Giving Social Media a Seat in the College Classroom

Imagine that you are a college professor at the front of a large lecture hall full of students. You’ve got powerpoints and notes that you’ve spent a great deal of time preparing for today’s lecture. On top of that, you spent eight years or more as a student yourself just to get to this level in academia. The students have come to you so you can impart your Old Main University of South Dakotaknowledge to them and they can go out into the world as educated and competent. But now imagine that you’ve turned to face the screen to flip to the what you think is the most important slide of the whole lecture. You turn around to explain further and half of the students aren’t even looking up, let alone seeming to be pay attention. Instead, you see their thumbs wiggling above their phones. (photo source)

If I were that professor, I think I’d lose it. I’d likely get their attention when I transformed into Dr. Berserk right before their eyes. I haven’t been in a traditional classroom for some time, so maybe the way I imagine Dr. Berserk’s experience isn’t terribly realistic and I’m sure teachers make rules for phone use all the time; but if it’s even kind of close to reality, then I can understand the controversy that social media is causing in the college classroom.

It’s easy to fall into the “back in my day…” mentality and shun the use of social media altogether, but since social media is here to stay, maybe an “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude would be more beneficial to students and teachers alike.

In an article for Faculty Focus, Marie Owens calls on educators to take better advantage of this technology source that is literally at their fingertips. She writes, “Teachers can and should establish the urgency for this new type of social media usage, and encourage the excitement, creativity, and passion of their students to drive it forward.”
Kathy Cook, Director of Educational Technology for University of Phoenix College of Education said, “Students are engaged daily in social media, so it presents a great way to connect with them. Social media can also help tie classroom learning to real-world scenarios, which can enhance student learning.” (source)

“But, how?” asks Dr. Berserk?

Vicki Coleman, Dean of Library Services at F.D Bluford Library at the University of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University has a few tips for you, Dr. Berserk. She says,“It plays a huge role in terms of students’ research, there’s lots of information they can access immediately. Faculty members can share ideas with each other and point students to LinkedIn and Facebook. They’re incorporating it in the classroom.” (Source)

Obviously, students can’t spend class time ignoring what is being taught.  They won’t learn anything and it’s rude.  However, finding a way to harness the power of social media seems like a wise thing to do.  It also seems inevitable.

Dr. Berserk wonders, “That’s pretty general. What specifically can I do?” Well, sir, get out your smartphone and check out some suggestions at this online universities blog post. Tweet us what you think about it, okay?

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