Many people use Twitter for personal social/professional pursuits: finding links, having communication with a broad audience, self-promoting your blog on making history relevant (“follow us,” we cry). But you can use twitter in the classroom to create a sense of community, facilitate communication out of class, and hopefully open students’ eyes to the enormity of the world and the role that digital communication plays in ongoing events. As a long-term skeptic about the utility of twitter – and somebody who continues to avoid Facebook – I hope to reach the digital skeptic here.

When I first heard of Twitter in mid-to-late 2006, it sounded inane. 140 characters seemed restrictive for text (SMS) messaging, let alone as a means to communicate over the internet. We have e-mail, I probably snidely dismissed, and then went back to predicting the eminent end of Facebook. It wasn’t really until 2009 that I realized I had been wrong. (more…)

Do laptops have a place in the lecture hall? An ongoing debate has raged over whether they do. At York University, the on-campus newspaper Excalibur noted that many history professors were opposed to the use of laptops in lecture halls, a discussion continued by a large departmental meeting in early January. This has not been an isolated discussion, however. In this post, I hope to provide some background to the debate by noting some of the other sites of discussion, and then break it down into what I see as the two main issues: civility and the role of the professor, as well as learning and the role of technology. Keeping this in mind, I believe that we need to reframe our teaching approach as adult education and adapt to the use of technology. Certainly, there will be times when we should close our laptops and enter into discussion, but this does not need to lead to a blanket ban of technology in our classrooms. (more…)