The Washington Post

Want an ‘A?’ Then you better start tweeting in this professor’s class

(Kacper Pempel/Reuters)


That’s how Ohio State professor Nicole Kraft describes the traditional act of taking role in class, and rewarding students for being physically present. With WiFi and laptops common in classrooms, there’s no guarantee a student is actually listening and learning.

“I want students to be engaged. I want them to want to be there. I hate the idea of asking them their name. It just seems like a waste of time to me,” said the journalism professor.

So Kraft started rewarding students for tweeting during class in the fall. Students are expected to tweet at least once during class, and that contributes to a professionalism score that’s factored into their final grade. These tweets have to be relevant to class and contribute to a dialogue.

“I know they’re going to play on social media anyway. I feel it’s unreasonable to expect them not to be interacting with the outside world in some way,” Kraft said. “There’s always the one person who tries to do the ‘I’m in class, #OSUcomm3404,’ we have a discussion that that’s not what we’re here for.” Tweeting is designed to help them cultivate an online identity, Kraft said, so when people meet her students digitally, they’ll make a good first impression.

Kraft is comfortable turning conventional learning on its head. She doesn’t lecture in class. Students watch prerecorded lectures from outside the classroom. Actual class time — when most professors are lecturing — is reserved for discussions and hands-on skills development.

“Rather than having the time when they’re most confused be spent alone — the time that they’re most confused, when they’re trying to develop a new skill, they spend with me in class doing it, and they get the concepts of it,” Kraft said.

After getting a grant to use iPads in her classroom, Kraft had a decision to make.

“I could use this as a delivery method, or I could use this as a dialogue,” Kraft said. “I’ve always really thought that the education that I got that was dialogue driven as opposed to just someone disseminates information, and I am supposed to absorb it and regurgitate it, I never used most of that.”

Kraft is a realist.

“They’re on their phones anyway.  They’re on their computers,” Kraft said. “We could fight them and say ‘Hey I don’t want you to take notes on your computer. I want you to write with a pen and paper,’ or we could just meet them where they are, and this incredible gift of technology that is in front of us, and it’s intertwined in everything else that they do.”




Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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