That is what some lecturers are saying about social media in the classroom. Lecturers these days face an uphill battle to get students to stay focused especially when laptops and mobile devices are considered not just communication tools but extensions of students' identity, without which students seemed entirely lost and helpless. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little here but most students these days are rarely seen without some sort of mobile devices and that can be a huge source of distraction for them as many lecturers have found. In an article in Inside Higher Ed, some lecturers favor outright obstruction such as banning laptops and mobile devices as well as attempting to shut off internet access. These lecturers belong to the school of thought that social media sites such as Twitter are just "attention-bankrupting" sites with little or no educational value. Others have gotten more creative and have joined students on the social media bandwagon in order to better engage them. Their efforts have paid off.
In a new study, reported in the article, it was discovered that using Twitter in the classroom might actually lead to greater engagement and more importantly, higher grades as long as Twitter is used for relevant educational activities. The study also discovered that Twitter was able to deepened relationships among students in the class. Through discussing course work, the students realized they shared similar values and interests and were thus able to build strong relationships across diverse groups.
Instructors such as Dr. Rankin and Professor David Parry who had used Twitter as an instructional tool in their previous courses have mostly sung praises of it. Both were pleasantly surprised at how successful Twitter had been in extending the conversation beyond the classroom and in promoting engagement. Dr. Rankin discovered that Twitter was able to increase participation in the classroom because students were able to overcome their shyness and fear of speaking in front of an audience when using Twitter. Professor David Parry has also discovered that Twitter, in providing a platform for students to continue their discussion after class period was over, was able to keep students interested and engaged for longer periods of time. They were therefore able to have richer discussions than hour-long class sessions would allow.
Want to learn how you can increase student participation and engagement through the use of social media tools? I recently wrote a blog post on the various ways instructors can and have use(d) social media in the classroom, which would probably be a great starting point if you want to explore the various ways you can use social media for educational purposes.