Internet service. Also, it can neglect those who are simply computer illiterate, or do not want to use technology for personal reasons. Many of these social networks can be extremely confusing and some people (like me, Danny) will not take the time to learn them. This leaves many activists who still thrive on the personal connections to create change, outside these realms. While we are not arguing for just one form of social activism to exist, it is important to understand the strengths and limitations of these tools. Web spaces like Twitter are a great space to grow social justice consciousness for those who choose to use them.

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