Published: Aug. 28, 2014

Sociology Graduate Student Amanda TylerTweet for homework?  This spring, CU Boulder students nominated Sociology graduate student Amanda Tyler for an ASSETT Outstanding Teaching with Technology Award for her teaching of Sociology 2044, Crime and Society.  One student wrote, "We used both Clickers and Twitter to enhance learning and incorporate current events into the curriculum."  Tyler spoke with ASSETT about how important it is for her to involve students in class discussions: "... I work toward creating an environment where students are able to discuss class material, even when the class has a large number of students.  Clicker questions are a great way for me to engage my students in conversation."  She says that she uses Clicker questions to poll students about their opinions and start discussions.  Tyler explains that when students don't have to worry about whether their answers are right or wrong, the class can better engage multiple opinions.  Also, Clicker questions help her gauge her students' understanding of material.

Using Twitter in Class Discussions

Additionally, Tyler creates class Twitter pages as venues for student participation.  She embeds the class Twitter page feed onto the D2L course page and asks students to Tweet current event news stories or videos about class topics and write their own discussion questions for homework.  Tyler says that she believes that Tweeting provides an opportunity, "... For students to apply course material to their everyday world."   Tyler truly involves students in class discussion when she uses students' Tweeted questions as the class's Clicker questions.  "Students often Tweet insightful questions that engage their peers in further discussion, so I like to highlight these questions in my lecture slides," says Tyler.  In class, she projects the class Twitter feed onto the board and often invites students to Tweet their ideas during lecture.  Tyler says that she finds that giving students the opportunity to join the spotlight motivates them: "I think Twitter makes class more fun!  I believe that when students have fun learning, it is more likely that they do their homework, and they will want to attend class."  Tyler says that she hopes that Tweeting may even help students better remember course material: "They might visually remember a term they learned in a Tweet, which will stick with them later ..."

Case in point: one day during a discussion about the value of eye witness testimony in court procedures, Tyler staged a mock eye witness activity.  A colleague came into the classroom and quickly left again.  Tyler asked her students to Tweet to the class Twitter page what they remembered they saw.  When the students' realized how few of them had accurately remembered what the man had been wearing, they better understood the validity that is often lacking in eye witness testimonies.

In order to give students participation credit for their Tweets, Tyler assigns specific hashtags to each week's Tweets and periodically asks them to submit screen shot logs.

Tyler looks forward to a career in teaching at the college level: "Teaching is one of my greatest passions!  It always keeps me on my toes.  I am constantly researching and thinking about new ways to engage my students.  Being nominated for this award is an incredible honor!"