English 205: The Twitter Assignment

Using twitter in English 205 will help me listen to your reactions to the course material, to make my teaching more responsive to your questions. My goal is to encourage you each to ask questions about Shakespeare, questions that will identify “trending topics” (as twitter calls them) in the class at large. I want to help each of you move toward higher-level questions by the end of the course: questions that show not merely how much you know, but how well you think. With time, are you moving from understanding to analyzing, and from analyzing to evaluating? Do you read between the lines, make connections between passages, convey more than one layer of information?

You can’t do that all at once, of course: you only have 140 characters at a time. But there’s a lot you can do in a limited space; to quote Shakespeare’s Polonius, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Getting started

  1. Get a twitter account, if you don’t already have one. Your account must use your real name (see Profile Settings), or you can’t be graded on the Twitter assignments. Create a new account for this course, if necessary.
  2. Log in.
  3. Search the #engl205 hashtag > (+)Save this search button. Then from your Home page, your Searches tab will list this as a saved search; click on it to see what others using that hashtag have been saying.
  4. Optional: Start following Prof. Ullyot (@ullyot): search “michael ullyot” > People tab > (+)Follow button. Or go straight to my profile at < twitter.com/ullyot >. You do not need to follow me; I will always use the #engl205 hashtag in my posts about English 205.

And then”¦

  1. As you read the assigned texts, make a list of the questions they provoke””but don’t tweet anything yet. (Tweeting while reading is like texting while driving: don’t do it. It distracts your attention from what you should focus on.)
  2. Start with basic questions (Who is this character? What is she saying?) and move toward more complicated ones, toward questions that provoke more questions. What do you want to talk more about? What can you begin to answer on your own, but need more evidence to proceed? What seems to be the missing piece of your understanding? Notice any patterns or echoes, and how different moments in the play are related.
  3. Tweet your best question(s) by the end of the weekend (Sunday at midnight), in Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12.  These dates are in the course calendar.
  4. Always include the #engl205 hashtag. If you want to add other tags like #hamlet, go ahead. Or others, as you see fit — like #fail or #haiku: whatever works for you. You can even start new tags. (If you can believe it, #cymbeline has almost no hits so far; but we’ll change that.)
  5. Remember that everything you tweet is public, and archived forever. If you would prefer your tweets to be private (invisible except to your followers), just change your account settings. Click on your name (upper right) > Settings > Tweet Privacy. BUT you must tell me if you do so, or I won’t know you exist. Send me a direct message, or e-mail me a link to your profile: < ullyot{at}ucalgary{dot}ca >.

Grading (7.5%)

  • Your six required tweets will be graded. For the full 7.5%, you will tweet a minimum of six times on or before the scheduled days.
  • Quality matters more than quantity: each of your tweets should pose thoughtful, provocative, detailed questions about the Shakespeare material we are reading that week (e.g. about Hamlet in Week 2). Each of your questions should require detailed analysis of the text to answer, and lead to further questions.
  • That is the goal, anyway. Even if your questions earlier in the course are more basic than that, we are grading the growth in your expert thinking over time.
  • This is a self-reporting assignment. To claim your 7.5%, you must submit a print-out of your course-related tweets at the end of the course (Week 13). Use snapbird.org to generate a list. Search “Someone’s Timeline”; under “Who?” enter your username; under “What” enter #engl205; and click “Find It.”
  • How else can you track your progress? Throughout the course, I will use an online program called The Archivist to keep track of all tweets using the #engl205 hashtag. It shows me who has been tweeting, and how often. (This is an open-source archive: you can also access it here: < http://t.co/pZ3BoZ8 >.)
  • Things that will lower your grade in this assignment include showing a lack of interest in its goals, refusing/forgetting to participate on time, or tweeting things that are dishonest or disrespectful.
  • If you miss a required tweet, there is no make-up exercise. But you can help your grade in a few ways, listed in the next section.

More options

  • I encourage you also to regularly tweet other responses to the course material, or anything related to Shakespeare in our culture. Always include the #engl205 hashtag.
  • Here are some ideas: Start new discussions, raise new questions, post interesting links to YouTube performances, re-tweet what Shakespeareans around the world are saying. (To find them, search for the #shakespeare hashtag.)
  • Attach a twitpic (photo) of the place where you’re reading; or your text with annotations and marginal notes; of something that reminds you of something you read (explain why); of random things you see outside when you’re reading; of your book in an unexpected location (e.g. bar, bus, bathtub). Be creative, but don’t send any morally compromising photos!
  • Consider using a free app like Seesmic or Tweetdeck, which are available as desktop clients, web apps, or mobile apps. They make it easy to create multiple columns of Twitter activity. So your main stream may be in one column, any replies or mentions of your own Twitter username may be in a second column, and your #engl205 hashtag can permanently occupy a third column.

One Response to “English 205: The Twitter Assignment”

  1. ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education

    […] My assignment asks students to use Twitter sparingly (six times a term), a day or two before we convene for class discussion. It will make my teaching more responsive and lead us down investigative paths, gathering evidence for arguments as we go. It will tell me about ‘trending topics,’ about interests and uncertainties, in the intellectual climate of the room, and about what we can start to resolve together. […]


Leave a Reply