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Using Twitter and Facebook to Encourage Student Classroom and Political Engagement

In this online Faculty Showcase video, Drs. Gina Woodall and Tara Lennon from the School of Politics and Global Studies discuss how the use of social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook, affects classroom engagement.

They challenge the presumed limits of social media as a means for young adults to express thoughtful, evidence-based political views.  As part of an ongoing study, they require tweets in certain classes and are developing the use of Twitter as a formative assessment (e.g., quick quizzes or lecture “take-away” comments in lieu of attendance). Most students are familiar with Twitter but they flip its role in the classroom to their advantage.  Student responses to their questions are viewed in real-time as well as in re-caps of out-of-class tweets.  For those too timid to speak in class, Twitter offers a safe alternative and, in some cases, an entry point to discussion. Facebook is also required in some of their classes and is used in lieu of traditional discussion boards.  Research supports the benefits of enabling students to be producers—not just consumers– of course material.  When students produce course-related Tweets and Facebook posts, it may contribute to their classroom engagement and, ideally, a habit of political engagement.  Drs. Woodall and Lennon have found that students enjoy using Twitter and Facebook and report that they are more engaged because of the integration of social media.

After completing a pilot study in Spring 2014, Drs. Woodall and Lennon were awarded a grant by the Spencer Foundation to conduct another non-equivalent group quasi-experimental design in Spring 2015.  They are also currently conducting content analysis of the tweets themselves for both iterations of the study and planning additional iterations of the project with other interested faculty.  For questions about their project, please email them at gina.woodall@asu.edu and tara.lennon@asu.edu.