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Twitter finds a place in the classroom

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Twitter has place in classroom
  • A Los Angeles teacher has found Twitter to be an important teaching tool
  • Students can chime in with questions and answers using the Web service
  • Twitter is integrated into 2% of college lectures, says one study

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Students tap away at their cell phones, laptops and iPads during Enrique Legaspi's high-tech history lesson.

In some grade schools, pulling out these devices during class would result in a one-way ticket to the principal's office. But Legaspi encourages this behavior, as long as the kids are using Twitter.

A technology enthusiast, Legaspi learned how to incorporate the social network into his 8th-grade curriculum while attending the annual Macworld convention in San Francisco earlier this year.

"I had an aha moment there," he said. "I said to myself, 'This is going to really engage my students.' "

Teachers across the country have been incorporating Twitter into classrooms for a few years, but the site's adoption by educational institutions appears to be limited.

A survey of 1,920 U.S. teachers published in April found that 2% of them use the micro-blogging site in college lectures. About half those polled said the use of Twitter and Facebook in class is harmful to the learning experience, according to the study from consulting firm Pearson Learning Solutions.

Still, Legaspi is hopeful. When he explained the plan to his students at Hollenbeck Middle School in East Los Angeles, he learned that only one of them had used Twitter.

But most, he said, live on their phones. So getting them started wasn't difficult. Students who don't have Internet-connected gadgets of their own can use the class computers.

A teacher for eight years, Legaspi said experience has taught him that a small group of students tend to dominate classroom discussions. During the seminar at Macworld, other teachers reported seeing broader student participation through Twitter.

CNN observed Legaspi standing in front of a projected screen discussing the death toll from World War I. When he asked the classroom how many people died in that conflict, several tweets started showing up on his screen with various answers.

"Many men died because of the terrible conditions they were living in," one student tweeted.

Legaspi said shy students are benefiting the most.

For "a lot of them, what it did is help find their voice," he said. "I have many students that do not participate in my classes or share what's on their mind, so Twitter became that vehicle."

Several students praised the new approach.

"It's a great way to get people to notice you," said Oscar Lozoria, a shy 14-year-old with long hair that other students used to tease him about. He said Twitter has changed how his peers view him. "They see me as somebody now -- as an equal," he said.

Ivan Sabaria, also 14, said Twitter makes learning more fun. "I'm paying attention and doing all my work," he said.

Occasionally, the students will type in something inappropriate during class. Still, Legaspi is convinced he has discovered the future of education.

"I get feedback on the spot. Not only that, all the students can see what they're sharing," he said. "This is powerful."

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