Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat: Most students use at least one, if not several of these multimedia formats. Some use all of the above. Navigating the array of social media platforms independently can be an exciting or daunting adventure, but using these websites can be quite a different experience entirely.
In “Media Responsibility Over Time,” which is an engaged citizen class required of journalism majors, students are assigned to tweet five times a week about current events and use the hashtag #j66 in those posts.
Professor Lori Blachford designed the assignment so students will stay up to date with the news.
“The idea is to have this continuous engagement with the news. Most students have a Twitter account. If they don’t, they get one for my class,” Blachford said.
Blachford also believes that the Twitter component of class adds a level of professionalism.
“The other good lesson is that if they are going to give me their Twitter account, I follow them. And I make a class list on my account that they all can follow along as well,” Blachford said. “I see not only their class tweets, but I see their everyday tweets. So it adds a level of accountability to the students because they know at least one professor.”
According to Blachford, the integration of social media appears to have a huge impact on classroom dynamics. Current events guide discussion, participation is increased tenfold and students come to class a little more “plugged in” because they already know the news if they’ve been following Twitter.
Professor Chris Snider also uses Twitter in two classes: Social Media Strategies and Web Design — both digital classes in the J-school.
“I think they’re just wonderful tools for connecting people,” he said. “And even with Twitter, specifically — a great tool for connecting people with brands. Twitter, especially, I think has just kind of opened the whole world to become connected and allowed us to connect to people and products we never could have talked directly with before.”
Jill Van Wyke, also a J-school, professor, had good things to say of her use of Twitter in class.
“It’s a way to model and teach students how to use Twitter professionally, relevantly, purposefully, productively — to move them beyond what often is griping about homework loads. I think some students don’t want to be on Twitter at all, and I think teachers ought to respect that. If, however, they’re going to go into journalism and mass communication, they have to have a presence on social media.”
Van Wyke believes that a social media presence is crucial for job seeking students.
“I think it would be crucial for any student going into any profession to be professionally present on social media. Every company now is a communications company.”
Van Wyke also emphasized the evolving role of digital media and why it’s important for students to be up to date.
“With communicators,” Van Wyke continued, “they’ve got to be in that space. Social media to me is like a playground or a sandbox. It can be kind of messy and kind of risky sometimes, but you’ve got to be in it if you’re going to be a professional communicator.”
Having your voice heard is just another reason, Blachford said.
“It gives many more people a voice,” Blachford said. “But, as I tell my students, it means you have to be a really savvy consumer, and using social media in class is a good way to raise that awareness — that you can’t just believe everything you read.”
Matthew C. Mitchell, professor of international business, said that one way the business school uses Twitter is to continue the conversation between students and professors through the handles @DrakeIBiz, @MattCMitch and @JeffKappen, just to name a few. The business school also utilizes hashtags like #DUIB and #IBJoining for welcoming new students into the international business major.
“It’s the way we communicate. It’s the way we share information. Twitter for me is a preferred medium right now because it’s fast, it’s interactive, it’s ubiquitous through many different platforms: PC, mobile, Mac. I think it’s integrated in a lot of different operating systems, so that’s nice, and it’s easy, it’s flexible, easily accessible, and not very threatening. You can jump into the twitterverse pretty quickly.”
However, Blachford gives a warning for students using social media for their news.
“It’s a lot of work to get your news from social media because you have to piece together a lot of things to get the whole story because it’s just coming out in fits and spurts. And that’s the challenge,” she said. “If you don’t work at it you don’t really get the whole story. But we can’t blame social media for that. Consumers have to figure out how to use it if they’re going to find it reliable.”
As far as the future of Twitter?
“I think there will be more widespread adoption,” Mitchell said. “But I think we need to understand the benefits of social media versus the commitment to protect our students’ privacy. And that is a hotly debated topic right now in higher education and I think Drake is not unique in the sense we encourage our professors to use social media, but I think we still need to fully understand the implications of using social media in terms of protecting the rights of our students.”