History in 140 characters: Twitter to Support Reading Comprehension and Argumentation in Digital-Humanities Pedagogy

Kalani Craig. "History in 140 characters: Twitter to Support Reading Comprehension and Argumentation in Digital-Humanities Pedagogy", in The Emerging Learning Design Journal, 5.1 (Special Issue: Digital Humanities), June 2017. DOI: http://eldj.montclair.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ELDjV51IS-History_in_140_characters_Craig.pdf

Click-bait headlines that tackle the modern phenomenon of social media often rail against the stultifying effects of too much Twitter. At the same time, productive educational use of Twitter in the classroom is a particularly germane area of study for digital humanists, who consider Twitter a central piece of their community-building practices. This case-study analysis addresses the use of microblogging by using activity theory to understand how social media can be harnessed to help students quickly appropriate the norms of professional historians in a discipline they often encounter as passive listeners in a large lecture course. Students reimagined Prokopios’ biography of Justinian by Tweeting from three perspectives. In a preparatory exercise, students included substantive interpretive information in 66% of their Prokopios Tweets, and 18% of the Tweets had errors. After the activity, 73% of the Tweets were substantive and errors had been reduced to 8%. Twitter situated the goal of reading comprehension in a modern medium that requires rapid repurposing of content, explicit emphasis on the citation practices that govern published history research, and a clear purpose for their work—interaction with, dependence on, and fodder for the interpretive historical-perspective acts being performed by their peers, a co-construction of knowledge that closely mimics professional historical practice.