Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Simple, Succinct Lesson from Twitter

CC image via flickr by Jkonig
This morning, two tweets caught my eye. These two 140 character posts evolved into a simple lesson that I constructed for my students. First, Tim Calvin posted this piece from The New York Times Op-Ed titled “Teaching to the Text Message” by Andy Selsberg. This concise piece reiterated something I have been preaching to my students since the first day of class: Be concise and innovative with language. My essay assignments don’t carry a minimum page length requirement, but they do contain a challenge: If you can persuade your audience in one page, I will be impressed.

Soon after the tweet by Tim Calvin, I clicked on a video shared by Michael Wesch. The video was a midterm project from a communications student. The student’s objective was to “look into my life and what I see everyday”. I was impressed by the video and thought about taking on this challenge myself. What does my screen look like every day? What music would represent it best? I'm still thinking.

After reviewing both of these pieces, I decided to use them both later that day in my English 101: College Composition course. I uploaded the video to our classroom wikispace and added a new page title on the left hand navigation bar. The page title: “Be Concise”. This new page derives the lesson presented by Selsberg in the article and will now serve as a new writing assignment three times a week for my students. Each day I will post a new video, image, or passage for them to review. Their objective is to summarize or caption the media I select for the day in one or two sentences. My goal is that they start to experiment with language and write more succinctly. Similarly, I hope they find ways to express themselves more eloquently and devise innovative ways to articulate their ideas.

I developed this brief writing lesson because two people shared something today. I did not find it in a book or a classroom, but simply noticed it falling down in my tweet deck. This is why social media is amazing. It allows us to scan a table full of puzzle pieces and find two, or maybe more, that fit.