Thursday, September 24, 2015

Literature Review-Using Twitter in the Classroom

Twitter, when intentionally integrated into the classroom, can promote higher engagement of students in the classroom. In a study done by Junco, Heiberger, & Loken (2010) they found that using Twitter heightened engagement, and that the average GPA of those who used Twitter was about 0.5 points higher. They concluded that, “using Twitter in educationally relevant ways can increase student engagement and improve grades.” Another study done 2 years later by Junco, Elavsky, & Heiberger (2012) concluded 3 main ideas from the use of Twitter. The first, is that when students are required to use Twitter there is an increase in student engagement, compared to students who were allowed to make a to choice on whether to use Twitter or not. They also concluded that faculty who engaged their students on Twitter saw a higher level of academic gains in their students. Finally they found “having a theoretical reason to use Twitter and implementing that reason into the course pedagogy will maximize the benefits achieved.” Another study done by Birnholtz, Hancock, & Retelny (2013), found that students were engaged when lecture contained slides with their tweets and 90% recommended it should be used again.

There is not a lot of research completed, right not, because the use of Twitter in education is a fairly new idea. “There is a growing body of scholarly research suggesting that, when used properly, social media can boost both learning outcomes and student engagement. The key phrase in that sentence is ‘when used properly.’ The problem is that research in this area is still relatively limited, and most of what is being done in classrooms is experimental. No one has figured out definitively what does and does not work” (Copeland 2012). It is important to note that not all students are at the same level of understanding in using Twitter. Therefore, one way to effectively use Twitter is to “instruct students in using social media critically and intentionally to optimize learning outcomes” (Abe & Jordan, 2013). In the study done by Copeland (2012), it was noted that students who were reluctant to use Twitter tended to struggle more than those who adopted the use of Twitter.

There are many concerns about using Twitter. A top concern about Twitter, or other social media sites, is that is could distract students from content. (Novak & Cowling, 2010). Another concern is that there could be some disconnect between Twitter and the class itself. “They almost act as two separate parts of class and don’t always connect, it can be confusing at times” (Miami Student, 2013). Instructors could also fear that Twitter might “encourage bad grammar as a result of its 140-character limit, or that it could become time-consuming and addictive (Dunlap, 2009).

There are also many positives noted when Twitter is used effectively. According to Dunlap and Lowenthal, you can get instant answers or feedback (Tweeting, 2009). In another article by Dunlap and Lowenthal, they conclude that interactions on Twitter are more natural and occur quicker than using discussion boards (Instructional, 2009). Something that really intrigues me is that “students are getting the idea that their community of learners can extend outside of the classroom” (Messner, 2009). In the study done by Birnholtz, Hancock, & Retelny (2013), that I mentioned earlier, “students applied course concepts to examples from their lives (2009: 57%; 2010: 68.6%; 2011: 62.6%).” Classroom shyness can be a huge issue, but Twitter may help with that. “Students in another Twitter-friendly classroom at Purdue University agree that digital communication helps overcome the shyness barrier. Studies frequently discover that greater participation translates into better academic performance, motivation, and a likelihood of adopting different points of view, which is why it is so striking that Twitter can foster that type of communication’” (Fernstein 2010).
The intended purpose of my study is to see how Twitter impacts quiet students.  The question I will base my study around is will Twitter would help shy students to find their voice in the classroom? I plan to use Twitter in my Biology class and compare it to my Physical science class. I have about 10 students who are in both classes and I would like to target these students. Some of these 10 are quiet, and some tend to be louder. I would like to see how the quiet students contribute to biology class, and see if they add more to our class than in physical science. To further promote discussion I plan to use the Twitter discussion to create wordles as suggested by Costa, Beham, Reinhard, and Sillaots (2008). According to their research they found that wordles helped provide a quick visualization of the tweets to figure out what was missing from the conversation. It can also be a quick reference for what seemed to be the most important topic for discussion online.

Abe, P., & Jordan, N. (2013). Integrating Social Media Into the Classroom Curriculum. About Campus, 18(1), 16-20.

Birnholtz, J., Hancock, J., & Retelny, D. (2013). Tweeting for Class: Co-Construction as a Means for Engaging Students in Lectures. Retrieved September 23, 2015, from

Copeland, D. (2012, May 2). For Social Media In The Classroom To Work, Instructors Need Best Practices. (USA). Retrieved from

Costa, C., Beham, G., Reinhardt, W., & Sillaots, M. (2008, December). Microblogging in technology enhanced learning: A use-case inspection of PPE summer school 2008. In Proceedings of the 2nd SIRTEL’08 Workshop on Social Information Retrieval for Technology Enhanced Learning Maastricht, Netherlands.

Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Instructional uses of Twitter. The CU online handbook, 45.

Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education,20(2), 129-135.

Ferenstein, G. (2010, Mar 1). How Twitter in the Classroom is Boosting Student Engagement. Retrieved from

Junco, R., Elavsky, C., & Heiberger, G. (2012). Putting twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success. Br J Educ Technol British Journal of Educational Technology,44(2), 273-287.

Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2010). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 119-132. Retrieved September 5, 2015, from

Messner, K. (2009). Making a case for Twitter in the classroom. School Library Journal.

Miami Student. (2013, Nov 5). A new way to have #class: Professors incorporate social media in curriculum. The: Miami University (Oxford, OH). Retrieved from

Novak, J., & Cowling, M. (2011). The implementation of social networking as a tool for improving student participation in the classroom. In ISANA International Academy Association Conference Proceedings (Vol. 22, pp. 1-10). Auckland, NZ: ISANA International Education, Inc.


  1. Sara- That is so very interesting that using Twitter that their GPA is 0.5 points higher. I can see it increasing engagement. Also a higher academic gain. Wow! I can see that grammer part because she I hosted twitter I had to shorten my questions so they would fit. I think that is a good point for them to learn that they is a community of learners outside the classroom as well. I am excited to hear about your action research and what the impact will be on those students. What grade level are you doing this with? I would love to use Twitter in my classroom but it is blocked. Maybe someday I can try it. Good luck with this. Sounds fun!

  2. I am doing this with my Biology class so all students are in at least 10th grade. I am very lucky that LKSD has not blocked much other than facebook at this point. However, there have been lots of changes over the past year so I am a little worried that it could be blocked at some point.

  3. You mention several comments at the beginning of your literature review. I was wondering what the ages or grade levels were for those studies. Are these college classes? I ask, because although I find Twitter in education very intriguing, I am not sure how I could incorporate it inside a middle school environment. I could see using it to extend outside the normal school day, but then I would run into issues of accessibility. What theoretical framework did you find connected to your research?

    1. These were all college classes. The only data I could find has been done at the college level. There are lots of blog posts and resources to adapt to high school, but no formal studies that I could find. I totally agree with you on incorporating it in middle school. I teach 2 middle school classes and I think they would be too easily distracted. For the theoretical framework I found Community of Inquiry to be the most relevant. I think it is really the difference in the social interaction that either prove to be helpful or do nothing. My thought, after researching, is that students feel more comfortable online because they are connected all the time, and they can't see reactions.

  4. I know for me the use of Twitter has helped overcome the shyness factor because of the 140 character limit, people can't write everything they think and therefore sometimes won't respond negatively to a comment because it might not fit in the 140 character limit, or at least this is how I view it and it helps me. I think, too, the more students work online, the more their shyness will be overcome. I have also found this true about myself. Last year at this point I was starting my first class with Dr. Graham and the thought of having others post on my blog and have to post on other's was terrifying, but now that this is the fourth class like this I have taken with her it has become just part of the process. I have seen it affect my life at school too as I am more confident in talking with parents and coworkers. I think this is definitely something that will help your students, coming from someone who probably was ever too shy to become a teacher :) They just need to be reminded constantly to try and keep trying and it will get easier, just like learning a new concept in science gets easier the more you study it. I would really love to incorporate Twitter into my classes somehow, but only teaching math I'm having a difficult time trying to figure out how that would work, too many symbols and such, maybe I'll figure it out eventually or teach something else.

    1. Part of my interest in studying this is for the exact same reason you said. I was very shy in school as well. I think many were shocked I decided to go into teaching. As I went through college more and more online resources were used in classes or even in my free time. I think working and communicating online has helped me a lot. I was also terrified to post to blogs when I first started. I started a personal blog when I moved to Alaska in 2012. It was a way to keep my family updated. I don't post often, due to being busy most of the time, but it has gotten easier. Now I really don't even think twice about posting. I think it gives people a safe environment to learn communication skills.