Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dragged Kicking and Screaming into Social Media

Full disclaimer:   I do have a FaceBook page (that I check a couple times a year…) but beyond that I admit that I pretty much limit my web-based communication to email. I’ve never felt compelled to “tweet” anything (which for all I know is now so yesterday, anyway) or use whatever else may be the flavor of the day in the apps world.
This semester, though, one of my students on the first day of class asked if he could collect everyone’s cell phone number to set up a “Group Me” class chat.  A bit reluctantly, I gave my cell phone number and waited to see what would happen.
Not surprisingly, I got a lot of “how u doin” and “boy Im tired” types of messages, ones that I just glanced at and hit Delete.  But gradually I began to see a real purpose.  One obvious use is as a place where a student can ask a general class-related question and I can answer right away, so that others don’t have to ask the same question.  (While I was typing this, a student texted to ask if Moodle was down and I let her and others know that it was fine at Lincoln’s end, while another student suggested a workaround.)   
Perhaps even more importantly, though, I think it’s a motivational tool.  Early this morning I was getting ready to head to campus when one student texted, “Good morning, wonderful people.”  A few class members chimed in with similar greetings.  While I was too busy getting things together so I could get on the road to write anything, I drove to school musing about how nice it was to have students thinking positively about class and classmates first thing in the morning and thinking that it would be an interesting research project to see if class satisfaction and course completion/persistence correlate at all with that sort of casual media use.
Do any of you have examples of constructive use of social media, whether formally for instruction or informally?   While I may be too old to use them, I’m still young enough to be curious!


  1. I am sorry I do not have any examples of constructive use of social media; but I can think of some and also some examples of destructive or unconstructive use of social media. Imagine that instead of one student texting “Good morning, wonderful people” and a few classmates chiming in with similar greetings, one student texted “I hate this class, and wish I didn't have to take it” and a few classmates chimed in with similar comments.

    Social media, like all tools, are double-edged swords. There are students, all across the globe, without access to social media who do much better than those with social media; partly because they do not have the distractions that seem to accompany the use of social media.

    I know this is not what you asked for; but I think it is noteworthy and worth remembering in this dialogue about social media.

    Safro Kwame

  2. While I agree social media is a double-edged sword with possibly a longer or sharper edge on the negative side, there are potential positive applications in education. However, I, like Linda, have no idea where to start although I am sure there are publications and conferences on how to use social media in higher education. It would be interesting to explore the possibilities, but first I need someone to teach me about social media in a general sense. Not knowing how to tweet is definitely a barrier to use tweeting in one of my courses. Maybe CETL could find a younger faculty member to teach the more mature faculty to use social media, and then we could explore applications for the classroom.

    Dave Royer

  3. Yes, it's a controversial and broad topic to discuss, Kwame, and I agree that the distractions it can offer need to be factored in to any discussion. (As for the hypothetical you raise, though, I might argue that it would be good for me to know if that's the way a majority of my students were feeling!) I wonder if you see any of the apps as potentially useful outside the classroom, even if you do not necessarily want them in the class?

    And Dave, yes, we can certainly learn from our younger colleagues, or at least I would like to hope that is still an option for us. :) (I put that emoticon in there just to show how with it I am.) I'd be happy to put together a show and tell if we have any colleagues out there (whether young in years or young in spirit) who would be willing to share some tips and tricks. What about it, colleagues?

  4. Q: I wonder if you see any of the apps as potentially useful outside the classroom, even if you do not necessarily want them in the class?
    A: Yes.

    Q: I'd be happy to put together a show and tell if we have any colleagues out there (whether young in years or young in spirit) who would be willing to share some tips and tricks. What about it, colleagues?
    A: Fine!

    The question, I would like answered, is whether most of our students prefer to use social media to socialize (with their friends or classmates) or to learn (academic subjects with their professors)?

    Safro Kwame

  5. Unfortunately, I have observed that email use is not completely utilized by our students. As highlighted in the above post, student usage of Group.Me however, I have found to be very beneficial. Once I adapted it for my classes, I have been able to post send off questions and highlight current relative scientific news and events at off times, or things to essentially extend the classroom to beyond the limited constraints of both time and location. Students also have access to my personal cell phone, so they can text me questions as they get to them, and interestingly, this privilege has not been abused. These quick methods of response, either through text or Group.Me, allows a student to have their problem resolved quickly, and causes less delay in their studies. Or you can quickly send off a link to a news story/current event so that you can discuss it during class. The beauty of these methods is also that the professor themselves don't necessarily have to be the driver of the conversations. An example, just today, numerous students have been sharing and discussing the most recent announcement of the WHO that processed meats cause cancer. being able to discuss this with students, on topics that interest them in the field of science engages them in the material. Compare this to email methods where professors may not respond for hours (or even days!), and is a much more passive method of communication. Unfortunately, by the time a few days have gone by, students are already moving in a different direction, or have lost interest in the topic completely. Sure these methods also can lead to distractions/abuse, but also can result in some much more lively discussions.