Social media is transforming today’s classrooms and may be advancing the way students connect to peers and sources in the professional world.
Some faculty members are allowing students to use social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to better engage in discussions both in and outside the classroom. Social media adds to the conversation in the lecture hall while allowing outside sources to participate in the discussion, said Kym Fox, School of Journalism and Mass Communication senior lecturer.
“I love the fact that you can engage with the audience—and in this case, students—to ask them to be looking for something, contributing to (the conversation),” Fox said.
For instance, Fox said social media has allowed more people to contribute to conversations during Mass Comm Week. The annual event is presented by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Several panels and sessions are held to address how the field is evolving and changing.
Fox said students are not able to attend each session during Mass Comm Week, but they can be a part of the discussions without physically being there thanks to social media.
“It lets the people who were there use their little takeaways in 140 characters to say, ‘Here’s something I took away from what (the speakers) said,’” Fox said. “So, the people who weren’t able to make it can be there.”
Social media additionally allows some faculty members to get to know their students better.
Gilbert Martinez is a senior lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He said students in his Media Law and Ethics course use Facebook to connect with each other outside of class. Martinez said students created a Facebook study group to discuss notes and prepare for tests and invited him to be a part of it.
“It gave me another avenue to communicate with students,” Martinez said. “It would help them prepare for class, exams or whatever it might be.”
Martinez said the Facebook group has allowed him to get to know his students who don’t like to speak up during class. He said it makes for a “nice interaction” outside the classroom.
Jacie Yang, web publishing and design assistant professor, said she believes instructors should show students the technology available to them and encourage its use.
Yang said not only can social media keep students updated, but it could benefit them in the future. Networking through a social media outlet is a beneficial tool for finding a job after graduation, she said.
Some students use social media as an aid for preparing for class. Delaney Navarro, public relations junior, said she uses Twitter to prepare for weekly current events quizzes in her Writing for Mass Media class.
Tony McKinney, communication studies sophomore, said he rarely uses Twitter outside of school. McKinney said he uses it to look up helpful hash tags mentioned by faculty members.
There are benefits to using Twitter and other social media platforms in class, but it presents issues, some faculty members said.
Martinez said his concern is the technology may cause disruptions to the learning process or distract students.
Fox said students should not assume using social media is acceptable in all classes.
“I don’t think it is true of all classes,” Fox said. “So, I think students should be cautious before they just whip out their iPad, mobile phone or computer. Some faculty members feel strongly the other way.”