Twitter, the social networking site that limits users to 140-character communications, is proving to be a surprising new literary format for college students and been shown to improve learning and involvement, a new study has found.
Christine Greenhow, assistant professor of education at Michigan State University, found that college students who tweet as part of their instruction are more engaged with the course content and with the teacher and other students.
She also found tweeters tend to have higher grades.
"Tweeting can be thought of as a new literary practice," said Greenhow. "It's changing the way we experience what we read and what we write."
In her new study — "Twitteracy: Tweeting as a New Literary Practice" — Greenhow noted Twitter use among U.S. teens has doubled in two years. More than 200 million active users post about 175 million tweets a day, according to the study, which appears in the research journal Educational Forum.
Greenhow analyzed past studies of Twitter and learning and found the Web-based site's real-time design allows students and instructors to “engage in sharing, collaboration, brainstorming, and creation of a project.” Other student benefits included learning to write concisely, conducting up-to-date research, and even communicating directly with authors and researchers.
Greenhow added that students participate more through the site than they do in a face-to-face class setting.
"The students get more engaged because they feel it is connected to something real, that it's not just learning for the sake of learning," she said. "It feels authentic to them."
"One of the ways we judge whether something is a new literary form or a new form of communication is whether it makes new social acts possible that weren't possible before. Has Twitter changed social practices and the way we communicate? I would say it has."