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8 Reasons Why an Instructor Should Use Facebook and Twitter in a Course

Submitted by on February 7, 2013 – 2:59 pm5 Comments

Guest post authored by Renee Mandelbaum, adjunct faculty member at Harry S. Truman College in Chicago   Once considered non-traditional, unconventional, and even trendy, social media has certainty infused itself into many different spaces in our institutions of higher education. Many colleges have developed sophisticated blogs to invite the next generation of college students to explore “a day in the life” (of one of their current students). Blue bird character standing next to textbooksThere are also countless institutions putting out regular updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to share news, and more importantly–curate content. As an instructor, navigating the social media kingdom can be a little overwhelming. Therefore, I have taken two of the major social media players, Facebook and Twitter, and used them to apply several different practices to my classroom instruction:

1. Communicate instantaneously with students. Creating a classroom Facebook page and Twitter account is a great method for staying connected with students. Many of them are constantly logged into Facebook (from their smart phones to their tablets and computers), so regardless of where they are, they are probably receiving the update.

2. Allow for enagement. Being social is an extension of your classroom.  It’s important to encourage posting, sharing, and commenting.

3. Champion your students. Use social media to amplify student activity in and outside of the classroom. Broadcasting achievement and discussions provides reinforcement of your social platform and deepens student engagement.

4. Provide perspective and enhance your lesson. By sharing and “reweeting” other leaders, news sources, and credible research, you can further enrich your students’ learning environment.

5. Be a source of curation. Don’t feel pressured to continually produce content. For a different spin on the traditional classroom Facebook and Twitter practices, try incorporating the use of other professionals (outside the Academy, who are also Facebook and Twitter members). Ask these professionals to post unique content on the class Facebook and/or Twitter page. For example, I encourage my professional contacts to post articles or information that they feel may be relevant to students such as resume building tips or interviewing “do’s & don’ts”.

6. Allow students to choose to read and explore new content while simultaneously connecting to real-world professionals. If you ever bring a guest(s) speaker into the classroom, using Facebook or Twitter before and after the session can serve as a great introduction or follow-up between the speaker and the students.

7. Establish a “brand” for your online classroom space. Let students comment and post their ideas and feelings about a course topic or even something newsworthy. In fact, some students may actually feel more comfortable voicing their opinions in the “social media classroom” where they are comfortable with the “space” and don’t feel any additional pressure or judgment.

8. Increase classroom discussions. Discussions from Facebook and Twitter feeds that take place outside classroom time can easily find there way into the classroom and vice versa.

Keep in Mind

To ensure your use of social media in the classroom is successful and impactful, consider the following:   

  • Some students will not be comfortable with the technology or have active accounts. Therefore, I would hesitate to make anything related to social media in your classroom mandatory or “for a grade”.
  • As an instructor, it is your responsibility to be an active user and participant with regard to content and as a discussion facilitator. Don’t always expect students to take the lead.
  • Students posting or discussing using a social media medium will not necessarily be in a “scholarly” frame of mind. The social media classroom atmosphere is much more relaxed and attempting to change that may be disadvantageous.

  Renee MandelbaumRenee Mandelbaum is a full-time doctoral student working on a dissertation in higher education administration. As an adjunct faculty member at Harry S. Truman College in Chicago, Renee conducts classroom seminars for College Success Interdisciplinary Studies 101.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments »

  • Melanie Johnson says:

    Great post and topic, Renee! When I taught, our department head restricted us from being “friends” with our students on Facebook for fear of crossing any student-teacher relationship line. (Granted, this was five years ago and social media has certainly evolved a lot in five years.) Some instructors create a professional account that is only used for class purposes. What are your thoughts on using your personal profile to be “friends” with students? On the flip side, some students don’t want to be “friends” with their teacher for fear that it could backfire (e.g., the student misses a test due to “illness” but then the teacher sees pictures on Facebook of the student partying and “catches” the student lying). How do you address these types of concerns? Thanks again!

  • Renee says:

    Hi Melanie! Thank you very much for your feedback. It is really appreciated!

    With regard to you first question: What are your thoughts on using your personal profile to be “friends” with students? I would have to say…if a student does request to be a Facebook friend, I limit their access to my account. More specifically, I have a limited profile account that I will assign them too. That is a Facebook function you can apply to your account, and then you don’t have to make a separate “individual” account. However, making a separate account is always an option as well. I have worked with students since Facebook has launched, and I do feel it is important to maintain a professional “social media line” with them (at least until they are out of your classroom etc.).

    On the other hand, you are 100% correct that there are some students who do not want to be friends with their instructor (for the exact reasons you stated). However, I believe if you want to use social media in the classroom, you have to make it clear to students that you aren’t “grading” or “monitoring” their profiles, posts, or discussions they may be engaging with you online. I personally have not had any challenges with this type of issue/concern, but it certainly brings up a great point! I also do not require any of my students to participate in the Facebook/Twitter discussions/pages. I also teach adult students who struggle a little more with social media, so that is another obstacle to address in certain classroom environments.

    I hope this helps to answer your questions…if not, please let me know! I am happy to respond. Thanks again!

    Renee

  • Peggy Semingson says:

    Great ideas! I liked the questions about keeping the boundaries between personal and professional. Great responses, too. I have considered using both in my class. I do refer students to professional pages to “like” on both Twitter (e.g, National Center for Learning Disabilities) and Facebook (e.g., International Reading Association and Reading Rockets). They like the resources.

  • Renee says:

    Hi Peggy,

    Thanks so much for your comments. I agree–there are certainly students in every class who like the additional outreach and resources provided by social media sites/content! I also try to provide a lot of “job/interview” tip(s) articles for those students who are trying to network and interview.

    Thanks again!
    Renee

  • Renee says:

    Thanks so much for your feedback Debra! I am happy you found the post of interest/relevance!

    Renee