[Category: In Class]
To Tweet or not to Tweet? – Using Twitter in the classroom
by Mahammed Bouabdallah
“It was a unique experience that opens a question whether social networks can be used for educational purpose but not limited to socialising only”. This is one the responses that I have received from my students, after using Twitter in my Arabic class. During my career of teaching Arabic in the Higher Education, I always have tried to find an innovative ways of teaching. Students tends to think that Arabic is a very hard language, and my role is to break this language barrier and give my students the opportunity to enjoy their journey through Arabic.
My colleagues as well as my students used to ask me: How did you start Twitter with your students? For this question, I have only one answer: It started by accident! We started using Twitter as a communicative platform in English. Thanks to my students who suggested to use Arabic instead of English. Students were amazed that they are able to express themselves in Twitter. As educators and teachers we would like to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning. We live in the social media age, where its usage have evolved rapidly. Instead of prohibiting this practice, we have to take advantage of it.
The use of social media in teaching and learning languages is getting more attention. Every day we read articles and research papers highlighting the importance of these social platforms in the education sector. The recent report on social media in the Arab world states that Arabic language is now used in a majority of social media activities in the Arab region, and this is for the first time since the social media started. With the growth of Twitter rates in the Arab region, teachers and students can find plenty of authentic materials to enhance the teaching and learning experience.
I have tried to use Twitter in my Arabic class to improve the students’ learning on different areas such as: learning vocabulary, grammar, guided writing activities, analysing data, and translation skills. Twitter has all the features to make this improvement achievable and practical. From my experience in using Twitter, I think it is an effective and powerful tool of learning Arabic. Students can use this platform as a writing portfolio. They can look back at their tweets and find their strengths and weaknesses.
One thing to keep in mind as educator and teacher, that primary focus should not be using Twitter or other social platforms, but rather pedagogy. It’s important and necessary to cater for our digital native students and give them the opportunity to use their “high tech” skills, but we have to set a pedagogical approach first.
In my Arabic class, Twitter bridges the gap between formal and informal learning. One of my students has dyslexia told me that Twitter helped him to get more engaged in class and not be restrained by his dyslexia. It even allows shy students to feel comfortable enough to participate in language activities. Moreover, it’s fun, creative, and social.
– Mahammed Bouabdallah
Mahammed Bouabdallah is a lecturer of Arabic at the University of Westminster and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Mahammed has taught Arabic at the University of Westminster for the last eight years. His interest in Technology and how to use social media and microblogging in teaching languages.