(Originally Posted on January 30, 2013 by The Social Media Monthly Newsletter)
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and YouTube have dominated much of young people’s lives. Higher education today is changing at a rapid pace. Online educators such as the Khan Academy are globalizing learning through the Internet. Social media is progressing in higher education and professors from the old training grounds may be losing in this changing environment.
With the handful of social media tools available, the best ones to use in the classroom environment are Twitter, which is a cross between instant messaging and blogging in 140 characters or less; Google+, controlling your circle of friends; and YouTube, the leader in online video watching & sharing, which integrates well into the classroom environment. These tools allow for easier integration of classroom material with real life material and have allowed me to better engage my students.
Twitter allowed me to send students messages using the hashtag #POLS1113, which I used as shorthand for my American Government 1113 class. Using #POLS1113, I communicated to students about relevant material related to the class lectures, classroom announcement on homework and upcoming exams. It worked well because it reduced email clutter. I could instantly send it and not have to constantly send out emails.
Google+ allowed me to have exam review sessions by creating a circle called POLS1113, to which I only invited students from my class. The circle allowed me to have a designated time and day to have a video-conference exam review session. This opened up free space to focus on the classroom material during class time instead of using it for an exam review session.
YouTube was helpful in showing my students real life examples of how Congress works, the 1960s Civil Rights movement and other material related to American Government. I even set aside one class day where I showed my class campaign videos from the very first one ever recorded (President Eisenhower) to the latest ones from both major political parties (the Republican Party and the Democratic Party). Students appreciated my showing them the YouTube videos that related to the classroom material because it gave them context for the material.
There are some setbacks when utilizing Twitter, Google+ and YouTube in the classroom. There has to be a fine line between personal and professional behavior when using Twitter. When you post a tweet that mentions any negativity towards the class and/or students and you have your students following you on Twitter, it could hurt your reputation. Be careful about what pictures and/or tweets you post. The last thing you want is to send out a tweet to your celebrity crush saying you fantasize about them in class and have one of your students re-tweet it, causing you to be the talk of the campus. If you are going to use Twitter, use it appropriately and let students know that it is an option for communicating with you. Should you tweet about your political views, let the class know up front that your political views have no effect on the classroom material should it offend anyone. Students can talk with you during office hours to clarify. Or you can just set up a different Twitter account for academic purposes only.
Also realize that not every student uses Twitter—only 62% of Twitter users are in the age group of 18-34 do. If the majority of your class is composed of non-traditional students, Twitter may not be the best option unless the students feel comfortable with it and have access to Twitter on a daily basis.
Google+ is still a new concept to people and your students may not have Google+ pages of their own. If they have a Gmail account, then they do have a Google+ account. Also, you will have to take time to explain what Google+ is, what the circle is all about and how to set up a Google+ account if they don’t already have a Gmail account. Also the video-conference in the Google+ circle only allowed me talk to ten students at a time. If you have a class of more than 10 students, for Google+ review sessions you will have to divide up the times into 10 people segments.
In the end, social media such as Twitter, Google+ and YouTube, allows users to converse and interact with each other. Social media gives students the opportunity to put class lecture material into real life practical matters. Try it and see if it works. The Khan Academy is changing how education can connect to students across the world. Why not use social media to change the way we connect to students?
Jose L. Fulgencio is a Certified Social Media Associate (e-Marketing Assoc.) and currently finishing his Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. Follow Mr. Fulgencio on Twitter @jful51 or visit his website www.josefulgencio.com
© Jose L. Fulgencio 2013