Twitter Helps Students Excel

Schools should embrace social networking as a learning tool, rather than some evil, malignant force.

I was overjoyed upon stumbling across a terrific blog by Sarah Kessler on, which delves into one fascinating study conducted by Dr. Reynol Junco of Lock Haven University.

“Students in the study who were asked to contribute to class discussions and complete assignments using Twitter increased their engagement over a semester more than twice as much as a control group.”

I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I’m so glad for Dr. Junco’s work. He’s a visionary educator, and his blog offers a plethora of analysis in support of online learning.

Some of my quietest students consistently submit the highest quality work. Without question, I would love to hear more from them, especially because they tend to have the most engaging ideas. If Twitter encourages more individuals to effectively communicate, as Dr. Junco’s work so clearly proves, teachers have an obligation to utilize this tool. Even more impressive, Kessler reports, “the students who used Twitter also achieved on average a .5 point increase in their overall GPA for the semester.”

In October, U.S. News reporter Ryan Lytle wrote about a more recent study from Michigan State University, citing the effectiveness of Twitter in helping students excel: “Courses that engage students on Twitter may actually see higher interaction and better grades.”

I would love for somebody to conduct a similar study in the high school setting. All the same, I’m sure that the results who reveal similar findings.

More colleges are embracing Twitter, and I can’t help but feel that high schools across the nation are lagging behind. It’s our duty to teach students the skills that they will need to excel in college and beyond. If we continue to shun and demonize Twitter, what good are we doing toward this end? I have said this time and again, but high schools cannot continue to act as safe havens from technology that so many students use—with or without our permission. Schools do a tremendous disservice by trying to shelter community members from technological advancements engulfing the real world.

Like it or not, Twitter now has  the proven potential to help students excel. Any outright refusal to at least discuss using this tool, in my mind at least, is tantamount to neglect or outright incompetence.

I can already hear an army of dissenters, protesting that Twitter fails to foster clear boundaries and that its use promotes ceaseless distractions and troublesome misbehavior. Call me a delusional optimist, but I believe that most students want to live up to the expectations of adult role models. Sure, some would abuse this technology. But if we as educators are to succeed in keeping up with new ways of thinking, we cannot fear every foreseeable and unforeseeable challenge.

Feel free to disagree, but I believe that the benefits integrating Twitter into the classroom far outweigh any negative side effects.

And if a school’s Twitter experiment fails, so what? What have we got to lose? In the very least, as least some effort went toward embracing technology and education in the 21st century.

As a coach, history and journalism teacher at Brimmer and May, a wonderful independent school in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, I have the absolute best job in the world. I am thrilled to get up every morning to engage with interesting young people, and I'm equally fortunate to have such amazing colleagues and mentors. As the founder of Spin Education, I encourage you to check-in frequently and submit posts and lessons—all in an effort to better our practice as teachers.

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