To Tweet, or Not to Tweet?

In response to a study published this year on the effect of social media on student performance, one commenter wrote “Yet another study proving what someone with half a brain already: if you are distracted, you are not going to learn very much (petercherman, 2015).” The author of the study, Jeffrey Kuznekoff, would probably disagree. Kuznekoff wondered how social media us in the classroom, like texting and tweeting, affected a student’s ability to learn new material. So, he conducted an experiment comparing the effects of tweeting, texting, and note-taking on test performance. The procedures he used reflect several of those developed by memory scientists. In the end, Kuznekoff showed that the implementation of mobile devices in the classroom has the potential to improve how we learn in ways that reflect our current understanding of memory.

Kuznekoff’s study demonstrates the generation effect discussed in our textbook’s chapter on encoding and retrieval. According textbook author, generating material helps us transfer memories more effectively to long-term memory than passively receiving it (Goldstein, 2011). Goldstein cites the research of Slameka and Graf, in which participants remembered more words when they used them to answer fill-in-the-blank questions rather than just reading them (2011). Kuznekoff took advantage of the generation effect by asking some participants to text or tweet messages that were relevant to material being taught to them in class (Straumsheim, 2015). There scores were nearly as high as those who old-fashioned notes and much better than those who sent irrelevant texts or tweets.

Kuznekoff also makes use of the testing effect. This study demonstrates the testing effect discussed in the same chapter. The testing effect predicts improved memory when we are tested on material that we want to commit to memory (Goldstein, 2011). Roediger and Karpicke tested this hypothesis by comparing the performance of groups that were tested after either rereading a prose passage or taking a recall test (Goldstein 2011). A week later, those who took the recall test forgot much less about the passage than those who simply reread it. In Kuznekoff’s study, some participants received text messages with prompts about the material as it was being presented, testing their recall in real-time (Straumsheim, 2015). Significantly, participants who received these text messages performed much better than even those who sent relevant tweets during class.

Social media are powerful tools. Even this blog assignment is an example of how social media can improve memory. Writing a good thesis statement is an example of the generation effect. Like with encoding strategies, some social media are more effective memory enhancers than others. However, social media is not just a distraction. Advances in technology can help us learn the advances made in science, like memory research. Just because they have a bad reputation, it doesn’t mean that social media can’t play a positive role in learning. Or as tamaraz, who replied to the commenter quoted at the beginning of this entry, said “It is important to critically examine things that ‘everyone already knows’ (2015).”


Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Long-term memory: Encoding and retrieval. In Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (pp. 178-180). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Petercherman. (2015, June 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from

Straumsheim, C. (2015, June 8). Take note [Web log post]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from P. (2015, June 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from

Tamaraz. (2015, January 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from P. (2015, June 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from



4 thoughts on “To Tweet, or Not to Tweet?

  1. Jessica M Tangitau

    This was an interesting post. I must admit I was confused by what I understood to be your argument which is that social media can help students retain information, perform better and improve how they learn. You mention Kuznekoff’s experiment where students tweeted or texted comments on the course lecture and state that at the end of the experiment, “their scores were nearly as high as those who used old-fashioned notes and much better than those who sent irrelevant texts or tweets”. For me, this would seem to indicate that whatever media form you use to make notes is irrelevant as long as you take relevant notes. This is no indication of social media itself impacting the outcome. On the other hand, I can see how Twitter might be used to make one’s teaching more engaging, which, when combined with effective techniques such as providing fill-in-the-blank quizzes can help students retain information.

    According to the website for the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the country comprised mainly of educators, faculty staff, and aspiring teachers, social media can be used to forge communication and collaboration between fellow teachers as well as students. Teachers can use Twitter to follow other teachers and keep abreast of best practices based on the experiences of others. The article also points out that Twitter can be used as a great way to keep your students thinking after class”. Teachers can tweet review questions and helpful resources for the course during and after lessons.

    So, while I don’t believe the study you cited proves any causal relationship between tweeting in and of itself and improved performance, I do think it offers an option for teachers to consider should they need alternative methods for maintaining a collaborative and active class.


    National Education Association. (n.d.). Can Tweeting Help Your Teaching? Retrieved from

  2. clh5783

    Your post, I believe is misleading. Texting or tweeting in class during a lesson has been shown to dramatically decrease memory… Unless like you had stated they are texting or tweeting relative to the lesson which we all know is never the case. A buzz in someone’s pocket is nearly an off switch for their surroundings now. If I could compare to a psychological term I would choose the cocktail party effect. I remember sitting in class in both high school and college, and if I had a text my mind nearly instantly diverted my attention to my phone. Without looking at the phone the thoughts running through my mind were no longer the topic in class but they were diverted to wondering who was texting me and what they had to say. In that time frame where your attention is shift you could miss very important information, this attention all shift could be much worse when actually pulling your phone out and engaging in conversation with somebody. I believe that experiment to be biased. Yes I do think that recalling the information and sending it out to your friends or tweeting it would help you to remember it but nobody is taking their notes and posting them on Facebook or any other social media website for that matter. Not only does it distract you but it also distracts those around you. What works for some does not work for others.

    You should consider this article as well.

  3. Jason Raymond Johnson

    When we talk about encoding and retrieval of information, we’re always looking for ways to effectively increase our short-term and long-term memories, especially as students. We first have to know how to process the information we have just learned, and then we need to know how to store that information into memory for future use. I haven’t read too many studies on how we can incorporate “Twitter” or text messages in pursuit of this process, but in some ways social media may be effective in promoting memory strategies.
    One of the most effective ways for learning information and being able to store into memory is through a deeper processing method that helps us identify information, through our own learning and experiences. Having said this, the use of text and twitter can be correlated with how students communicate and receive information these days. The whole idea of people using text messages or Twitter is to communicate pertinent information efficiently. With this being a common method of communication with students, I can see how receiving a “tweet” or a text message may be more effective source for a student to receive and understand a condensed version of the material, instead of sitting through an hour of lecture and discussion.
    I have to agree with you when you said that “social media are powerful tools.” I use the media outlet of Twitter to receive information that I am interested in, and to try to avoid all of the common opinions that seem to follow. The news and information I receive is quick and straight to the point, but it leaves out so many of the human elements which I still believe to be the foundation of individual development. #learning

  4. gat5038

    I read your post, “To Tweet, or Not to Tweet?” and I admit that I have very little respect for social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and such. First, I should clarify what I mean by social media. Oxford Dictionary Online defines it as:
    1. websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.
    Now let me start by saying that everything in your post makes sense. According to reading material and supported by research, these tools can effectively reinforce learning. They are new age method of encoding memories that adhere to what we already know about the process. Texts about material is still prompting whether it is digitally or poking someone with a sharp stick.
    There is no argument in the effectiveness of prompting. All encoding strategies employ a degree of success when the time for memory retrieval. In the case of social media, an argument should be made toward the detriments of those around you. It may help you retain more information but it annoys the hell out of me. It is a constant distraction to be interrupted by your phone sounding off.
    We will all do what we need to do to remember what is important to us. If tweeting about what you just learned is helpful then you should continue to use it. I only ask that we are mindful of who we might be disturbing around us. As for me, I’ll actually talk with friends and share what I’ve learned over coffee or even a beer.
    I encourage anyone who is trying to decide, “To Tweet, or Not to Tweet?” to read this article beforehand.

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