Requiring Social Media in the Classroom

This is my handout for my Fishbowl Session for IR14. It gives my vantage point on social media policy from Missouri State, which began as a normal school, and still has a great respect for teachers and innovative teaching still exists. Greenwood Lab School (K-12) is adjacent to campus and is available for longitudinal studies. Over all, there is a strong tradition of faculty making their own pedagogical decisions. Thus, it is not surprising that there is no set, campus-wide policy for social media use in the classroom.

That does not mean that social media is ignored. Our president, Clif Smart, is active on Twitter and uses it effectively to promote the university and build community. The MSU men’s and women’s soccer teams live tweet their games. We have an Office of Web and New Media, and its stance on social media use is to consider policy in context and not act unilaterally. Any policy is local rather than top-down.

In my department (English), we recently added a graduate course in “Teaching Writing Online.” I piloted the course and it is slated to be a required course for grad students with the Rhetoric and Composition focus in our M.A. Writing program. Just for fun, that first class was taught as an online class. It will be blended most of the time in the future, but that was definitely a strong beginning, one that sincerely needed all the social media tools we could muster.

I am a big proponent of social media in the classroom. Here are a few ways I’ve used them:

  • Whole-class blog for Writing II using Drupal with two sections intermingled
  • Individual blogs for Writing I, Writing II, and a variety of graduate classes in rhetoric or pedagogy. Students follow each other using RSS and cross-comment.
  • Twitter for questions and announcements using a class hashtag in online courses. Students are required to have a Twitter account and check daily for hashtagged tweets.
  • Twitter for concentration on details/images for Introduction to Poetry (Tweet your day exercise).
  • Twitter for a live, collaborative sequential poem exercise in Introduction to Poetry.
  • Wiki for plot building and analysis for a Science Fiction/ Fantasy Literature class. I used the wiki module within Moodle.
  • Wiki for a collaborative glossary build for Introduction to Poetry.
  • Google Drive for collaborative essay writing in Writing II.
  • Google Drive for grad student panel proposal writing for a variety of classes.
  • Google Sites for e-Portfolios.
  • WordPress and Edublogs for e-Portfolios.

Has there been resistance? Yes, but no more than there is to the idea of coming to class on time and doing the readings. With a few exceptions, students enjoy the added channels of communication social media offers.

Posted by

Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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