Remembering (Do the reading and sign into Twitter)
Understanding (Post a page number from a favored passage in the reading; briefly explain interest)
I've experimented with Twitter in the past, but this is the first year I'm assigning it as a fully-functioning micro-blogging site. For their Tweets, I've asked students to post a page number, a brief word or phrase from that page, and a brief explanation of what interestes them about the passage.
The goal of the exercise is threefold: 1) engrain the habit of writing something down after the student reads, 2) allow me to see what passages are striking students and tailor class activities to those passages, and 3) allow the students a space to see what is interesting to each other.
It took a couple weeks to get the class adjusted to blogs, so I've brought Twitter on slowly the past two weeks. The participation rate for students that have signed up and following everyone else (including me) is about 100% in both classes. In both classes, there were "early adopters" who didn't need reminding about their Tweets. For both classes, too, I had to begin reminding the students about the "need to Tweet" this past week. I've now got a good majority Tweeting in both classes, though I'm expecting it to grow.
As for its success, I do feel it has accomplished my early goals. Students comment on each other's posts without my prodding and without comments being assigned. I also see that many students are posting similar passages. It also gives me a chance to "reply" to their Tweets with simple messages, such as "nice quote," but to also ask questions and push discussions into social networking. So far, the students that are Tweeting like it, and I can see them making connections on Twitter that they're not making in class.
Twitter is an effective way for students to post about the reading. It is also a useful social-networking tool for student to student comments. It also seems to be a good way to reach students with class announcements, rather than use Blackboard (this is, by the way, the first semester I'm not using Blackboard in at least five years).
I need to continue to find ways to push the overall participation. The students are aware it's going for a grade. I believe that I may ask students to publish a weekly "Tweet" in our class lab as a way to increase overall participation, and then to observe their Tweets on the projector and use that as a basis for discussion, or group formation (students could cluster around a particular common theme for their Tweets).