by Lior Levin
A recent study performed by Reynol Junco at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania found that students who used the microblogging platform Twitter earned a GPA that was, on average, half a point higher than those who didn’t.
The study took a group of 140 students who had not used Twitter previously and had half make use of the service and the other half abstained. The half that used Twitter was able to tweet during class, submit homework via the service and otherwise interact with their instructors while the other half had to do without such benefits.
When it was done, students who had used Twitter had an average GPA of 2.8, just under a “B” and a full half a grade point higher than those who did not. The Twitter users also showed a higher level of engagement and a higher level of commitment to the school.
But as promising as the results are, not everyone is convinced at the link and many feel it is a bit too early to jump on the Twitter bandwagon.
As Macleans pointed out in their coverage of the study, new tools don’t improve GPAs by themselves, but rather, it’s how the students used it that mattered.
In the study, the students were using Twitter almost exclusively for educational purposes. However, if they had used Twitter solely to talk with friends and/or plan their events, it is far more likely Twitter would have been a distraction and lowered their GPA.
Instead, it was the fact Twitter was used to increase communication with staff and provide better access to educators that caused it to help.
Another issue is that the mere willingness and ability to use a new tool and technology in the classroom likely fostered better understanding of the material, regardless of what that tool was. This is because students are naturally more engaged and involved when learning to apply new tools rather than technology they are readily familiar with.
In short, according to critics of the study, it wasn’t the fact that it was Twitter that was important, but that it was a new concept that they were working with that made things more interesting and increased their willingness to participate.
Further Study Needed
In the end, further study is needed to isolate Twitter’s effect in this case and separate it from the other potential factors that might have played a role.
Still, it seems likely that Twitter will be seeing an increased use in the classroom, not just because it helps increase student engagement, but because it is a form of social networking that professors don’t mind adopting as it is faster, easier and comes with less social commitment.
This means that, even if it doesn’t make students smarter, we could find ourselves seeing a surge in use of Twitter across college campuses as colleges seek low-cost ways to increase student engagement and will likely view the possibility of better grades is just an added bonus.
Maybe, as use gets more widespread, we’ll better understand how Twitter impacts education and what some of the best uses for it are.