In a Faculty Focus article published online in October of last year (see reference), Mary Owens gives a very clear overview and summary of the social media tools used and how faculty and students can communicate with each other using these tools to improve learning. Owens focuses on three main social media websites: 1) Facebook, where people can share information about their lives and can create smaller “groups” of information sharing; 2) Instagram, which allows photos to be published and shared online; and 3) Twitter, which allows short messages to be quickly shared and which organizes messages by topic through the use of “hashtags.”
These social media tools have often been criticized because they are seen as a disruption to classroom activities and a distraction from studying outside of the classroom. Owens does not disagree that this has been a problem and even cites research that has shown that students who use social media the most are likely to have lower GPA averages than other students. This is not surprising to me, since students who participate in any activity that is not related to their studies (such as watching TV or even participating in a sport for the university) for a long period of time will have lower grades than those who spend more time studying.
While too much use of social media for non-academic reasons is a problem, the wide use of social media websites by students presents university faculty with new opportunities for teaching. If faculty use social media websites that students are already actively engaged in and excited about for teaching purposes then they might have more success in getting the students’ attention and participation. Because the privacy is often a concern with using the internet, Owens suggests that faculty should create separate professional (instead of their personal accounts) accounts on social media websites for teaching purposes.
I found the ideas Owens presented for how Faculty can use social media for teaching very interesting and innovative. These ideas were specific to individual social media websites. For Twitter, faculty can “create hashtags that allow students to tag their academic posts, and subsequently view submissions to see what the collective has creatively produced.” Twitter can also be used by Faculty to host live lectures and provide support and information to students outside of typical office hours. With Facebook, faculty can have their students create Facebook groups for group projects so that they can share project information with each other at any time. Although the article doesn’t mention it, Facebook could also be used by professors to create a larger Facebook group for an entire class where students and teachers can post, share, and debate information and topics related to their course. For Instagram, Owens suggests that faculty and students can use Instagram “for capturing real-time visual concepts in the real world, not only when the student sits down to write a paper or work on a project in the musty library long after inspiration has passed.”
The internet and social media will not go away, and for many students these websites are daily tools for personal and networking purposes. Faculty can use these tools that are already created and being used by students in order to reach students at any time and to get students to participate in new ways. I believe that faculty and universities should adopt at least some of these tools now because if they do not then they will be even more removed from their students as time goes on and social media becomes an even larger part of daily life.
Owens, M. (2014, October 23). Using Social Media in the Classroom: Why There’s A Lot to Like. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/using-social-media-classroom/