Educate Me in 140 Characters or Less

On: October 11, 2010
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About Ronen Shay
Ronen Shay is a doctoral candidate completing his final year of Ph.D. studies in Mass Communication at the University of Florida, under the supervision of Dr. Sylvia Chan-Olmsted. His current research is focused on contemporary challenges in the field of media management and includes papers written on: windowed distribution strategies for substitutive television content, audience perspectives on the perceived quality of pure play distribution, factors affecting tablet adoption, the relationship between social media metrics and brand equity, and factors affecting cable television churn. He has presented his research at the 2013 AEJMC National Conference in Washington D.C., the University of Zurich’s 2014 Evolution of Media Branding Conference, the 2014 AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, the 11th World Media Economics and Management Conference in Rio de Janeiro, and the 2014 AEJMC National Conference in Montreal, Canada. Ronen was awarded the Second Place Student Research Paper (2014) and Third Place Student Research Paper (2013) from the Media Management and Economics division of AEJMC, for his work on social media metrics and brand equity, and windowed distribution strategies respectively. In 2013, he was also an Outstanding International Student Award recipient at the University of Florida, for his academic performance. His accomplishments at the University of Florida are supported by an M.A. in New Media from the University of Amsterdam, and an Honors B.A. in Communications from the University of Toronto. Ronen’s professional experience includes project management roles at Rogers Communications, North by Northeast, and Random Sounds, a freelance concert production service co-founded by Ronen, that successfully served clients in the Greater Toronto Area from 2001-2005. Ronen Shay also holds professional certifications in project management (PMP) and digital communication.


When packing your bag for school, make sure you have your lunch, books, and favorite Twitter client. The social network is making great strides as an academic tool, as more and more educators realize the benefit of fast, transparent messages that are updated in real time. Twitter allows teachers to announce changes in class schedules, homework, or study tips in a safe and friendly environment (EDUCAUSE). In addition to improving student-teacher communication, teachers have found potential for increased student engagement by assigning twitter based homework. Common twitter based assignments include tracking a conference or seminar, researching a professional, learning to write concisely (140 characters or less), and grammar lessons by correcting other people’s twitter posts (AcademHack). To see how the university of Dallas is using Twitter in their Emerging Media Course click here.

Student-teacher communication has become increasingly difficult in the light of a variety of scandals, and their corresponding online media coverage. In 2004 the American media was enveloped by the Debra LaFave case, where a 23 year told female teacher had a sexual relationship with her 14 year-old student (MSNBC). The threat of inappropriate student-teacher relationships have resulted in teachers becoming more guarded and reluctant to meet with students on a one-on-one basis. Twitter presents a viable means to re-establish a transparent form of communication between students and teachers, as both parties identities are disclosed, and the conversation that takes place is public and captured.

Many contemporary student issues like poverty, teen pregnancy, and learning
disabilities have lead to an increased importance in student engagement. If a student doesn’t arrive to class, or has a genuine difficulty retaining information, what options are teachers left with? One solution is to adopt a push communication strategy. Traditional course structures have a pull communication system where the onus is to pull the student into the  classroom, where they then benefit from the information being disseminated. With Twitter a student could subscribe to the class feed and receive information directly to their mobile device or online Twitter account. The information is automatically pushed to them, and while it by no means replaces the invaluable class experience, it may assist students who actually have difficult real-world problems.

At the end of 2009, 73% of American teens between the ages of 12 and 17 were using social networking sites (Cyberbullying Research Center). Why not go to where your students are? If you are ready to make the jump the next logical question is why use Twitter? Twitter is designed for one individual to speak to many, it does not focus on the personal one-on-one conversations that Facebook is commonly used for. Twitter’s primary purpose is to share information, while Facebook is to connect with friends, and FourSquare is to meet in real life. Both Facebook and FourSqaure present a conflict of interest when applied to student-teacher communication. Twitter posts are designed to occur in real-time, students receive the information as it is posted and teachers can address student issues as they occur. The aforementioned factors when coupled with the public transparency of a Twitter feed, appear to make Twitter the obvious choice for a teacher looking to educate their students via social networking.


AcademHack. (January 23, 2008) Twitter for Academia.

Dunlap, J. and Lowenthal P. (2009) Horton Hears a Tweet.

Hinduja, S. and Patchin, J. (2009) The Changing Nature in Online Social Networking.

Lauer Matt. (September 13, 2006) Debra Lafave: Crossing The Line.

University of Dallas. (2007) Twitter Away Your Weekend.


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