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Reflections on Teaching with Social Media

In the Chronicle of Higher Education (full article), Brian Croxall shares his experiences with using social media tools in his classes:

Twitter

Did Twitter help establish a social sixth sense for my classes? I believe it did for the one where everyone tweeted on a daily basis. We suddenly knew about one another’s lives outside of class and that enabled conversations to happen in class more easily than they otherwise would have. The students also learned something about creating online personas that at times differed in significant ways from their real personas. While there’s certainly a fine line between teacher and student relationships, we made this subject a portion of our class discussions and found it useful. In the second and third classes, I got less of a sense of a classroom shift, and I believe that this was due to less overall buy-in to the tool.

Wiki

I tend to use a PBworks wiki as my LMS of choice. But as I have mentioned previously I not only post syllabi and assignments on the wiki, but I have students use it as well, with a Jason’s wiki notes assignment. I’ve used this assignment for four semesters in a row, and while it takes a little bit for the students to understand both the idea of collaborative note taking and the wiki itself, it’s probably the best thing that I do for getting my students to understand the material that we cover in class. Even the students like the assignment–especially when it’s exam time. What I like about using the wiki this way is that it makes use of a wiki’s natural advantages. I’ve not had to change my approach to using it much for the last three semesters, and I don’t think that I will in the future.

Google Wave

Like Kathleen, we were going to use Wave as a way of taking collaborative notes. But where I differed from her approach was that I had the students use the wiki for the first half of the semester for these notes; we then transitioned to Wave. The point of doing this was to allow the students to evaluate two different media for collaborative document writing. But looking back, I think that it was a bad move. When it came time to switch, the students understood the wiki and were working well within it. Wave was similar in many ways, but different in enough ways that it was as if they had to learn the assignment again from the beginning. The result was a sort of tool fatigue. My take away from this experiment was to pick one tool for an assignment and stick to it. I’ll use Wave again in the future, I’m sure, but I believe I’ll use it like Kathleen and just start with it from the beginning so we can iron out the problems. This will be easier now that Wave account creation is no longer by-invite only.

Zotero

We here at ProfHacker are big fans of Zotero, the Firefox plugin for collecting, managing, citing, and sharing research. This semester I decided to have one of my classes do an annotated group bibliography in Zotero. I had two reasons for giving the students this assignment. First, I wanted them to learn to use what I consider to be a tool that could be useful in classes outside of my own. Second, I wanted the students to benefit from one another’s bibliographies when it came time to writing final papers.

And so on…

I’ve most learned from a semester with heavy social media use:

  1. Be ready for problems. Even if you’ve never had any yourself, the number of students and of students’ computers (whether personal or in a lab) will insure that you have some.
  2. Be conscious of tool fatigue. The classroom should be a place where lots of learning takes place and where the patterns of learning can be shifted in interesting ways. Just don’t overdo it.
  3. In the end, I still think it is worth it.

Read the full article at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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