AP literature uses Twitter on Digital Learning Day

By: Sommer Danielsen

Advanced Placement literature students around the nation celebrated Digital Learning Day on Feb. 17 by participating in an online discussion via Twitter. The discussion revolved around a poem by Robert Pack entitled, “Echo Sonnet.”

Each hour, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,  new questions were introduced to students to which they responded in 140 character tweets with the hashtag #APLitDLD. Questions asked students to examine the elements of the poem, such as diction, juxtaposition and alliteration, as well as the poem’s meaning.

From California to Georgia to Iowa, this format made it possible for students to connect with other students and teachers living in the other parts of the country. Tweets were not exclusively posted to answer preselected questions; they also brewed discussion. Students responded to one another, asking questions and challenging each other’s points of view. By the end of the day, students composed almost 1,400 tweets using the #APLitDLD hashtag, and the event reached over 100,000.

English teacher Diane Flaherty guided CFHS students through the activity throughout the day. She decided to have her students participate in the online discussion because she believed it was a great way to integrate technology into the classroom and would give students variety in their class work.

“They [students] could connect with different students across the nation on the same poem and the same idea, getting a much wider view than what they would from the 16 kids in class,” Flaherty said.

Senior Jacob Leisinger was one of the students who participated in the discussion. He agreed that it helped him gain a deeper understanding. “Seeing others’ ideas on Twitter helped me develop some unique ideas of my own,” Leisinger said.

As the day progressed, students had more questions to answer as they chose from the question of the hour as well as the previously released questions. The intensity of the discussion also developed throughout the day as more in depth investigation was required to answer the later questions. “During fifth hour it was all about juxtaposition, and it really took a lot deeper thinking than what first hour had to do,” Flaherty said.

Hosting this discussion on Twitter had its shortcomings as well as its benefits. A 140-character limit proved very challenging for answering questions about interpretation. However, AP comp and rhetoric students who take the AP test in the spring will be required to be very concise in their responses, making the character limit useful for practice.

Using social media will always harbor the temptation of distraction for students. “I think social media is a good way of learning if used responsibly. Unfortunately, I’m not sure high school kids would be capable of this,” Leisinger said.

On the other hand, the fast pace of the activity and the quantity of responses helped to maintain an engaging discussion to some degree.

After seeing the success in the first discussion, Flaherty said she hopes to participate again. This could include participation in more national discussions or maybe even designing original discussions for the students in the Cedar Valley.

Check out #APLitDLD to view tweets posted by students from Cedar Falls and beyond about the “Echo Sonnet.”

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