Jordan Shapiro’s class at Temple University last week delved into a weighty discussion of Plato’s allegory of the cave and shifting perceptions of reality. Front and center on the classroom wall behind him flashed a constantly shifting series of posts on Twitter, all under the class hashtag of #Mosaic1.
With her Nook and phone at hand, sophomore Kaylyn Christian, 20, tweeted: “Are you really happy if you live a successful life in the shadows?”
Shapiro’s classroom is definitely not the norm in academia, but it could be a harbinger of the future.
While many professors at Temple and beyond ban tweeting and texting in class, Shapiro, a full-time instructor who started last year, encourages it.
Even more so—he counts it as classroom participation. He often tweets back.
“Please tweet. Please do it,” Shapiro, 35, tells students at the start of the semester.
Christian, a psychology major from Princeton, is happy to comply.
“I always like to look up at the screen,” she said, “and see what others are saying, too.”
Dressed in a sleek black blazer and jeans with a woolly mop of hair, Shapiro looks and acts the part of the hipster instructor. He says on his Twitter page: “Doing my best to un-educate students at Temple University.”
He recently wrote a piece for Forbes—”Colleges Shouldn’t Be Jittery About Students Who Are Twittery”—outlining the conundrum playing out on campuses nationwide.
“The tech industry and university administrators are flooding institutions with online-learning platforms, filling classrooms with new smart tools, and trying to equip their students with the digital skills that appeal to corporate employers,” he wrote.
“Meanwhile, the faculty prefers to play the part of the curmudgeonly old guard—the ogre at the bridge, trying to keep innovation from crossing. Many professors ban all electronics from their classrooms. Others penalize students who are caught tweeting or texting by marking them absent for the day.”
What really made Shapiro happy during class last week was Elizabeth Moore, 25, a junior advertising major from Penn Valley, who vigorously pounded on her phone as discussion ensued.
(Next page: What students, colleagues think of the practice)