Social Media in the American Classroom

by sn2s

Social media has exploded in the recent 8-10 years. Naturally, institutions of higher education have been watching this. Colleges have introduced courses focusing on social media, used social media to inform and attract students and even barred access to students on campus (as an experiment, and as a policy). Boston Business journal even created a list of the top 10 colleges for social media savvy.

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Some professors simply teach about social media, but other professors have actively engaged students in using social media tools for class. Examples of social media usage include: creating a professional Facebook or LinkedIn, tweeting, blogging, attending online classes in Second Life and more. Even school discussion boards on Desire2Learn or Blackboard offer a more closed social media. Some professors even record classes and upload them to YouTube.

Student interaction seems to be the primary reason for using social media. It’s the new way to engage the always connected generation. Students seem more inclined to write a weekly blog post than write in a weekly journal. Students would rather watch an online video than drive to their only class on a Friday. Students that would normally never interact outside the classroom now have a platform and incentive to do so.

Another reason is simply to “help students develop proficiency with technology; learn to create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia text; and manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of information,” according to Larkin, a public school teacher. Many university programs incorporate several classes on how to use and produce content for social media. Students at MTSU, for example, can learn to digital video production and writing for online audiences.

Aside from a specific requirement, social media can also be used to arrange and collaborate on group work for other classes. Students use Google documents to write group papers, use phone apps to arrange meetings and create Facebook study groups. Some students can interact with teachers on a personal level, increasing teacher credibility, while others aren’t allowed to friend teachers until completing the course.

This post serves as a general introduction to how social media is used in the American classroom. More research by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth on social media usage in universities can be found here.

Moving forward, I think more professors interested in engaging students will implement some form of social media, where appropriate. Not all professors will be able to link social media to a class, but I think it can work with a variety of classes. Some examples I have thought of:

-History class blogging about selected topics.

-A public relations class responding to news articles to learn about feedback and interaction.

-An electronic media class keeping vlogs.

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