New Opportunities Using Social Media in Teaching and Research

The goal of our poster was to encourage instructors to venture into the world of social media in both their teaching and research activities. Mentioning the use of social media in the classroom raises the specter of “friending” students, and we want to make sure that instructors know about the many other (more appropriate) opportunities. Why should we do this at all? Using social media provides the advantages of meeting students on familiar ground (not stuffy, artificial e-class discussion boards), preparing them for the workplace (most jobs and job searches now involve social media), and allowing us to model good reputation management skills, information competency, and critical thinking.

Some of the sample activities in the teaching area that we suggest include setting up class Twitter accounts (with widgets in your course management system to make them easy to access) for discussion, virtual office hours, searching activities, and following experts. Students can search for the best online videos or infographics to illustrate a concept, or even better, create their own. Gamification can be used to increase student motivation to participate in discussion and class activities. On the research side, tracking sites like Social Mention and Topsy allow you to follow topics and engage in content analyses. The APA has even come up with a format for citing tweets and blogs. We are watching real-time human behavior pass in front of our eyes, just waiting for analysis (and it’s all free of charge and exempt from ethical review). In general, we suggest that instructors and researchers start small, perhaps experimenting with one activity at a time. Pressure on students can be reduced by offering social media activities as extra credit. Most importantly, managing our own blogs and accounts give us the familiarity we need to construct good research and student assignments.

-Laura Freberg, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,
and Karen Freberg, University of Louisville

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