As the academic world continues into the 21st century, some educators are starting to realize the advantages and disadvantages of using social media in the classroom.
Professional and technical writing sophomore Aubrey Banning said she sees quite a bit of technology and media used in classes taught by Beth Jorgensen, professor of rhetoric and professional writing.
“It’s easy to use, and I think it will be an increasing trend in education,” Banning said. “Sites like YouTube provide almost limitless digital archive space that make programs like ‘PBS’ and ‘The Daily Show’ are pretty close to timeless, and that really matters when you’re using media as a teaching tool.”
Jorgensen said she uses social media outlets such as YouTube and Facebook in many of her classes.
“I like using YouTube,” Jorgensen said. “I often run across videos that perfectly sum up something that I want to make a point about.”
She also takes advantage of VSpace and its discussion space to give her students a place to talk to each other about class and their assignments.
“A major advantage of using new technologies and social media in the classroom is that they’re great conversation starters,” Jorgensen said. “By the time we get into the main topic of discussion, we’ve gotten rid of that typical dead space at the beginning of class.”
Jorgensen also said social networking sites such as Facebook, if used correctly, could be used as personalized teaching tools.
“When I see my students accomplishing things, Facebook gives me an opportunity to compliment them on their hard work,” Jorgensen said. “It gives them a venue for talking about their classes and helps stimulate ideas for my own.”
On the research side, professor of English Geoffrey Carter is looking at what it means to share and encourage students to create their own materials and media online.
“I don’t necessarily include the creation of social media in all of my classes,” Carter said. “But I’ve definitely started introducing the idea in my upper-division classes.”
Carter has written several articles on the topic, including a piece called, “Tubing the Future,” which explores the vision of a culture inspired by online video sharing.
A video he made with Scott Merrow, a student from his journalism class, received national attention. It was called, “The Chora of the Twin Towers.” For their efforts, Carter and Merrow were invited to speak at the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 in New York City.
“There’s a lot of things to still be skeptical about when it comes to social media,” Carter said. “But it’s a vast archive of information and creativity that scholars are only beginning to engage with.”
For example, Carter pointed out that video media is slowly starting to be recognized at conferences such as MLA.
However, some educators, including Jorgensen, also believe people should be careful how invested they become in social media.
“It has to do with your own comfort level,” Jorgensen said. “Even then, I have some concerns about students getting too involved in media. It sometimes conflicts negatively with your studies, causes insomnia, promotes less outdoor activity and generally keeps us all way too busy for our own good.”
Jorgensen has been teaching for 20 years, and in that time she said that she has seen a drastic change in the way that students communicate with each other. Today, she said that everyone seems to be passing each other by, staring into screens.
“There is a balance,” Jorgensen said. “Don’t be too quick to embrace everything online, because not all social media is necessarily good stuff.”
“We’re looking at the underbelly of participatory culture,” Carter said. “We don’t have any naïve hopes of a perfect future, because there are going to be difficulties. Not all writing is put to good use, so we shouldn’t expect the same for social media.”