Student Engagement: Twitter as a Research Tool?

OK, so we all know that most teachers tell students that “Wikipedia is not a credible source, and you should never use it”….(I actually disagree with this statement, but that will be a different blog post.) But what about using Twitter as a tool to “crowd-source” relevant information about assignment topics?

Everyday, I check out my Twitter feed to see what people like me are looking at in the world. If I find something interesting, relevant, or intriguing, I pursue that lead. I can read the information or save it for later, pass it on to my twitter followers, or share it with co-workers who may not follow me (but they should).

As I began thinking about engagement, and how to engage students in my class about Environmental Stewardship, I turned to the twitter-sphere to connect with others who have the same interest so I can find and share information with my students. Then I thought why not have my students do the same thing – it would make the information more relevant to their lives, they could connect with other young people who are promoting environmentalism, and they could do their own crowd-sourcing.

So that became the assignment: In teams they could work on an “umbrella topic”, and split up the task of researching and together discover “sub-topics” that they could explore as individuals. Using Twitter, each week they start looking at their team topics by searching using pertinent hashtags. For the first couple of weeks, I will suggest some hashtags, but soon, I suspect they will begin to search on their own – as related to their sub-topics.

In the upcoming week, we will have conversations about the information that was found – and whether or not it is a credible source. We will search for bias in websites and articles, and determine how the information is presented. We will also begin to look at how statistical information is shared – and whether or not that information is credible or if the numbers are taken out of context. My hope is that if the students themselves bring the data and information to the class, then it will be of greater interest. I also hope that using a tool like Twitter will make starting a research project much easier and engaging – and isn’t that what 2013 is all about?

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