Twitter in Teaching: Student Memes and Critical Humorous Thinking

A guest post from my colleague, Dr Jack Holland (University of Surrey).


This academic year, I promoted the use of a Twitter hashtag in my Level 2 Security Studies module (#pol2036).  This was done to increase student interaction outside of the classroom and encourage the sharing of academic sources, news articles and other links related to the study of international security.  Many students were already familiar with Twitter, whilst for others signing up and creating an account was a new experience.  Although some student’s engagement with the social networking site was very limited, others fully embraced the platform as a useful forum for discussing ideas, sharing quotes and sources, as well as (quite unexpectedly) developing humorous critiques of the study of security.  It was this latter use of Twitter that has interested me the most.  Developing the popular ‘meme’ phenomenon that has seen numerous campus specific variants, students took it upon themselves to create their own #pol2036 memes, which attempted to poke fun at some of the elements of the subdiscipline.  As well as being very funny (to a, perhaps somewhat geeky, Political Science audience), these memes also demonstrate a considerable depth of understanding of the course material, as well as an ability to critique it.  A selection is included here:

Of course, Twitter and the #pol2036 hashtag had other more mundane uses – announcements about marking, student queries, links to news stories and Youtube videos  – but it was the memes that have made me think about what social networking can do in terms of helping students to develop key skills outside of their lectures, seminars and assessments.  And, it has made me think about the role that humour can play in keeping students interested and as a mode of critique.

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