- “Can You Tweet That?”:Twitter in the Classroom
Joining the Conversation
Whether we like it or not, social media is now a part of the educational experience of many of our students. A survey conducted in 2014 by Susan Alexander and Sonalili Sapra (148) suggested that as many as 57 percent of students at their university had used social media tools in at least one of their college courses. While this is certainly not the case at every university, it is clear that educational technology use has moved beyond Blackboard and Desire-2Learn (D2L) to include the use of public sites and social media tools. This trend has been documented in Feminist Teacher’s own pages with Alexander and Sapra’s use of Facebook and Alana Cattapan’s use of Wikipedia. This move toward inclusion of social media and other Web 2.0 technologies in education is important because it means that tools/products1 not created for or concerned with education have entered the once off-limits space of the classroom. For some feminist teachers the use of these tools/products presents exciting new opportunities, and for others, it creates anxiety. Whatever your initial reaction, however, since these tools/products have clearly entered the classroom, it is now imperative that faculty participate in shaping how they are used. This is not to say that every teacher needs to be using and analyzing social media in every class, but we should be concerned if a student can complete a degree without any consideration for a cyberfeminist critique of social media.
More specifically, feminist teachers’ involvement in shaping educational technology use is crucial because the practices and expectations enacted today will no doubt continue to be implemented for years to come. It is critically important that as feminist teachers, we try out these tools, test their advantages and disadvantages, and look for ways that they challenge or re-inscribe the systems of injustice that we seek to critique. We need feminists who question not just what content can be delivered through these technologies but also what the technologies themselves, in their relationship to capitalism and offline power structures, support and perpetuate (Richards). Furthermore, with Van Weigal noting that “educators are becoming ‘locked into’ a ‘model of e-learning that is more [End Page 153] preoccupied with the categories of accessibility and convenience than pedagogical effectiveness’” (quoted in Alexander and Sapra 143), it is also important that we think about these technologies in direct relationship to pedagogy. In short, at this point in history, we need more cyberfeminists.
This need to include feminist critiques of social media in education motivated me to begin using social media in my teaching, and I hope that the review of my experiences presented here will contribute to this much-needed cyberfeminist conversation. Toward that end, in the following pages, I will discuss a Twitter project that I created and facilitated. I will first argue that using social media in the classroom is a direct expression of a feminist pedagogy. Second, I will set out a list of cyberfeminist goals that can be used to evaluate the success of social media use in education. I will then describe my project and present an evaluation of it that is based on student feedback, my own observations, and the list of cyber-feminist goals I set out. I will also address some implemented revisions to the project and some revisions I hope to make in the future. I will conclude by recounting some benefits of using social media in the feminist classroom and by suggesting next steps in the conversation about social media cyberfeminism.
Why Social Media?
With all the technologies available to use and analyze, readers may wonder why I have focused on social media specifically. Broadly, my focus on social media comes from my belief that it is ripe for use in education. Students are already using these technologies frequently and consistently, much more so than any Learning Management System (like Blackboard, Moodle, or D2L). Additionally, their social media accounts are likely linked to their phones or computers in much more effective and timely (through push notifications, etc.) ways than other education-based...