Passing Biology With Twitter

by sharanpaul1

Science classes make me nervous enough to break out in hives.  Especially the ones with lab time attached.  Students spend hours planning and executing experiments, only to arrive home and realize they forgot the data needed to complete their report.  The choice a student has in this situation is not much of a choice at all.  They can wait till the next class and retrieve the data they need, which will most probably make the assignment late and lose points, or they can drive back to the school, wait around till the classroom is free, and get the data they need to turn it  in on time.  But the time it takes for the second option is prohibitive to most overworked college students.  This is where Twitter comes in handy.

Setting up a Twitter group is not as hard as it seems.  Seven classmates formed what I call the Easy Response Unit for a first year Biology class.  If any student had a question or was missing data, they simply posted the question or request for data to the Easy Response Unit using Twitter.  Since the posts are immediate, within minutes it was possible to have the answers or material needed.  By pairing Twitter accounts with Twit Pics, students were able to send visual images, such as charts and graphs, that are essential to reporting experiments and assignments in Biology.  However, Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters each, so the message has to be short.  For longer responses, students would simply “tweet” asking the replies be emailed.  Twitter was a resounding success for the Easy Response Unit.  The original seven students added four more students to their group mid-semester, and reported that everyone in the group passed with above average grades.  This included Jerry, a History Major, who was sure he could never pass a Math or Science class.

Social media, such as Twitter, is versatile and can be used for more than one class. There is no need to use one social media exclusively for one class or discipline.  That is the beauty of social media.  The ways to use it are as limitless as the imagination of the student.  I found Twitter worked well in Math classes also.  Students who did the work without mistakes in the classroom, often were lost when at home struggling with homework.  A quick “tweet” to the Easy Response Unit and the issue was clarified.  I credit the Easy Response unit with saving time, grades, and the sanity of a good number of college freshmen in Algebra this semester.

A bonus of using social media to organize college students has to be the social networks that result.  Joining one of these groups encourages teamwork.  Students are working together through the use of social media to get better grades, save time, and pass difficult classes.  But they also form a bond.  A friendship that goes beyond a question on Twitter or a text reminder that a paper is due.  They get to know each other and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of group members.  Students in these networks know they are not alone, help is readily available in a familiar format.  The stressed out students I saw in my first semester, who joined one of my groups, seemed to relax and concentrate on learning, because they had their social network beside them.

The real proof that using social media to form social networks actually benefits college students, is in the students themselves.  The majority of students who participated reported it took less time to do homework and they earned higher grades.  Many students became friends through their shared experience with the social media groups.  And the consensus was unanimous that every single participant would use these groups for other classes.

I am not surprised by the success I had with my research project.  Like I have stated before, I firmly believe that young people today are “way smarter” than my generation.  I am constantly amazed at their intelligence and technical skills.  I am sure they will be the best generation the world has ever seen.  Now, I just have to get them organized…..

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