Faculty and students routinely use Facebook, Twitter and other social media in their personal lives, so how might those same tools be put to academic use? Here are some uses of social media for teaching and learning that I’ve been following.
1. Aggregating images and information to share with classmates or with interest groups that cut across courses and institutions
Example: A. Adam Glenn’s article How Educators Are Using Pinterest for Showcasing, Curation provides several examples of collecting and sharing images in art, journalism and business classes (from the PBS blog Mediashift, March 20, 2012).
2. Gathering and sharing data collected with mobile devices during field work or travel abroad
Example: Professor Margaret Rubega uses Twitter for data collection and sharing in her Ecology and Evolutionary Biology class at the University of Connecticut (from Andrew Revkin in his New York Times blog, May 5, 2011.)
3. Creating a public profile to showcase personal research interests and to connect with a broad audience
Examples: Mark Anthony Neal in Duke University’s African & African American Studies department uses a blog, Twitter, Facebook and other media to share his work with the public, while Misha Angrist in Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Public Policy is a regular contributor to the Public Library of Science blog. When MITx launched its open-access course in Spring 2012, it also provided an MITx Facebook page where instructors gather feedback from students and attract public attention to their new course model.
4. Using Twitter in class to keep students engaged and to get a sense of what students are thinking about during lectures
Examples: Prof. Monica Rankin and students at University of Texas at Dallas created a video to show their use of Twitter in a large history course. Prof. Mark Sample at George Mason University offers a number of ways to use a Twitter backchannel to analyze a film with students.
5. Forming student study groups with the use of Google+ Hangouts and other social tools
Example: Taylor Bell, a student at Boise State University, describes using YouTube and Google+ to study math with his fellow students.
6. Adding social tools to e-textbooks
Examples: The Kno textbook app has a “share” feature where students ask questions or plan study sessions with other students using the same textbook, while the Inkling textbook app lets students follow other students using the same book or create running discussions. Duke’s School of Nursing is exploring the Kno textbook platform in Spring 2012.
All of these uses of social media in education have their controversies. The easy sharing of images and content creates opportunities for copyright violation and plagiarism. The personal promotion of one’s work can become a cult of personality. Students can get distracted or fall into shallow thinking when they are using social media during class time or while studying. Having students engage with a public audience through blogging or Twitter can expose them to inflammatory comments and pointless arguments.
If you are using social media in your teaching or learning, or would like to explore ideas for doing so, contact CIT at email@example.com. You might also be interested in our May workshops series, which includes a session on Social Media for Teaching.
Lynne O'Brien is Director of Academic Technology and Instructional Services for Perkins Library at Duke University. She works with faculty, librarians, campus IT planners and academic technology groups around the country to develop programs to support the use of technology in teaching and research initiatives. Her interests include strategic planning for libraries and for academic technology, open access and open source educational materials and mobile learning.