This semester I am teaching two classes of first-year writing
classes with international students. Similar to their American Freshman
counterparts, they are very familiar with social media platforms in
their home countries, like Weibo and Renren in China. However, they are,
for the most part, unfamiliar with Twitter. Because of this, I knew
that there would be a learning curve to using this social media tool for
research later in the semester, so I decided to start the Twitter
literacy tasks during the first week of class to get them ready. Thus,
one of their first homework tasks was to sign up for a Twitter account
and to bring comfortable shoes to the next class.
The purpose of this scavenger hunt was threefold:
- To familiarize students with tweeting
- Have them physically go to useful campus writing resources (tutors, tech support, etc)
- To create personalized visual material to use in our rhetorical analysis lesson
Using student-produced materials in class has worked well in
the past, so I had a feeling that we could use the scavenger hunt photos
a few days after to practice rhetorical analysis. By first creating
these visuals (the scavenger hunt photos) and then rhetorically
analyzing the circumstances surrounding them in a discussion forum
activity, I hoped that the critical thinking component would be more
personal and therefore more engaging. Additionally, the TESOL teacher in
me has to admit that getting students physically active by
incorporating reading and writing in the target language was a large
part of the activity as well. This part was achieved by having all of
the instructions and tweets available in English only. Lastly, students
were directed to text after each photo instead of waiting until they
were finished. This was done to stress the instant nature of this genre.
When students arrived in class, I gave them the following:
- A physical map of campus
- Information about the free university of Arizona app and its accompanying map function
- A one-page instruction sheet with the hash tag we were
using, the four places to find, and a few scavenger hunt rules.
They were given 30 minutes to complete the task. All four
places were relatively close to our classroom. A few days prior, I was
able to visit the below four places in a 20-minute test walk:
- Tutoring: the writing skills improvement program
Free laptop rental: fine arts library
Tech help: UTIS (University Information Technology Services)
Graduate teacher offices: CCIT)
Students were divided into groups of three or four, with one member
assigned as the official tweeter. It was easy to keep track of group
tweets when they were coming from the same person. students were
instructed to go to the four places on the instruction sheet, take a
photo of all group members in front of the building sign, and then tweet
their photo with the given hash tag (#uawrtres—you can take a look if
Because it was the second day of class, students were asked to
hold their nametags up in the photos (to which one student made a prison
reference—I didn't see that coming!).
We were working on rhetorical analysis in this writing class,
so we did a follow-up activity in which students rhetorically analyzed
the activity and the author's intentions. We did this activity in a D2L
Discussion Board. The hope was that analyzing an activity that they had
done and were physically a part of (it was their faces in the photos!)
would make it more engaging.
Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this activity. There were
tech issues that I did not foresee that frustrated both the students
and me. Some of their phones were fighting the twitter app and would not
let them tweet the photos, although text-only tweets worked just fine.
In addition, some students’ English level made this challenging in a
50-minute class period. If I were to do this again, I would spend more
time with twitter setup in class, not just assign it as part of their
homework. I think some students were signing up with their l2, and that
made it hard to use my English language instructions.
The positive side is that even though the tweeting technical
obstacles existed, students found the campus resources in the scavenger
hunt. Since then, when I have referred to one of these resources in
class they response has not been the usual "where is it?" but instead a
look of recognition. Thus, there really should be an in-class Twitter
set-up lesson before the scavenger hunt. But, even without that digital
literacy training, all three learning outcomes were achieved.
In a technology class I am currently taking, another student
mentioned doing a similar activity and taking it one step further by
adding a storify.com
component and an award component as well. This website turns twitter
feeds into what looks like an online picture book. This is definitely
something I will try next time I do this activity.
We have now started to use twitter for research purposes, and I
look forward to writing about those lessons in a future newsletter
edition. I welcome feedback or ideas on how to make this or any twitter
lesson even more helpful to students.
Stephanie Fuccio spent 8 years teaching
EFL overseas before returning to the United States to work on an MA
TESOL. In MAY 2014 she will complete her MA and return overseas SHORTLY
THEREAFTER. Her TESOL interests include CALL, MALL, L2 writing, and EAP.
She welcomes feedback at LinkedIn