Evaluating Posts

The first series of true evaluations are complete, looking at student postings to Twitter and Disqus. I wanted to explain and clarify my process.

In thinking about the classroom use of Twitter, I considered what about Twitter posts that I find useful. Generally, quality tweets seem to have two traits:

  • They expand my knowledge of an idea or interest by providing a link, photo, video, or discussion;
  • They use the conventions of Twitter correctly and consistently.

Quality

The most important criterion for evaluating tweets is quality. First and foremost, a post must have quality — it must add to the conversation.

During orientation, I suggested that before you ever submit anything for evaluation — from research papers to tweets — begin by asking yourself: “what does this add to the conversation?” All scholarship can be considered an ongoing conversation: as we gain more voices, we usually gain more perspectives on the topic. Different experiences lend new points of view. This is not only how we grow, but how a discipline evolves and remains vibrant.

Therefore, I begin my evaluation in the same way: by considering what your tweets and posts add to the conversation. Do they bring a new perspective, or just rehash old ones? Do they engage the material, or just repeat it? Do they support what they say with evidence, or just give a cursory reading? Do they engage with other classmates via replies, or do they post only what they’re interested in? Do they add to the knowledge of the community, or would they rather be somewhere else?

David Silver distinguishes between “thick” tweets which contain several layers of meaning, and “thin” ones that have only one. His discussion is helpful and contains some examples.

I outline other ways to give quality to a post in Using Twitter; this article also contains examples. Some of these same strategies can also be applied to Disqus, though you might consider it more akin to a discussion forum. For more formal differences between the two systems, see Twitter v. Disqus.

Literacy

Literacy is about correctly using a medium’s language of communication.

Posts must demonstrate literacy. That is, they must use the correct grammar and mechanics, avoid typos and careless mistakes, and employ a succinct style. This is half of being literate; the other half involves using the medium in the correct way. On Twitter, be sure you use replies, mentions, and hashtags correctly; in discussions, use replies, paragraphs, and links correctly. Every medium has it’s accepted modes of use, and knowing what these are and using them correctly and consistently is evidence of literacy.

Quantity

Finally, there must be a certain quantity of posts. However, quantity can never make up for quality and literacy. Yet, you must participate, so the expectation of frequency of posts depends on the community’s engagement with the material. For example, some topics, the class may not have as much to say as they do for others. Therefore, some weeks, you might tweet much less than others. As long as you are participating — i.e., have a reasonable amount of tweets compared to the rest of the class — the quantity will be fulfilled. Not tweeting or discussing (a quantity of zero) will always earn you a failing mark.

Examples

Here are examples of quality Twitter posts. Remember, the best posts are about quality and literacy. In other words they add to the conversation using the correct language of the medium. For example:

Notice that Chrissonia references what the class was discussing, but adds a link that further develops and clarifies the topic. She also adds the appropriate hashtags at the end of the tweet. Faults for this tweet could be a lack of punctuation or a clearer context, but I would say it would be classified as a good addition to the conversation.

In this tweet, Mandy quotes a passage from the assigned reading, then gives the page number in parentheses for easy reference. Even if you’re paraphrasing, allowing your classmates to easily find your reference makes a better tweet; for example:

Steven is obviously livetweeting the discussion, and “symbiosis” is key to understanding the theorist’s argument. Note that Steven defines the term, then includes the page number in the text as a reference (it’s not quite MLA, but it’s the right idea). While this tweet is limited in its application — i.e., it really only helps his class — it still adds to the conversation using the proper literacy of Twitter.

Having a dialog on Twitter is also an excellent use of the service.

Notice how Carol responds to my question. The only aspect I would add to her answer would be a link or a page reference for additional support. Her response also contains a typo, but kept at a minimum, these won’t affect your grade.

If you are not interacting on Twitter, it becomes just another place to post what might be random snippets from your life. The most useful aspects of Twitter engage the material and each other. Think of Twitter as participating in a community interest: in class, that is learning the material. Sharing through quality posts is one way of participating in your own education.

Have other or better examples? Questions? Comments? Let know below, or reach me via Twitter.

Grading

Weekly Twitter posts will be evaluated in the following way:

  • 9-10: Tweets are quality; Tweets well more than the average quantity; Tweets add to the discussion by engaging class material: linking beyond or referencing texts; Tweets encourage dialog, ask questions, or discuss them; Tweets are literate, using the conventions of Twitter correctly and consistently;
  • 8: Tweets are generally quality; Tweets more than the average quantity; Tweets add to the discussion by participating: retweeting or livetweeting lecture or discussion; Tweets encourage dialog; Tweets reply to discussions; Tweets are generally literate, using the conventions of Twitter correctly and consistently;
  • 7: Tweets are sometimes quality; Tweets the average quantity; Tweets attempt to add to the discussion, but often just point out the obvious or have no context or support; Tweets seem to stand on their own, not encouraging further discussion; Tweets occasionally respond to others; Tweets are generally literate, but sometimes sloppy and inconsistent;
  • 6: Tweets are rarely quality; Tweets below the average quantity; Tweets do not add to the discussion, repeat obvious points, and sometimes seem like non-sequitors; Tweets are rarely supported with links or references; Tweets seem to ignore context or discussion (maybe because of infrequent use), or might discourage conversation; Tweets do not generally respond to others; Tweets are generally sloppy and error-prone;
  • 1-5: Tweets are not quality; Tweets well below the class average; Tweets distract from the discussion, and seem to have little or no grasp of the context or conversation; Tweets are not supported — no external references; Tweets ignore discussions or responses, perhaps by not using the system frequently enough; Tweets might be rude or inconsiderate; Tweets are illiterate.

For a discussion of Disqus grading, see Forum Directions.