A Twitter-essay condenses an argument with evidentiary support into 140 characters unleashed upon a hashtag in the Twitter-verse. Tweets often attempt to convey as much information in as few words as possible. A tweet could be seen, then, not as a paragon of the many potential horrors of student writing, but as a model of writerly concision. In composing their Twitter-essay, students proceed through all the steps they would take in writing a traditional academic essay, including brainstorming, composing, workshopping, and revising. I also have them consider and research their audience, the Twitter members engaged in discussion around a particular hashtag. Finally, I have them work dynamically with the Tweets of their peers, responding to them on Twitter and close-analyzing them in class. I ask the students to consider their word-choice, use of abbreviation, punctuation, etc. To model the activity and to give them a sense for the shape of a Twitter-essay, I compose my instructions for the assignment in exactly 140 characters and post them to Twitter.
For a more detailed account of my experiments with the Twitter Essay:
The Twitter-enhanced Fishbowl Discussion
First, the "rules" of a fishbowl discussion
Preparation: I usually have students formulate questions in small groups during the prior class period. I revise the questions and type them out in advance. I usually take out duplicates, combine questions that are similar, sneak in a few questions of my own, etc. As an alternative, the students can also come up with questions on the day of the fishbowl.
On the day: Create two circles (an inner and outer circle). The inner circle has 4-6 chairs. Ask for volunteers for the inner circle and put questions in a stack at the center. Rules on the board.
1. Those in the inner circle can talk, but those in the outer circle can't.
2. To get into the inner circle, tap someone on the shoulder and trade places with them.
3. The outer circle is responsible for making sure the rules are followed. The teacher is not the police, but an equal player in the experiment.
Mechanics: I usually stay out of the discussion for at least half the class period. Sometimes, the students are reluctant to tap me out once I'm in the center, so I encourage them. Toward the end of a fishbowl, if people in the outer circle seem antsy to talk but reluctant to tap in, I open the discussion to anyone in inner or outer circle. It’s also useful to have a meta-level discussion of the activity when it's done. How did the discussion work? How did it feel to be in the inner or outer circles? Etc.
Now, a discussion of a twitter-enhanced version of the fishbowl discussion:
Immediately, an important question was asked about whether this activity would be possible in a classroom without computers.