These kids today. Back when I was in school, simply having a cellphone in the school could be enough to land you in hot water. Now, the New York Times is reporting that a growing number of teachers are using Twitter
and other digital communication systems as a "back channel" through which students can ask questions and engage in discussions.
Educators who have embraced the new approach say that it brings more people into class discussions. From the NYTimes:
Nicholas Provenzano, an English teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School, outside Detroit, said that in a class of 30, only about 12 usually carried the conversation, but that eight more might pipe up on a backchannel. “Another eight kids entering a discussion is huge,” he noted.
Some students seem to echo this belief. One 17 year old interviewed by the Times said that he never felt the need to speak up during discussions. He adds that when typing, however, he feel like he can better express himself.
Beyond boosting participation, some educators say that modern children respond better to more modern teaching methods. Again, from the Times:
In Exira, Iowa, Kate Weber uses the technology for short periods almost daily with her fourth graders. “You’d think there’s a lot of distraction, but it’s actually the opposite,” she said. “Kids are much quicker at stuff than we are. They can really multitask. They have hypertext minds.”
Bold changes to traditional teaching like this are bound to beg the question of whether or not they work.