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Can Twitter Rescue Introverted Students?

Teachers are turning to social media to make it easier to get shy students to participate.

In my experience, in the typical classroom only about 20 percent of students eagerly participate in group discussions without any prompting. Kids are afraid of giving the wrong answer, of asking a question they think will sound stupid to their peers, and sometimes, they're simply introverted. To increase participation, especially from the introverts, teachers are using Twitter and other similar social media services that make it easier for students to engage in a low-stakes way.

Those of us who aren't introverts—or don't have a problem putting our ideas out there—don't always understand how difficult it is for a student to chime in and say that she doesn't understand a vocabulary word, or that she disagrees with the direction of a class discussion. It turns out that students that might not otherwise participate feel more comfortable tweeting a question, or posting a comment to a classroom chat room that the teacher monitors. Detroit area English teacher Nicholas Provenzano, told the New York Times that out of 30 students in his class, there are only 12 that regularly participate in classroom discussions. But with the use of Twitter or other similar communication tools, Provenzano gets at least eight more students participating. "Another eight kids entering a discussion is huge," he says.

It's smart to use technology to make it easy for students who wouldn't otherwise contribute to get their feet wet in a discussion. But it's important that teachers don't stop there. Students also need to learn how to communicate verbally, face-to-face. For now, at least, you can't tweet replies to job interview questions or text your contributions to every work meeting.

photo via Wikimedia Commons

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