I just spoke with Professor Mau Stanton, a leading researcher in our field and an award-winning teacher, about the potential for using twitter in her field ecology course. Though never having used any social media before, Mau has both clear and clever idea of how she wants to apply it in this 15-student field class.
The challenge: Students don’t seem to read email as much any more, and are often not at a computer. Most have cell phones with txt messaging but not smart phones. Students are often away from computers, traveling between classes or actually in the field collecting data. Faced with such an environment, Mau has several goals:
Instant notification system
The first goal is to have a system in place that could send urgent updates to all students which they could receive anywhere. Announcements like last-minute trip cancellation, or “incoming storm warning – bring rain gear!” that students could receive on their cell phone as they run between classes.
(If these are the only messages students want to receive as txts, then they will need to be sent from a dedicated eve180 announce account. Otherwise other messages such as answers to questions or article links will be sent as well. Of course to get answers via cell from Mau or others while in the field they’ll want the whole dialog available anyway.)
Mau’s next goal is to be able to share journal articles and stories in the media that may be relevant but not required reading for the class. Students may also start to share resources they find with the list, perhaps under a hashtag like #eve180read.
Ask and answer questions
Students will be able to ask questions of the instructors, particularly while in the field using their mobile phone. Instructors and possibly other students could answer these questions. “Should I count this seedling if its < 1cm?” “Can someone identify this leaf from this photo?”
Each student creates a twitter account, chooses to follow @MauStanton. Students activate mobile phone connection to their account and enable SMS messages from selected followers, and add @MauStanton to this.
Students will now receive updates via text message on their phone. Students can ask questions to the instructor using @MauStanton in their tweet. Other students will be able to see the reply. May help if questions and answers are tagged, i.e. #eve180qa.
If all students and instructors use a dedicated account for eve180 and follow everyone in the class, the volume of dialogue may be low enough that mentions@ and hashtags # aren’t necessary.