Teaching in the 21st Century

Traci GardnerTraci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.

What If Students and Teachers Tweeted for Help?

posted: 7.22.09 by Traci Gardner

I’m jealous of @comcastbonnie. Okay, that’s a little extreme. I wish I had the resources she has and could use them to help writing students and teachers.

Bonnie Smalley, also known as @comcastbonnie, was the focus of “A Day with 400 Tweets Starts with Simplicity,” a recent New York Times article that describes how she provides customer service for the cable TV and Internet service provider Comcast.

As the article explains, Smalley is “one of 10 representatives who reach out to customers through social networks, rather than waiting for them to find Comcast’s support site.”

Imagine if we could do the same thing to help student writers! I’d love to prowl the Internet, on the lookout for students lamenting that they can’t figure out an assignment or they can never remember how to use the semicolons.

If I ran a writing center, I’d set up and publicize a school hashtag and then ask online tutors to watch for basic questions. In quick exchange on Twitter, a tutor could answer simple questions about grammar and punctuation, define literary terms, and point to additional explanatory Web pages on a site like the Purdue OWL or Colorado State’s Writing Studio. When student writers ask more complex questions, tutors can encourage them to set up an appointment for a more in-depth session.

If we could support students the way @comcastbonnie runs customer service, writing program administrators might monitor the Internet for questions about program requirements, prerequisites, and course registrations. An English Department could answer similar questions for majors and minors as well as for incoming students and those interested in applying.

But why limit the help to students? Just think how we’d benefit as teachers from having someone out there on the Internet dedicated to helping us find what we need just when we need it — whether it’s standards and guidelines, convention details, or a second opinion on a troublesome situation. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could “reach out” and give them the help they need when they need it? Now there’s a job I’d love to have!

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Categories: Collaboration, Professional Development, Student Success, Teaching Advice, Writing Center
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One Response to “What If Students and Teachers Tweeted for Help?”

  1. Jill, Baker College Says:

    Something interesting and somewhat related happened to me in class last week. I had a student text me during class to let me know he was confused.

    Now, for a moment, I was sort of angry. “Raise your hand!” I wanted to yell. But then again, this student was of the brash, loud, and confident type–I don’t think he wanted to admit that he didn’t know what was going on. I got the message pretty clearly anyway as my cell phone was out on my desk. I was able to go back over part of the lesson. His writing the next week? So much better than it has been.

    I was thinking on the way home that day that using twitter or texting for something similar could be interesting. I’ve seen people live-tweeting conferences, and I guess I wouldn’t mind them doing so for my course *if* I could view what they were writing. If I’m privy to that knowledge then I can adjust what I’m talking about if needed. Sure, if somebody’s bored because the material is old news to them but new to other students I’m not going to change the plan. But if everybody is bored, or confused, well…..

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