Social Media in the Classroom

Educators and technologists often grapple with decisions about employing the latest technologies in the service of education. Some believe that the newest technology needs to be used in classrooms so that students never fall behind. Others suggest that education is not about the technology, but rather the content.  My own thoughts reflect that technology can dramatically impact a classroom when the technology enhances the pedagogical aims of the course.

@JAMcArthur tweet in #smcedu, June 21, 2010

As a professor of communication, technologies like social networking, blogging, crowd-sourced content development, and other Internet-based platforms are often the subject and practice of my classes. Here are a few successful experiments I’ve used to integrate social media into the classroom:

  • Podcasts as research: Podcasts make an excellent stand-alone writing assignment or work well coupled with a research article. Check out my article on this assignment in Communication Teacher.
  • “Top Tweets”: When requiring Twitter use in a course, I’ve made a weekly “top ten” list of excellent tweets for the week. For students who are new to Twitter, this can help educate them about best practices. It also reminds students that people read their tweets and gives them the opportunity to talk about them in class.
  • Tweeting during Class: In some classes, students tweet questions during class. I (or often other students) respond with answers either aloud or via Twitter. This strategy has connected classmates and encouraged interest in class material.
  • Social Media Immersion: Blogging is an excellent, and cost-efficient, way to immerse students in digital media technologies, especially for the fields of public relations and strategic communication. As companies begin to look for potential employees with expertise in consumer-generated content, the classroom can generate opportunities for connectivity between students, professionals, and corporations. See my blog assignment here, modified from an excellent model developed by Barbara Nixon.
  • Digital Media Experimentation: I often ask students to create digital files in multiple modes and various styles (like mashup, rap, photo essay, or “viral” video). Assignments which challenge students to be independently creative offer opportunities to succeed and excel. If you try experimentation as a teaching tool, be sure that students have room to succeed or fail, but critique and reward the strategy and experiment rather than the product.

If you’ve tried these, or other ideas, comment here with links back to your resources.


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