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Northwest Missouri State University

Rena Smith

Rena Smith

Rena Smith

Rena Smith, Instructor for the Chemistry/Physics Department uses Twitter both as formative and summative assessment teaching technique.  Twitter is a social networking tool used to microblog by sending and reading text-based posts.  These text-based posts are called “tweets” and can be up to 140 characters in length. 

Students in Rena’s courses are asked to post comments, questions, or even pictures of their thoughts, ideas or investigations.  This can happen before arriving to class because they read something the night before, as they arrive to class as a part of the startup process, during class as they discover content knowledge in the middle of a lab, or after class in the form of a survey or quiz.  Students do have the option of tweeting some responses as a group, but most of the time they are asked to provide a response individually.

For example, she might ask her students to view a portion of the video, From Thin Air, by using the following link or her tweet on Twitter.

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Tweeting during “presentations” is now becoming an acceptable and effective way of engaging with the content of the presentation.  Many of students report that tweeting during a class helps them to concentrate on the topic and is similar to note-taking during a lecture. 

Tweeting provides a way for students to engage actively with the content rather than just listening passively.  In the past, students had to wait until the presenter was ready to take questions before they could clarify things they did not understand.  Now, they can tweet their question and another student may tweet back the answer.

Many students are not comfortable at first asking questions in a new class, but they can ask these questions on Twitter without the same level of risk.  If other students indicate they are wondering about the same issue, they may get the courage to speak up.  After the presentation is over, the instructor can read the Twitterstream to see what students were tweeting.

Follow Rena’s course on Twitter @NwScienceEd.  For more information about how Rena uses Twitter, contact her at or phone at x-1509.