Social Media in the Gradebooks

Ever-changing and ever-growing, social media has begun to be incorporated into the University of Illinois’ curriculum.

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Growth of Social Media

Over the past decade, social media has exploded. It provides many social benefits, as well as advertising and business strategies. According to Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 89 percent of adults ages 18-29 use social media sites, whereas for adults ages 65 and older, only about 49 percent of them use social networking sites.

This sudden increase in social network usage comes with many consequences. Some of which include breaches of privacy and poor time management. While young students are still being taught how to calculate formulas in Microsoft Excel and how to create slideshows in PowerPoint, who is teaching them how to use and manage their social media sites?

Introducing Social Networking to the Classroom

Recently, college instructors and professors have begun to realize just how vital it is to begin incorporating social media into their classrooms. Education on important marketing tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, is extremely important in this changing, technology-centered world.

Professor Brian Johnson of the College of Media says that social media is an integral part of modern journalism. He believes that making students aware of how they can use social media as a tool is important in his classroom.

Professor Brian Johnson

Professor Brian Johnson

Johnson, hoping to raise awareness about the rich resource of Twitter, began incorporating social media into his journalism classes by instructing students to live tweet during lectures. After realizing Twitter was not right for his class, he moved to using live blogging on Johnson moved to using CoverItLive for many reasons, one of which being so students were able to maintain their privacy. “I didn’t feel comfortable seeing the entire [Twitter] feed,” Johnson said.

Cassandra Allsup, an Integrative Biology Teacher’s Assistant here at the University of Illinois, began integrating Twitter into an online class, IB 105, Environmental Biology. For the Twitter assignment, students have been instructed to post two pictures of them “being green” and “reducing their footprint.” While students have only been required to tweet two pictures, she said the response has been overwhelming, in that students have gone above and beyond in posting many pictures, some as many as twenty, she says.

Allsup created a new Twitter username (@allsup_IB105) specifically for students to tag her when they have a new tweet. Students can also use the hashtag #UIUCtinyprints on their posts.

Allsup's IB 105 Twitter page

Allsup’s IB 105 Twitter page

Allsup explains that while social media is not often used in the field of biology, her main goal for students is that they are able to argue effectively and spread awareness and knowledge about environmental protection. Instead of only having students memorize and dictate for class, she believes testing actual skill is important. Using Twitter allows students to exercise their skills, and creates a skill-based platform for the class.

Additionally, Allsup said that she thinks teacher-student interaction is of extreme importance, especially in an online class, when a student can become just a number.

Professor Mark Wolters, a Business Administration in Marketing Professor, agrees with Allsup, in that interaction with his students is important. “I wanted students to have a way to communicate with me.” He says that in his own collegiate experience, he was often too afraid to ask questions in large lectures, like the ones he teaches now. So, he began to incorporate Twitter into his lectures. He created the Twitter account @woltersworld so students can tweet questions, comments, or interesting links using the hashtag #woltersworld. Wolters is then able to take a look and provide a response, if needed.

Wolters' Twitter page

Wolters’ Twitter page

Additionally, Wolters creates YouTube videos about travel, which his students are required to watch, and are then tested on. Wolters says these videos allow students who don’t come to class the chance to learn. “Even though they don’t come, I still want them to learn,” he says.

A few of Wolters' YouTube videos

A few of Wolters’ YouTube videos

Kate Phalen, a junior studying Accounting, is currently in Wolters’ BADM class that uses Twitter. She said she thoroughly enjoys the interaction Wolters has with his students. She explains that she has been enrolled in many large lectures which have virtually no teacher-student interaction. The change of pace has been refreshing, she says.

Here you can listen to interviews from Professor Johnson, Professor Wolters, and student Amanda Rodio, discussing their experiences with using social media in the classroom.

Resistance to Using Social Media for Class

While using the ever-changing field of social media for classroom participation does have its upsides, some are still unsure about using social media sites for grades. Allsup explained that when she originally suggested the Twitter project to the professor of her class, she was met with much resistance. “It seems like when I say the word ‘Twitter’ to professors, they kind of roll their eyes a little bit. Like, ‘oh no, no.’ Or, ‘it’s too loose, it’s not going to make an impact, it’s too social.’”

Wolters, who was able to directly incorporate Twitter into his lectures because of his status as a professor, has also been met with some slight resistance from his peers. “I think there’s some people who don’t think I should be interacting with students that way,” he said.

Professor Johnson also identifies that bad habits can be formed as college students in regards to using social media, particularly with using social media at inappropriate times. Johnson said: “If you’ve built in that habit where you’re going to be listening and then also checking your Facebook account or you Twitter account, those habits are formed and they’re not going away.”

Some Teachers, Students Agree: Social Media Should be Incorporated in Class

Even though through some peoples’ eyes social media is still seen as something that should stay outside the classroom, students overall enjoy the incorporation of using the networking sites.

Phalen said, “I’ve actually learned a lot while using Twitter.” Other students, such as Amanda Rodio, a junior in Advertising, believe that it is extremely important to learn in the classroom rather than having to figure out the professional uses later on, after graduation.

“Social media hasn’t been addressed in my classes before, so having to use social media for a project was the best way to learn how to effectively use it for when I graduate,” Rodio said.

For Allsup, one of the most important facets of using social media in her class is that students are able to express themselves online. “Students don’t always feel like they’re able to express what they feel in an online class, or even in most science classes…this [Twitter] project has really opened the door for expression.”

For discussion on the resistance Allsup and Wolters faced in their decisions to incorporate social media into their classes, take a look at this video package.

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