Join our class discussions – on Twitter!

A few of my professors this semester decided to incorporate Twitter into their course design. I am excited about engaging with my cohort and faculty via a “new” (to our classroom) communication tool. I believe Twitter is an effective tool to encourage and facilitate faculty-student and student-student contact. Rey Junco’s research found that “Twitter can be used as an educational tool to help engage students and to mobilize faculty into a more active and participatory role.” Twitter use is optional for one class but required for another. Here’s a brief overview of what we are doing so you can follow along if you are interested in our class discussions:

Dr. Linder and Phil Badaszweski included a class hashtag on our syllabus for Campus Ecology. Dr. Linder explained how she uses Twitter and informed us that they would share relevant tweets for the course via this hashtag. They also invited us to tweet relevant information with the hashtag.

Another class my cohort is enrolled in this semester is ECHD 7060 – Dimensions of Multicultural Practice in Student Affairs. Dr. Maddox and Ms. Hamilton created two subsections of participation and engagement requirements for the class. 1a is “Trending Social Justice” and 1b is a more traditional class participation format, In-Class Writing assignments. The Twitter hashtag for this course was created to provide a forum to engage our class but also our followers in discussions on social justice. A handout was provided with seven guidelines including: “tweet every week, minimum”, “find and follow people” and “make an effort to reply to the instructors and to other students to keep the conversations going.”

twitter-101One of the interesting aspects of the trending social justice assignment is that Dr. Maddox created her Twitter account the night before our first class, and is openly experimenting with a new communication tool at the same time it is a class requirement. How fun!

Is one of your student affairs graduate classes using a hashtag this semester? If so, please share it in the comments!  What do you think about tweets being a required part of class participation? Check out this infographic (posted on the right) for a visual representation of best practices in using Twitter in the classroom. I hope you’ll join in our conversations about campus ecology and multicultural practices if something interests you.

What are you afraid of?

I like trying new things. It’s funny, I’m a creature of habit and love traditions but I value efficiency and communication even more. The biggest reasons I use social media are to stay connected, network, learn new things, and be involved. Plus, I find sharing and learning on all of these sites fun!

Why are people hesitant or sometimes even afraid to use social media in the workplace? As Eric Stoller says, it’s just another tool for communicating. Like a phone and a fax machine. I’m interested in the idea that personality type affects reluctance to use or share on some sites. Or is it just reluctance to change?

The negative attitude I try to discourage is reluctance to use the site at work because they are afraid of what they might find. Don’t avoid Twitter because you don’t want to see what people are tweeting about your program, office, etc. Search for it, address it, and make the changes that students want.

What do you think affects comfort level with social media? How do you encourage or nudge people to not only create accounts (whether personal or work-related) but also engage with the audience just like another communication tool?

Twitter and Orientation

One of the first things I did after starting my NODA internship was volunteer to help with social media in the office. Managing social media accounts and engaging with students online is something I love to do, and I try to create these opportunities (and be helpful) whenever I can!


This year, instead of creating a Facebook page and Twitter account for SOAR 2013, the office used the @UNCGYFY or Your First Year accounts.

We enhanced our tweets about SOAR with a hashtag. Find out what hashtag your students are using. Our office decided to use #UNCG17 for our tweets about SOAR. We answered questions that students were asking about SOAR via that hashtag. Don’t overload or spam a hashtag, but if the content is relevant for a specific hashtag definitely use it.

At the beginning of the June sessions we added a picture taking opportunity to the first small group script. At the end of the small group the SOS (Spartan Orientation Staff member) would take their group somewhere nearby for pictures. Students were very creative and we were able to retweet the picture (whether it came from an SOS or a new student). This activity allowed us to share SOAR content with the Twitter community and create a lasting photo memory for these students from SOAR. I wish I had a picture from my Orientation session in 2008!

The social media chair (a returner SOS) organized a Twitter competition each session. He asked the students to follow us and tweet their best picture to our account, and they awarded a gift certificate to the student with the winning picture at the evening session.

Lastly, some numbers to be proud of:
On May 13 the UNCGYFY Twitter account had 202 followers.
On July 10, after 8 SOAR Sessions during the month of June, the account has 506 followers!

I enjoy following my alma mater @NCSUOrientation and their summer orientation activities on Twitter. All of their OL’s have a Twitter account and the content is super fun! What are some useful ways to use Twitter with summer orientation? I’m starting a Twitter list here – what accounts do you recommend?

Teaching social media

Who is responsible for teaching social media? By “teaching social media” I mean how to use the various forms of communication classified as social media, teaching appropriate and responsible online behaviors (and as a result also appropriate behaviors in person), and teaching how to create an authentic and positive digital identity. After posting about digital identity development earlier this week I want to reflect on how students learn to make smart, safe, and responsible decisions online.

A recent news story about Guilford County Schools in North Carolina caught my interest. Guilford County is unblocking access to social networking sites. Last year they unblocked YouTube and this year they are also allowing sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This is a start for including social media in the classroom and the impact of the change really depends on how teachers utilize the new policy.

Digital identity essentially starts from the day someone creates their first online profile. This could be a variety of ages depending on parental involvement and other factors. One of the most important reasons to teach good practices in social media/online spaces in primary or secondary education is because students are using these sites. This is not just an issue for college faculty and student affairs professionals. By unblocking sites on school computers, teachers are able to engage with students online and use these tools in the classroom to help with student engagement or interaction.

I found a helpful handout, A Word About Social Networking, from the Department of Labor that covers advantages and disadvantages of social media and resources for a CyberSmart! curriculum. They compare learning to make safe and responsible online decisions similar to the process of learning to safely cross the street. “Educating youth about social networking communities must be grounded in the providing of knowledge, skills, and values so that eventually they can be expected to independently exercise good judgment.”

Do you know of any schools with an awesome social media education program? Any ideas on how to teach young students to use these tools, supporting their development personally and digitally?