For those of you who don’t enjoy seeing their professors launch status updates and upload photo albums on their Facebook page, you might want to close your eyes: Twitter is becoming the latest social platform to connect students with their teachers. Of course, maybe some students might enjoy the thought of homework that requires only 140 characters or less.
According to FoxNews.com, the student/faculty gap is narrowing:
At 2:46 a.m. on April 3, Princeton politics professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell tweeted to Kyle Carone ’09, “omg! Go to sleep already!” after he wrote on his twitter.com profile that the 165-page thesis he had just finished would make for great reading on her plane ride to Cape Town, South Africa.
The microblogging format of Twitter—which has become increasingly popular on campus—may bring administrators and faculty members like Harris-Lacewell closer to students, as they divulge personal details of their lives in an informal setting.
With an estimated 5 million users, Twitter is the third largest online social network, after facebook.com and myspace.com. On the website, founded in 2006, users can post messages of up to 140 characters that are listed on the site’s public timeline. Users can also choose to “follow” the posts, or “tweets” of other Twitterers.
What does this have to do with education? Perhaps little to nothing, but there is an argument to be made that universities embracing this kind of online socializing stand to make a lot of gains. It’s easier to update students, communicate in what is essentially real-time, and keep alumni in the loop when you have technology like the TweetDeck available at your fingertips.
But is Twitter really useful for the average college student, or another distraction? Some students find that it leads to a greater amount of procrastination on schoolwork while straying from its original intent of sharing and updating. This graph of the 2008 Superbowl Sunday shows just how Twitter-happy some people can get on a moment-by-moment basis. Of course, there’s the argument to be made that distractions aren’t exactly hard to find these days.
Center for Information Technology associate director David Robinson thinks that Twitter might not be entirely useful. “In the long run, the real thing that’s scarce on the internet is attention,” said Robinson in the Fox News article. “We can’t generate more time and attention, and I think that Twitter can be an interruption and distraction.”
On the other hand, Robinson believes that Twitter should also be left alone. “Clearly, there’s some pattern of people wanting to confess and display and reveal their inner thoughts,” said Robinson. “I think it’s an interesting and deeply human phenomenon.”