How my students talk to me with Twitter

April 30, 2014 · 14 comments

in Journalism how-to's, Relationships

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Oh, those crazy kids! Twitter is taking off with my college students in surprising ways. They feel it’s fly to tweet. They have no twouble being coherent in 140-characters or less. 

I truly believe tweeting is a twerrific 21st century skill, and not just for journalists. There’s something for everyone here. One summer, my daughter’s plane was late and I had trouble getting info from the airline’s customer service phone number and website. In frustration, I went straight onto Twitter and tweeted the company — for an instant response. 

Apparently, my students are vibing with that instant quality too. Of course, it’s not the only way they talk to me. We have face-to-face time in the classroom. I encourage students to text me with quick homework questions. For more involved issues about assignments, they send proper emails. Many of them like to bond by friending me on Facebook.

And then, there’s Twitter. This is where they share how they feel in the moment. On that front, no one has been able to top Bobby.

On the morning he was too sick to show up for class, he let the whole world know with a tweet that mentioned me and one of his classmates: 

vomit

My conscientious students worry a lot about showing up late for class. Here’s a tweet that reached me in the middle of a recent night:

jordan

On the topic of tardiness, keeping track of attendance goes both ways. I’m usually the early bird, the first to show up for class. So when they don’t see me, they get nervous. This is what happened one night, five minutes before the start of a 6 p.m. class:

wcc twitterBy the way, don’t you love their skill at sending selfies?

They just adore their selfies — along with hanging out together after class:

nyu tweet

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But seriously, Twitter is definitely worth exploring. If you’re interested at all, these last few paragraphs will give you some basic facts:

– In my journalism courses, we use Twitter to network with potential contacts, spot trends and share useful information. For more details on the basics, check out my blog post: How to start building your brand on Twitter.

– Its power as a political networking tool is spelled out in a recent Pew Research study.  In terms of being a racially diverse community, Twitter ranks #2, just behind Instagram, according to more Pew research. 

– The potential for San Francisco-based Twitter is still taking shape. On Nov. 7, 2013, the company went public and started trading its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. But Wall Street soon discovered what the rest of us already know: Twitter is an acquired taste and not that easy to use. (Read more on this issue in a New York Times story, here.)

– Yesterday, the release of first quarter 2014 earnings results failed to impress the money crowd and Twitter’s stock is tanking to the $30-range per share. Some more numbers: As of March 31, Twitter had 255 million monthly users around the world, up only 5 percent from the end of 2013. Overall revenue was up 119 percent (!) to $250 million. But with continued losses of $132 million, Twitter’s barely breaking even. (Here’s today’s Times story about company’s financial outlook.)

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So that’s the Twitter picture, large and small. From where I sit, the Spring semester is ending in a few weeks. Pretty soon, my students will be leaving the nest. But we’ll still be able to stay in touch with Twitter. <3

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Skye April 30, 2014 at 12:53 pm

One thing I can definitely see from these tweets is how much your students are concerned about the class! They send you tweets if they think they will be late or absent altogether. Missing your class is serious business or it is the ”it” academic experience of the week! I can also see how well you get along with your students. That is something to shout (or tweet!) about.

2 betty ming liu April 30, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Well, Skye, I’m pretty strict about attendance! Missing class carries severe penalties, haha! But seriously, missing class IS serious because we cover a lot of ground in each session. I’m gonna miss all of them. It’s been a really good spring semester. :)

3 Cristopher Soto April 30, 2014 at 4:43 pm

“I don’t like Twitter,” I used to tell myself. But today is a whole new story. Betty taught us Twitter, so we students were able to use it with no problem. Betty, you are freaking awesome. (Btw, watch your punctuation on Twitter!)

4 betty ming liu April 30, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Cris, it’s always like this, every semester: The students who can’t stand Twitter end up loving it. And you’re a natural at it because you like social media. Glad things worked out!

5 Toby May 1, 2014 at 10:43 am

On the other hand – to what extent do we want to live our lives in public, like a never-ending reality show? I don’t tweet or have a presence on Facebook. I really don’t want one of my students to be messaging me in the middle of the night regarding their difficulties in sleeping. I’m perfectly fine with waiting until the next class to learn their excuse for whatever. (BTW – last week I ACTUALLY had a student tell me the dog ate his homework! First time in my entire career I’ve heard that one! I treasured the moment. My cat rips up my poetry if I happen to leave it on the floor so I understood and sympathized.) Anyway, I can be cell phoned,land lined, texted, emailed or sent an actual letter. I think that’s enough ways for the world to intrude.

6 betty ming liu May 1, 2014 at 10:45 am

Toby, I feel like I’ve heard every possible excuse too! And maybe this makes me an idiot, but I usually believe my students. The tweeting has me surprised but for the moment, I remain amused.

7 mary May 1, 2014 at 10:47 am

This is hysterical and so true. I know too well as a prof myself.

8 betty ming liu May 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Yes, Mary — you really do know! Always great to commiserate with you. :)

9 Betsy Saavedra May 5, 2014 at 8:02 pm

As a former Twitter virgin all I can say it that I’m still working on it.Lol. I haven’t found it as exciting or useful as others in the class. Maybe I’m not following the right people. And I don’t like the 140 characters thing. But I DO like the blog assignment you gave us. I feel like blogging gives me more room to explore, share facts and emotions. Who knows maybe if I get the hang of Twitter, I might like it better then Blogger. But for now I’m a 100% Blogger fan. Thanks to you, of course.

10 Nicole Mendes May 5, 2014 at 8:07 pm

I feel like a Twitter veteran, but you have refreshed it for me by incorporating it into our learning regimen. For the last four years i have enjoyed Twitter and the positive impact it has had on my life. With my business LalaLand NYC, I have an additional way to advertise my sweet treats. Thanks for all the help & another amazing semester, Betty.

11 Sarah Doar May 5, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Admittedly, I am one of those students who moaned about Twitter, but now I love it. I told my friends that I think that it’s the best way of spreading the news, and FAST. I think it’s changed the world in such a positive way because you can report something the second that it happens. Because you are limited to only 140 characters you’re forced to be concise. It’s one of the best ways to get the truth out there. It can help make journalism more accurate. I love that story that you told our WCC class about the kidnapped tweeter who tweeted “kidnapped” and then threw his phone away. His immediate tweet helped lead to his rescue! I love that.

12 Lillie May 5, 2014 at 8:09 pm

I agree with Betsy, I LOVED the Blogger assignment. I’ve always wanted to make a blog but never got around to it. Now that you gave me the little push, I’m addicted. I’ve been a Twitter addict for 4 years so it’s nice to find a new addiction :)

13 Cristopher Soto May 5, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Betsy, I don’t believe you! Twitter is going to revolutionize the world. But Blogger seems old fashioned in a modern age where technology is moving fast.

14 betty ming liu May 5, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Well as you all know, your blog is your landing pad in cyberspace. Twitter helps drive traffic to your site. You each have such interesting blogs. I’m so proud of you all!

And a word to folks who sneer at Blogger.com for not being fancy enough — it’s got great little bells and whistles now. I am really impressed by the lively blogs my students are putting together. :)

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