Friday, April 23, 2010

College Professors should use Social Media as a Learning Tool Outside the Classroom

I've stated repeatedly over the years how the internet has revolutionized how educators can give assignments and communicate with students outside of class. And in the middle of our social media revolution, I still feel the same way (e.g. in the past, I've had extra credit assignments done exclusively on Facebook; and in an upcoming Mass Media class, the students and I will make active use of Twitter for communication outside of class, in an effort to engage professionals in the field).

On the other hand, while I encourage college students to bring laptops to class (to take notes or look up class information on task), I am not a proponent (yet?) of integrating Twitter/texting in real time to post comments DURING class for immediate review. Yes, I believe that class is an improv troupe, with the unexpected just waiting to happen. However, there is also a certain structure and flow that would be disrupted by real time comments posted and displayed on the big screen. Maybe if I had a teaching assistant to filter the relevant comments/questions from the clutter in my class of 120 students, I'd consider this usage.

I do recognize that students are techno-multi-taskers and that everything a prof says is not so useful or interesting. Thus, I have no problem with a student receiving a silent text because it doesn't disrupt the class. Professionals at conferences are continuously under the table with their Blackberries, and I try to treat the students the same way - as adults. It's up to me to make the class dynamic enough so they'll resort to paying attention.

I do have one classroom rule: If an unmuted cell phone call/text goes off - I get to answer it! That usually gets students to mute the phones AND get a good laugh.
Anyway, do you really think you can prevent students from using technology in class?
Why Banning Social Media Often Backfires


  1. I like that last rule. Social media has tremendous educational potential, but not all of my students have access to it (yet). I mainly utilize the internet in an online hybrid class that I teach at the community college level. This type of class is a nice mix of traditional education and online teaching. I tend to think that this is the best way to go.

  2. One effective thing I've seen professors use in class: group "clickers" -- where everyone at the start of the semester is given a device, the prof loads software on the stationary computer, and the system permits users to "vote" anonymously on items (such as the correct answer from a list of choices), kind of like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." The clickers are costly though, and they need to be collected and distributed each semester.

    Maybe there's an App like that for cell phones already? If so, there's some potential for effective/cost-efficient in-class use of technology.

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