Watch this Teacher Engage Shy Students Via Twitter


I’m quickly becoming a fan of social media in the classroom, especially for shy or introverted kids. Here’s a CNN video of a high school teacher using Twitter to reach his students, especially the shy ones.

There is of course a danger that shy kids will become too reliant on these technologies to do the talking for them. But I think it’s more likely that they’ll gain confidence by tweeting their ideas and seeing them recognized by their peers. That confidence will spill over into their “real world” interactions, I predict. Once they’ve savored the pleasure of participating in a discussion and seeing their ideas validated, they’ll be hungry for more.

Still, it’s not a straightforward question.

What’s your opinion? Are these technologies likely to give quiet students a voice, or to prevent them from finding their own?

Thanks to Annie Murphy Paul and Ian Chia for alerting me to this segment.



  1. Tim Stock on 14.06.2011 at 10:11 (Reply)

    I am always troubled by curriculum meetings I have have with other faculty where emphasis is placed on participation in only the most obvious ways. It is factored in as a significant part of the grade and serves only to place students in scrutiny of a very culturally biased view of effective communication. I teach at Parsons the New School for Design where the student body is, by design, very international and diverse. But we seem to perpetuate the idea that you are only participating if you are actively speaking - often simply sucking up. Saying something is enough - saying something important less so. I look for impact over talk. For some (I have many Asian students) being loud and assertive in a group setting is just not them. But give them ways of communicating under the radar where the idea and discourse is the goal - and they engage. Technology is beautiful in the ways it allows for these natural and low key flows of language. Less peacocking - more real participation.

  2. Danielle on 14.06.2011 at 10:48 (Reply)

    I’m all for using technology to encourage shy students to respond, however, in view of the possibility of on-line bullying on Twitter, I would prefer if the teacher used an off-line intranet type technology limited within the school walls that would still serve the same purpose without exposing the kids to possible on-line bullying. Like you, Susan, I spent quite a few years in law offices, albeit as a legal assistant. I know what to do if I’m being abused on-line. Students however are more easily intimidated than adults are and a lot of them don’t know what to do and won’t reach out for help until it’s too late. Just my take on this.

  3. Jeffrey Willius on 14.06.2011 at 13:11 (Reply)

    Hi Susan — I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your wonderful blog! I love the whole focus on quiet, for periods of silence and periods with nothing scheduled are, indeed, the most fertile ground for discovery and wonder.
    Keep up the good work. I look forward to exploring the rest of your content.

    1. Susan Cain on 15.06.2011 at 11:50 (Reply)

      Thx, Jeff. Let me know if there are topics you’re especially interested in seeing me cover. I can’t always get to reader requests promptly, but I read them all and try!

      1. Jeffrey Willius on 27.06.2011 at 22:28 (Reply)

        Susan — thanks for your reply to my comment! Since my main focus is awareness, curiosity and wonder, especially as it concerns Nature, that’s the area I’d like to see more content about. But that’s just me — you do what you do very well!

  4. Julie on 14.06.2011 at 19:27 (Reply)

    I’m sorry, but no. Rather than addressing problems head on (lack of class participation, teasing of shy students), this “teaching method” is making an end run around them. And it’s doing so using Twitter, the most idiotic of platforms. It allows for only 140 characters at a time, which actually discourages deep thinking, in my opinion. I’ve never seen so much glibness and flat-out lack of literacy skills as I do on Twitter. If a teacher resorts to using it, it’s a sign that he’s given up and is taking an easy way out, in my opinion.

  5. SG on 15.06.2011 at 14:09 (Reply)

    I’m torn on this one. I express myself better in writing than standing in front of a group and speaking. I can see how this will help the shy ones, but at the same time, the technological layer of remove from direct interaction doesn’t seem to let the students get comfortable in face-to-face situations.

    As a child I had a terrible stammer and it was my speech teacher, in her gentle yet encouraging way, who helped me see that my shyness and stammer were feeding each other.

  6. Faith on 27.06.2011 at 20:59 (Reply)

    I love this. A compassionate innovative teacher who seems to enjoy his job. Students being engaged. I think having a mix of the technological interaction and traditional teaching methods would be the best idea to cover a range. When I was in elementary school I was often bored with the traditional ways of doing things because 1.) many of the tasks or assignments did not engage me so learning became a chore and 2.) as a shy introvert I participate and express myself better after having time thinking out what I want to say and writing it. This teacher seems amazing.

    And I disagree with the person who says 140 characters discourages deep thinking. I feel it could, but it could also challenge students to express what’s important in a succinct and powerful way.

  7. Brittany on 09.07.2011 at 23:18 (Reply)

    Interesting post, I think some sort of combination of verbal participation options and technology options would be good. I like how the boy in the video seems to enjoy the technology and gets more recognition from his peers for it. And I agree with Tim in that I think it’s better to not make participation just about who speaks out loud in front of the class, and include listening, being respectful, and doing the work as participation in that part of the grade.

  8. jane robertson on 10.08.2011 at 19:18 (Reply)

    I am a shy introvert professional.I have struggled with my ‘condition’ now for 55 years. The inhibition to socialize and feeling that I am not right lead to years of depression and misdiagnosis. Unnecessary drugs have taken a toll on me. Now to get to the point of this comment. Facebook has been a godsend for me. I have met “my people” from around the globe on Fb. I have met acceptance for my ideas and feelings. I have learned that I AM a kind and thoughtful individual and that others actually identify with ME. After years of bullying I only wish I could believe in myself.

  9. sonata on 26.03.2012 at 02:13 (Reply)

    I have mixed feelings about the use of technology in education in the younger grades. I think kids should be literate before using a computer. I can imagine students using technology as a way of participating, but I wonder if it’s useful to the shy ones and not the introverts. If introversion is responsible for fewer expressions, I don’t see how tweeting would help. Tweets are short, hardly the medium for deep thinkers.

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