Teaching Arts and Science with the New Social Media: Volume 3

Cover of Teaching Arts and Science with the New Social Media
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Table of contents

(25 chapters)
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Universities are populated with a wide range of disciplines. The science disciplines and their instructors are stereotyped as tech-savvy while in the past humanities faculty have sometimes been seen as technophobic and traditional. As we advance through the second decade of the 21st century, we find instructors in all areas are embracing new technologies in their teaching. Our students have been born digital (Tapscott, 2009) and have not only experienced online games and social networking technologies such as Facebook but thrive in them. It should not be surprising that many of our colleagues are trying out the use of social media in their courses. This volume embodies a sharing of such experiences with the aim of moving you up the learning curve so that your thinking about how these new technologies might spark excitement, interaction, sharing, and enhanced work and learning by your students.

This commentary is a reflective discussion of how to use simple social media tools in college-level writing courses, and contains research elements such as effective examples of what is attainable and possible when incorporating blogs (e.g., Posterous) and Twitter in the college classroom. In order to do this, it uses reflective writing with a focus on failures/successes in past courses, and also incorporates students' own comments on blogging and Twitter. The chapter's findings include the following: The overall ease of use and relative simplicity of certain social media tools make for low barriers of entry for a majority of students. The mobile accessibility of these online communicative technologies should also be of specific appeal. These characteristics should encourage student participation in ways that content management systems like Blackboard do not. The convenience of and allowance for quick and easy sharing of information via blogging and microblogging can also mean that each is often quicker than email for contacting someone. What makes both better than Blackboard concerns how they, when taken together, sustain class discussion, keeping it alive, present, and continuous. If proper affordances are made in terms of framing and timing, social media can make for successful additions to college-level courses. Simple tools allow and encourage students to document and reflect on their own learning in ways that are meaningful and unique as they are.

Teachers have recently started to introduce wikis into their courses. However, comparatively few studies have looked at the actual experiences of students who are engaged in building a wiki community for a particular course. To address this limitation, this exploratory self-report study examined student experiences with using a wiki in an upper-level undergraduate course on media effects, their reflections on functioning as a member of this wiki community, and their overall satisfaction with taking this kind of a “hybrid” or “blended” course. Results show that students enjoyed learning about media effects by collaboratively building their wiki community, but were critical about the structure of the hybrid course.

This chapter explores the communicative relationship between students and faculty members through Facebook. Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has become an avenue not only for student–student connections, but increasingly for faculty–student communication. This chapter explores the impact on pedagogy and instruction when faculty members “friend” their students and/or create class groups on Facebook. Emphasis focused on student perceptions of faculty, identity, and disclosure, communication patterns, educational impact, and guidelines for faculty and students communicating through Facebook.

Like many faculty teaching in the social sciences or humanities, I've often been frustrated when students show no evidence of having completed assigned readings for my discussion-centric literature classes. I recently taught a short story class that emphasized my high expectations for student participation, and the means by which students would collaboratively and nightly analyze assigned texts: Twitter. My students soon embraced Twitter as a collaboration tool, and increasingly came to class with improved attitudes toward, and readiness for, class discussions. The nightly peer-review process made possible by Twitter helped students improve their spoken and written arguments, and deepen their understanding of challenging texts. This chapter tells the story of the discoveries I made about teaching student-centered classes, and about using Twitter as a sandbox where students would share their ideas before coming to the well-attended lectures and class discussions. The chapter concludes with ten recommended strategies for teaching with Twitter.

Recent studies suggest that many of today's students are highly proficient in their use of digital media and are developing new learning styles heavily dependent on social media and the Web. Theories of social learning seem to address these new learning styles, which are interest and friend driven, and occur in contexts that are outside of class and within the flow of students’ everyday lives. Social learning emphasizes participation, group interaction, and utilizing collaborative environments. This chapter explores how using social media, specifically class blogs (WordPress) and microblogs (e.g., Twitter) together, help achieve social learning. Internet-based learners have various levels of proficiencies, competencies, and adoption rates. Strategies and best practices are explored to address how social media can be utilized by educators to accommodate the heterogeneity of digital learners and engage new styles of learning.

Social media is rapidly become deeply ingrained as part of the journalistic process, and in some cases is replacing traditional journalism as a means for distributing news. To effectively teach journalism at the university level, we must incorporate social media as both a learning tool and a subject for examination in our classes. This chapter looks at three areas that should be incorporated in teaching journalism. The first is media literacy and social media. The chapter examines the tools and critical thinking needed to distinguish reliable from unreliable information before it is passed on to a news audience. The second is the use of social media as a tool for gathering information. The chapter looks at how social media can be used to make and maintain contacts, dig for unique and impactful stories, and use your social media contacts to improve and enhance your reporting. The third is how to effectively use social media to distribute information, and the pitfalls that can occur when your personal use of social media conflicts with your professional life as a journalist. Each section of the chapter ends with exercises teachers can use with students to hone their social media skills.

Social media ideology represents a missed opportunity of vital importance to colleges and universities. The core tenants of this ideology include wider and freer access to information through the use of emerging technologies. Colleges and universities should consider implementing social media ideology to improve efficiencies in the delivery of learning and organizational operations. As example, the chapter highlights two innovative companies founded on innovations representing a doctrine of convergence – socializing course, content, delivery, and marketing into a broader format, which not only educates the student, but also expresses the unique qualities of the organization itself. Examples include Tech University of America, eduFire, and an experimental course model developed as the result of an introduction of the leaders of these two organizations.

The aim for this chapter is to better understand the dynamics of social communication processes within Second Life®. Understanding communication processes in 3D online social virtual worlds is vital in embracing contemporary social issues and improving interpersonal and organizational relationships as these environments are rapidly growing in popularity in the education sector. In this chapter, we observed an undergraduate communication class and discussed four powerful interrelated forces behind the students' communication processes: (1) gamer status; (2) avatar appearance; (3) physical proximity; and (4) virtual proximity. Our findings can inform Arts and Science educators in general and Communication instructors in particular about how learners socially communicate and interact within a 3D online social virtual world and how teachers can foster students' communication and collaboration in this environment and support their content creation and collective knowledge building.

With an increasing trend toward the use of participatory culture and networked learning in education, opportunities to explore real examples of participatory culture are invaluable. Interwoven into seemingly simple collaborations are pedagogical, cultural, knowledge management, social, temporal, technical, as well as legal issues. A further layer of complexity is added when considering international networks and collaborations. However, such issues add a level of understanding important to participatory cultures. Enabled by communities of practice, and social constructivist learning, a range of bricoleur skills are developed from technical to higher level cognitive skills amongst students. These skills map many aspects of Jenkins' Participatory Culture, and the skills essential to our 21st century students. In this chapter, we review an empirical study where the 3D technology, the virtual social world Second Life, supported learning for 21st century digital learners and how social networking and scaffolding contributed to international educational collaboration.

Second Life, as a three-dimensional social medium, provides an unparalleled opportunity for people to interact with each other and their surroundings in unfamiliar and innovative ways. After a brief introduction to the discipline of Studies in Religion at the University of Queensland (UQ), this chapter will examine some of the key characteristics of MUVEs in general and of Second Life in particular, with a view to assessing its suitability as an environment for learning based on andragogical and constructivist methodologies. Further, it will explore the original conception and development of the UQ Religion Bazaar project within Second Life.

The UQ Religion Bazaar project was originally conceived in 2007 and developed through 2008. It consists of a Second Life island situated in the New Media Consortium educational precinct and boasts a number of religious builds including a church, a mosque, a synagogue, an ancient Greek temple, a Freemasons' lodge, a Zen Buddhist temple and a Hindu temple to Ganesha. The island was used in two large first-year classes and for supervising distance postgraduate research students.

This chapter illustrates the ways in which The Open University (OU), one of the leading distance learning universities in the world, uses a range of social media to engage members of the public in learning. The OU has been an early adopter of innovative technologies which enabled public engagement right from its inception, forty years ago, contributing to fulfilling its ethos of social justice. It is this aim to remove barriers and provide learning materials to a wide audience, including those who may be excluded from other learning institutions, which has been a major strategic driver of recent changes. Today the OU harnesses a range of social media to continue to develop this strategic policy. The OU's ecology of openness includes a presence on externally developed social media such as YouTube, iTunesU, Facebook and Twitter, which are used as platforms to transfer knowledge and expertise to interested members of the public and encourage academic debate. Alongside these, the OU has also developed its own cutting edge social media platforms, which also allow public engagement. Key OU platforms include OpenLearn, a website that gives free access to a vast range of OU course materials; and Cloudworks, a site for finding, sharing and discussing learning and teaching ideas, experiences and issues. This chapter explores the achievements of the OU in using social media to engage with public audiences, as well as highlights the challenges and issues encountered.

American teens are using online social networks more than ever before. According to a 2010 Pew Internet Project study, close to 75% of teens use social media sites and wireless connections (cell phones, game consoles, and portable gaming devices) to access the Internet (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010). These constant connections and ties to the Internet are fascinating to some scholars who see a tremendous value to the communities found and made online. Yet, this ability to be in constant connection is troubling to other scholars who believe that this constant ability to contact and connect is changing society for worst, not the better [Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster; Bugeja, 2005]. This chapter outlines a social media class experiment undertaken by the lead author to provide students with an opportunity to understand their reliance on the new media or media in general and add to the scholastic literature on teaching and technology in the classroom. In the Spring 2010 classes, the majority of students agreed to disconnect from all communication technology and social media for 36hours. The assignment was worth 65 points. As they started to withdraw from the media, the class assignment provided students with insights into their constant connectivity and how they manage information through various mediated channels. After the assignments students were required to complete an 800-word blog or paper. To receive full credit for the assignment, students needed to complete the written component. All the students who participated completed the written requirement. The majority of the students completed their assignments on their blogs but about half of the students both turned in a written paper and posted the assignment on their blogs. The students that provided written permissions were selected for inclusion in this chapter. We were careful to make sure that the students in this chapter were representative of the entire population, including male and female, students who were bothered by the disconnect and those who were intrigued by the possibility of being disconnected, traditional and non-traditional students, and students who worked, had no outside employment, and students with other non-academic obligations. Our insight into students' issues of connectivity was drawn from these stories. This chapter further offers ideas on how to integrate such an experiment in other settings and provides pedagogical rationales for this type of assignment. The names of the students in this experiment were changed to safeguard student anonymity and personal privacy.

Podcasting can be an effective resource for enhancing student learning, if its pedagogical use aligns with best practices. Podcasting is easy, requiring only cheap and simple technologies that educators can learn to use quickly. Student feedback is very positive, and this has become one of the major drivers for providing podcasts of teaching material. This chapter discusses the way students use podcasts and the possible impacts on learning. Despite concerns about students reducing attendance at lectures, most studies have shown that lecture attendance is not diminished by the provision of podcasts. Students do not tend to use MP3 players to listen to podcasts “on the go”; most students listen to podcasts directly from home computers, often while replaying PowerPoint slides. The academic staff perspective of podcasting is discussed in relation to advantages and concerns about their use.

The job market for communication majors increasingly expects those graduating in these specializations to not only know how to create strategic plans for using social media in both one-way and two-way communication environments, but also maintain proper social media etiquette and virtual culture norms for their clients. To better prepare students for this expectation, two faculty members at separate universities designed and implemented a course assignment intended to promote cross-university collaboration, foster discussion, and bring students to use microblogging via Twitter. This assignment was designed so that it would not only have the students construct the meaning and best practices in a social setting using social media, but also encourage them to experience Twitter from a user perspective while building relationships in a manner that their future employers may have to work with their publics or customers. Overall, the educators involved in this project did feel that it was a beneficial assignment for students in both classes. While the students may not appreciate the assignment while it is being conducted, many of them have expressed the value in it now that the assignment is completed.

While the term “humanities” is not in itself a particularly contentious one among academics, the addition of the term “digital” creates all sorts of problems, even the superficially illogical contention that digital humanities are not humanities at all. The fundamental rupture between digital and print humanities lies in the turning of a materialist, object-oriented analysis upon the practices of humanistic scholarship. That is, in their newness, the digital humanities are unsurprisingly self-reflective about the materiality of their scholarly practices. This self-reflection has been largely absent from traditional humanities where we had all but naturalized the material composition of dissertations, journal articles, monographs, and so on. As a result, even as we continue to pursue traditional scholarly methods, it becomes increasingly difficult to do so without a self-reflective awareness of the historical-material contingency of these practices. In short, they are no longer the same. To explore this issue, this chapter takes up assemblage theory, and actor-network theory to investigate the intersection of mobile technologies and social media in the digital humanities including conference backchannels and networked research communities mediated through Twitter, Google Buzz, and similar applications. The chapter considers how, even for those who continue to publish in traditional genres on traditional subjects, the development of these digital assemblages are transforming compositional practices.

While personal learning networks (PLNs) are not new (Warlick, 2009), social media technologies are now enabling us “to fashion new kinds of networks that extend far beyond our immediate location and face-to-face connections, and to grow our networks based not on explicit decisions, but through the ideas of other nodes (people and resources), whose ideas intersect with ours” (Warlick, 2010, para. 5). What is new then, and what is changing the nature of PLNs, is the rapid growth of information and the emergence of new technologies capable of filtering that information and connecting us to others we can interact with and learn from (Siemens, 2008). In this chapter, we discuss the steps involved in building, growing, and maintaining online connections made possible entirely through new technologies. We argue that in the context of higher education, PLNs should be viewed as an informal alternative to the more formal professional development programs that are commonplace in K-12 education.

This chapter offers reflections on the successes and failures of integrating the micro-blogging platform Twitter into a first-year university class. Twitter, intended as a way to answer the question “What are you doing?” is now used in originally unexpected ways. Broadly speaking, Twitter's popularity can be traced to three factors: conversation between users; a decentralized ecosystem of third-party applications; and as a result, the distributed nature of the users. Adopted by educators in higher education, Twitter has been used as: an object for study, a tool to communicating classroom announcements, as a way to enable student to reflect on their learning, a chance to get instant feedback from students, and as the specific tool used to facilitate in-class conversations. The ongoing use of micro-blogging also appears to have an ability to change the social dynamics of a classroom, expanding the social of the classroom beyond the physical. While identifying Twitter's limitations, the chapter outlines the most significant outcome from the author's integration of Twitter: an evolution of blended learning, proposed as a plesiochronous learning model, where learning occurs outside the classroom, with learner and instructor in different places but occurring at (virtually) the same time.

About the Authors

Pages 385-392
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Robert Bodle received his Ph.D. in Critical Studies from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. His research focuses on the social, political, and ethical implications of networked media (social media and networks, social reporting, alternative media, mobile and convergence culture, internet governance, information ethics, and new media literacies). As assistant professor of Communication Studies at the College of Mount St. Joseph, Bodle designs and teaches a digital media curriculum that includes Social Media and Social Change, New Media and Society, Human Rights in the Digital Age, New Media Ethics, and Visual Communication. His research appears in the Journal of International Communication, Information, Communication & Society, and the book collection The Ethics of Emerging Media: Information, Social Norms, and New Media Technology.

Subject Index

Pages 393-395
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Cover of Teaching Arts and Science with the New Social Media
DOI
10.1108/S2044-9968(2011)3
Publication date
2011-03-22
Book series
Cutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-0-85724-781-0
eISBN
978-0-85724-782-7
Book series ISSN
2044-9968