Dr Mahsheed Ansari: It is important to engage students in real world conversations.

Dr Mahsheed Ansari is a lecturer in Islamic Studies and research fellow at the Centre of Islamic Studies and Civilisation (CISAC). She has been studying Islamic thought for over 15 years. She is also a community activist working in the areas of interfaith dialogue, social harmony and leadership-mentoring programs with Muslim youth and Muslim women for over a decade. In this post, she shares strategies for incorporating Twitter into her online subject.

There is no doubt that social media platforms, such as Twitter, play a part in generating information and “knowledge”. It is therefore important that students understand how to engage with social media platforms when discussing current affairs. ISL453 (Muslims in the west) is taught as part of CISAC’s undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Islamic Studies. The subject calls for students’ awareness of contemporary issues to support how they respond to and analyse relevant discussions grounded in real world scenarios.

What were you trying to achieve?

The aim of Twitter in ISL453, was to:

  • give advice on each week’s tasks, reading or problems;
  • become an informal channel for conversations that will support learning in this online mode of study; and
  • enhance teacher presence.

It was hoped that Twitter would encourage and provide opportunities for active learning. Students can comment on learning materials and experiences and ask questions in real time, as well as contribute to content and discussion.

What did it look like?

Mahsheed began tweeting even before session started to get the conversation rolling. Doing this, modeled how she expected students to use this platform in context of the topics they were covering each week, as well as in line with the subject learning outcomes.

Using a hashtag for this subject (#ISL453) provided both Mahsheed and her students with a space for real-time interactions. It allowed her and the students to provide each other with further reading suggestions, interesting links related to the topics being discussed, as well as a backchannel to get questions clarified.

How can I make this happen?

  1. Set up a Twitter account
  2. Create your subject hashtag, i.e. #[Subject Code]
  3. Include information about the subject hashtag and expected student interaction in the subject outline, as well as the interact2 subject site
  4. Be prepared to monitor the conversation

Mahsheed Ansari and Katherine Herbert are happy to talk about their experiences around how Twitter is used to leverage student to student and teacher to student interactions in your subject. You may also want to visit the Twitter page on the CSU WIKI.