The guest professor in my large class of 200 journalism students at Michigan State University was just hitting his stride when suddenly every single student plunged to the ground as though looking for a dropped pencil. Stunned, the speaker continued his talk. About 15 minutes later the students leapt to their feet and applauded furiously! Shattered, he began to realize that something he was saying, some word, was igniting this explosive response from the students.
At the time I was on a flight to Denver and the speaker was doing me a favor taking over my class. As the plane was about to land I got a text message from him (yes, I had my phone illegally turned on) that simply said, “You’re dead!”
He was right to blame me … and Twitter.
Now, I wouldn’t advise doing this to just any old professor. This was a good friend of mine and I knew he would appreciate a Gude joke. The day before class I had tweeted my students a couple of times encouraging them to commit these outrageous acts whenever my friend spoke a certain word.
Now why would I do such a mean thing? Usually, when a class has a substitute teacher, students just ditch it. Or if they do come to class, they ignore the speaker and spend their time on Facebook. But this little joke caused them to not only attend class (who wouldn’t want to miss the fun?) but also to listen intently to every single word the speaker said. Mission accomplished: class was packed and they did well on the quiz I gave later on the material.
More and more students have Twitter accounts now. Four years ago very few of them did and I would have to force them kicking and screaming to sign up (something they were always grateful for by semester’s end).
Five (other) ways I use Twitter in my lecture classes: