We talked at EDB about using twitter with students: the benefits, the drawbacks, the logistics – including the 48 hours of twitter assignment that Karen Russell and Kaye Sweetser use. One logistical issue was to help the students find and follow each other among the professor’s long list of followers. Karen Russell solved this problem by getting a new account to use with her class. However, one thing I like about twitter is the help I sometimes get from other people who jump in the class discussion. Creating a new account would make it impossible for my students to meet my twitter community.
Here are the 2 solutions I found, and I document them here so other instructors can use them (and so I don’t forget them!).
1) – ask students to use a specific number (or other set of characters) as part of their twitter user names. For example, the course number, or any other random number. Then, they can scroll through the list of followers and follow all the other people whose user names contain that number. This works well, but sometimes students dislike interfering with their freedom to create a user name they like. The second solution solves this problem, too:
2) – e-mail students a distinct, clearly different image that your other followers are unlikely to use and ask all students to upload that image as their twitter icon. Instruct students to scroll through your list of followers and follow all the people identified by that particular image. After the students have identified and followed all the other class members, they can upload their own photo to their twitter profile.
Another challenge is to keep track of a conversation students carry on a particular topic. Their tweets might get lost among the tweets of others you’re following. Ask your student to use hashtags (#) followed by a specific code so that Twemes will collect all (in theory, at least) the posts on that topic. For example, we discussed symbolic interactionism in my Communication Theory class and marked all tweets about it with #si. You can see the resulting conversation indexed on twemes. I noticed Twemes didn’t pick up ALL students’ posts, so I wouldn’t rely on it to assign participation points, at least not yet.
Do you have other practical solutions or ideas for using twitter in higher education? Please share them in the comments!
Need more on twitter? Here are some of my favorite links:
- simple explanation of twitter (video) – via Kelli Matthews on twitter
- “twitter is my village” – this blog post explains what twitter means in someone’s life
- another explanation of twitter as community
- case study of the Frozen Pea movement – demonstrates the power of twitter
- thoughtful post about the many uses of twitter with links to other posts on how to make the best out of twitter
- using twitter for academia: blog post – Chronicle of Higher Ed video – Campus Technology interview
I’ve had some conversations with students lately and I noticed they know very little about recommendation letters. In the spirit of transparency, I thought I’d provide some information that can help students make the best decision about asking for recommendations and references.
What goes into a recommendation letter?
When I write a rec. letter, I’m expected to mention how long I’ve known the student and in what capacity. Hint: If I don’t know you well enough (i.e. you haven’t taken a class with me, you haven’t worked closely with me on PRSSA or something similar), it’s best not to ask for a letter.
Next, I’m expected to explain why I recommend the student. What are the student’s demonstrated abilities that make her/him right for the job? By demonstrated abilities, this means that I have to support my claims with specific examples from your performance. This often involves talking about your assignments and class performance. In fact, Clemson now requires you fill out a FERPA waiver* stating you allow me to discuss this confidential information in the letter. Hint: If you haven’t performed very well in my class, it’s in your best interest not to ask me for a letter.
Often, I’m expected to rank you among my other students. For example, I can state that “this student was in the top 1% of her class” or “in the top 5% of students I’ve ever worked with.” Hint: Ask for a recommendation from a professor who can rank you (very) high.
What should you send me along with your request for a letter?
First, think about who can give you a great recommendation based on your great performance. If you ask me for a letter but you’ve not done great in my class, you put both of us in an awkward position. I usually avoid to write letters if I can’t say that I highly recommend you for a position, without any reservations.
Second, contact the person and ask if they could write you a letter by a certain date. Or, ask if they agree to be listed as a reference. Never, ever list someone as a reference without getting their approval first! If they do agree, then:
Third, send a formal request including the items in the FERPA waiver*. Attach a current resume and the information about the position you’re applying for. Include a firm deadline by which the letter needs to be received (no, that cannot be “tomorrow” – it should be at least one week).
If you’re an employer and you read this, can you help out? What do you look for in recommendation letters professors write for their students?
Your request for a recommendation letter should include the following information (which you can type in the body of an email):
PERMISSION TO DISCLOSE STUDENT RECORDS UNDER THE FAMILY EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS AND PRIVACY ACT (FERPA)
I, _______, am currently or have been a student at Clemson University. I hereby give Clemson University permission to disclose the following student education records under the following conditions:
1. Student Education Records to be disclosed:
2. Person or entity to which the above-referenced Student Education Records can be disclosed:
3. Purpose for which the Student Education Records can be disclosed:
4. This permission to disclose Student Education Records will remain in effect until _______________