Social Media in Academia: Connecting with Local and Global Communities

For better or worse, social media is entrenched in the routine lives of our students, our colleagues, and the communities in which we participate. With over 70% of American Internet users engaging its pages, Facebook still dominates as the most popular social media site. Close behind, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest fall somewhere in the top 5-10 of the most trafficked social media platforms.

IMG_2073I’ve long been convinced that social media can help academic departments and centers further their various objectives through the semester. In anthropology, my home department, such objectives include forging and sustaining meaningful connections with current students and alumni as well as community partners, project collaborators, and other stakeholders. These connections ultimately depend on visibility or transparency in the various activities, curricula, and ideas constituting our department. Given our hyper-busy everyday lives, in-person connections are limited, and social media provides a solution to reaching wide audiences in a timely and effective manner.

Facebook and Twitter are our primary social media channels, each of which is used to make visible our efforts and investments in the following areas:

  • Student Research – highlighting the research accomplishments of our talented majors IMG_2175and minors, including conference presentations and publications with faculty.
  • Programming – maximizing awareness of lectures, workshops, and other programming, in our department, other departments with whom we collaborate, and in our surrounding communities;
  • Curricula – showcasing anthropology courses that push pedagogical boundaries and are part of reciprocal and collaborative partnerships in local communities;
  • Study Abroad – featuring the reflections and experiences of our majors and minors who are currently studying abroad;
  • Faculty Research – presenting the research accomplishments of our faculty, especially when such research involves students and has relevance to communities beyond our own.

All said, we’re not “power” users of social media, but we think it important to regularly photo-document our events and departmental antics. And we’re working toward a craftier use of social media to bring the experiences of our numerous majors and minors currently studying abroad back into our campus community.

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Social Media in Academia: Instagram for Engaging with Students Outside Class

During an in-class discussion early in the semester, I made an offhand comment suggesting that the course should have its own hashtag.  I was surprised to notice several students nodding vigorously in agreement.  Sparked by this unexpected response, I decided to create an academic Instagram account.

KGRInsta1Since my pedagogy invites students to work directly with actual artworks in what I call “art history labs,” I decided that my Instagram feed would feature photographs of artworks from the Connecticut College campus art collection and my department’s Wetmore Print Collection.  Several times a week, I post images of artworks we will be studying in class, images of campus sculptures, or photographs I have taken while setting up labs.  I also regularly post photos of campus spaces (Shain Library, for example, or other professors’ offices or research spaces), shots of field trips, and images related to my research and to current events on campus.   One student observed, “Instagram is contributing immensely to my learning in art history by making the material present outside of the classroom context. Seeing images that we are studying in class pop up on my phone has incorporated art history into my daily life, making it more approachable and keeping it on my mind throughout the day.”

While I don’t require my students to follow my Instagram account, participating does have some benefits.  Some of the posted artworks appear on exams, and I sometimes refer to an Instagram post in class.  During the semester, I created several hashtags:  #conncollcampusart and #wetmoreprintcollection for Connecticut College’s artwork collections, and hashtags for this semester’s courses:  #ahi261, #ahi246.  Over time, students have begun to use these hashtags and contribute their own images to this fledgling community.  

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In addition, I think of following feeds and liking images as teaching tools.  I intentionally make connections relevant to course content and to my research as one way to help students engage with the contemporary art world in a curated way.  As one student noted, “Instagram provides a new platform for sharing and engaging in thoughtful conversations about art outside of the classroom. With a simple click of a ‘like’ the interest surrounding a piece of art becomes visible to all participating.”  My feed currently has a small but active following of students and staff at Connecticut College, as well as a few global artists, gallery owners, arts foundations, and museum staff who extend my feed well beyond the college.

While Instagram appears to be a natural fit for contemporary art history, I think this platform could be productive for faculty across the disciplines.  Faculty might share images from fieldwork, labs, or even photographs of a chalkboard with a complex data or problem set.  If you are considering Instagram, here are some guidelines I have developed for my own feed:

  • To assuage any student concerns about sharing their own images with me, I clearly state in class that I do not follow or even look at student Instagram accounts unless expressly invited to do so.
  • In response to the Connecticut College social media policy, I avoid posting photos of students.
  • To respect photographic rights, I limit my posting of artworks to those owned by the College or those publically displayed at museums.  When posting anything that might be construed as someone’s property or private space, I ask for permission and tag the photo with the person’s Instagram username.
  • Finally, using social media for pedagogical purposes does create yet another task on my to-do list.  However, I maintain this Instagram feed because I enjoy taking photographs, creating visual dialogues, and communicating through images.  If you are considering incorporating Instagram or other social media into your classes, you might start by identifying a platform that you are already using and finding fulfilling in other areas of your life.

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Social Media in Academia: Facebook in First Year Seminars

Last semester I used Facebook in my First Year Seminar (FYS) on a modern history of stereotypes about Asia and “the West.” Generally speaking, the class Facebook page became a community discussion board about campus events that related to the FYS’s broader themes of History, Asia, globalization, cultural studies, Orientalism, race, ethnicity, and social justice. Using the course Facebook page, students and I posted announcements about upcoming events, and then in turn, a good many of the students who attended the events posted their reactions along with a visual image or artifact from their experience.

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Why did they use the page? For one, as a requirement in my FYS, each student was expected to attend at least one campus event before the end of the semester. To get credit for attending the event, they had to either a) send me an essay privately by e-mail of 200-300 words in which they reacted to the event, or b) write a short Facebook post in which they briefly described the event and posted a visual artifact. About 2/3 of the students opted to fulfill this requirement by posting on Facebook

How did it work? At the beginning of the semester, all students joined the course “Group Page” that I made. All of my students, except one, already had Facebook accounts, used them regularly, and knew how it worked. I chose to create a Group Facebook page instead of a personal or community page because this format is private; in order to view the page, one has to be invited and then added as a “member.” As the page administrator, I was able to control who joined the “group” and if necessary, edit the posts. Other advantages this format held were that members could not easily see the private posts of other group members (unless they were to “friend” each other on their private personal Facebook pages) and it indicates how many people view the posts (see image above). Based on this format, I learned that the vast majority of students had “seen” each others pictures and comments within no more than a week of their posting. Generally speaking there was a new post roughly once a week from a different student in the class.

Student Facebook post

Even though I was clear that our class group page was private, I had discussions with the students about digital footprints at the beginning of the semester. I encouraged students to create separate Facebook aliases from the ones they had used in high school (using their new ConnColl e-mail addresses) if they were concerned about protecting their privacy further. None of the students opted to do this.

The success of the page was in its low start-up costs, and in its ability to transmit important news about our first year and college communities.  It also allowed me to model that I care about and embrace campus engagement and dialogue. In contrast to Moodle, where students found formal assignments, uploaded homework, and downloaded readings, the Facebook page was used in a more informal way. It usually focused on social and co-curricular events organized outside of class and sometimes operated as a last minute message board if students had questions. Above all, the page became a medium through which students felt more connected with their classmates as well as the rest college community.

Social Media in Academia: Using Facebook to Support Student Research, Student Life

This post is written by Ana Campos-Holland, Assistant Professor of Sociology. 

At the onset of my faculty status, I decided to separate my personal from my professional social media use. This means that I have a personal Facebook account from which I manage a “Prof. Campos-Holland” public profile. Since I am still figuring out how to manage my professional social media performance, I have been slow to move to other social networking sites. Within Facebook, I promote an inclusive research process, campus-wide learning, and just began to engage in socio-political expression.

IMG_2060As a faculty member, I aim to engage in an inclusive research process that creates opportunities for my student researchers to make significant contributions. Since the research process is intense and lengthy, I use social media to celebrate each milestone, from meeting data collection goals to now the publication of our first paper. It keeps our campus community, families, and friends informed about our activities and upcoming events.  Most importantly, we promote the teaching-meets-research pedagogical approach. Through this inclusive research process, I have come to understand that knowledge is freedom, empirical literacy is informed freedom, and empirical creativity is empowered freedom.

In communities of higher education, learning is an ongoing and intense process. Thus, I also aim to connect in-class learning objectives with campus-wide activities. To do so, I use social media to promote relevant events on campus, especially those that are directly linked to course learning objectives. I think that learning starts in the classroom, but course projects and campus-wide events, especially those prompting campus-wide conversations, intensify the learning process within the campus community.

Lastly, I aim to create a safe space for students’ socio-political explorations and the development of their own perspectives. In doing so, I focus on engaging them in an analysis of societal structures and an exploration of the empirical realities of our social world. In this process, I usually do not make political statements in the classroom nor on my professional social media account. Lately however, I made a public statement on social media about how racism is disproportionately threatening the learning process for students of color. Aware of context collapse, I am beginning to engage in socio-political expression on social media that I stand by regardless of context.

 

Intentional uses of Social Media in Academia

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This post begins a short series on uses of social media in academia. The following post was co-authored by Karen Gonzalez Rice and Anthony Graesch, with help from Jessica McCullough.

Social media can be used to share, co-create, critically evaluate, and discuss ideas, all of which fall squarely within the spectrum of goals shared by communities in higher education.  Unfortunately, discussions concerning the applications of social media in higher education often focus only on the highly visible and adverse outcomes, including instances in which user-generated content violates community norms and/or undermines the integrity, jeopardizes the safety, or does harm to others.  Although it is imperative that we thoroughly examine such instances, it’s also important that we explore and discuss the applications of social media to our pedagogical and intellectual goals.

As faculty co-directors of the Technology Fellows Program, we are concerned that recent events, sparked by a colleague’s posts on a public Facebook page, might discourage faculty from experimenting with social media as a pedagogical tool.  Alongside our colleagues in Instructional Technology, we see compelling evidence  that social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be used to forge and sustain meaningful connections with students, alumni, and broader communities within and beyond institutions of higher education.  In this post and in a series of posts in the coming weeks, we highlight a diverse set of intentional, productive uses of social media in Connecticut College faculty pedagogies.  In these examples, faculty draw on the unique possibilities of social media to facilitate dialogue among students, maintain meaningful connections with far-flung alumni, foster communities based on particular scholarly interests, and draw attention to ways that disciplinary methods and ideas participate in current events beyond the classroom.

Ann Marie Davis uses a private Facebook group as a venue for students in a first-year seminar to build community by sharing co-curricular experiences and connecting these experiences with course themes.

Ana Campos Holland promotes and celebrates achievements in student-faculty collaborative research projects with the campus community and broader world using Facebook.

Karen Gonzalez Rice uses Instagram to supplement course content, connect objects in the Connecticut College art collections with the topics of the course, provide insight into her research process, and build dialogue beyond the classroom.

The Department of Anthropology connects with students and alumni through public Facebook and Twitter accounts, with frequent news of student and alumni accomplishments, department events, and student activities abroad.

Look for details of these and other uses of social media in continued posts.  In the meantime, the following resources can help you begin to think through the practicalities and implications of integrating social media into your pedagogy:

Join us for Wednesdays at the Wall

Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology students present their lab projects for AT201: History of Arts & Tech, April 2015
Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology students present their lab project for AT201: History of Arts & Tech, April 2015

Announcing a new short series of workshops from the Digital Scholarship and Curriculum Center in Shain Library! These informal workshops will introduce attendees to the Diane Y. Williams ’59 Visualization Wall in the Technology Commons of Shain. Participants will have the opportunity to see how professors from Computer Science, Gender and Women’s Studies, Arts & Tech, and German Studies have already made use of the interactive, high-resolution display in their courses. You are invited to bring your laptop and/or mobile devices to experiment with the various ways of connecting to the wall. There are also two computers connected to the system (a Windows 8 Touch and a Windows/Linux dual-boot, with a MacPro to come!), as well as a Kinect, a Brio (allowing for wireless display of multiple mobile devices simultaneously), a media player, and more. Digital Media Specialist Mike Dreimiller and I look forward to answering your questions, brainstorming ways you can use the visualization wall in your classes and research, and testing out websites, software, or other potential uses of the system that you might be excited to see on the wall.

Register for one of the workshops below:

Wednesday, April 22–2:30-3:30pm

Wednesday, April 29–4:00-5:00pm

Wednesday, May 6–3:00-4:00pm

We hope to see you there!

Zooming into Language Acquisition

My current Japanese 400C provides students multiple opportunities to study collaboratively with the upper-level Japanese students at Mount Holyoke College (MHC), MA by using technologies. This course employs content and language integrated learning (CLIL) approach, and students are expected to gain the new knowledge about the Japanese language through the reading materials, which my friend at MHC has been developing.

The current upper-level Japanese courses at Connecticut College (CC) are facing some administrative as well as pedagogical issues: 1) recent years there are chronically small enrollments; 2) the level of individual student’s language skills varies widely; 3) it is difficult for each student to find a peer who obtains the same Japanese proficiency level in class; 4) there is lack of peer pressure due to familiarization among themselves as well as with instructors, which creates an ineffective atmosphere to motivate the students to improve their language skills.

These issues are not unique at Connecticut College (CC); rather I found that the Japanese programs at small liberal arts colleges faced similar issues. New technologies have enabled us to supply students at both campuses with peer-reading sessions through Zoom, email communication among the students as well as between the students and both instructors, Zoom presentation sessions, and survey after presentation practice as well as final presentation in Google forms. We are also recording peer-reading sessions and Zoom presentations, and uploading them in the shared folder in Google Drive, which we hope helps each student to evaluate her/his own performance for their assignments.

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We have unintended positive outcomes by using technologies. This winter we had more snow than usual, and there were multiple times the college was closed. One cancellation happened on the day presentation was scheduled. In the morning I hoped that there would be no cancellation despite the fact that powder snow started covering the ground. My friend at MHC emailed me, “we don’t have snow here.” I had a bad feeling. An email came telling us the college would be closed at noon. I decided to stay on campus for the sake of presentation. Then another email came telling that there would be a parking ban. “Oh, NO!!!!!” Now I had to leave the campus.

I told my students to stay in the room and to wait for an invitation for Zoom session from me through email. I went back home to send out invitations for Zoom session. Thanks to Zoom we were successfully able to have student’s presentations by connecting five locations; a classroom in MHC; a student’s room at Smith College; two student’s rooms at CC; and my place, and we recorded the session as well!!!

We found another interesting effect of using Zoom. Time to time we asked our students if they would prefer not doing certain assignments or not. The students on both campuses always answer, “I can do this.” They never say to us, “NO.” It seems that they are motivated to show their best to the students on the other campus. We are pleased with our student’s attitude. Probably I will be able to report to you after this course whether they maintain this attitude throughout the semester.

Lastly I would like to share with you what happened last year when we offered the same course. I had one male student in the course at CC. He spent two semesters in Korea when he was a junior. One of the female students at MHC came from Korea. Apparently they had many things to talk about. One day my friend’s teaching assistants said to her, “Today you will have a session with Connecticut College.” My friend asked how they figured it out. Then they told her that they knew because the student wore make-up. Hmm…. It IS indeed interesting!!

Digital Literacy: Talking Teaching Recap (Part 2)

Following up on yesterday’s post, here are three more exciting topics of discussion raised at the Talking Teaching event this Tuesday, April 7, co-sponsored by the Technology Fellows Program and Information Services.

Perkins Library Reference Interaction, 1970s, Duke University Archives
Perkins Library Reference Interaction, 1970s, Duke University Archives, Flickr

Digital Technology and Collaboration/Communication Skills: How are we using technology to replace certain interpersonal interactions, and at what cost? A common assumption is that working with digital technology means working alone. Some professors observe that students interact with each other less when they can complete a group assignment online, which may decrease accountability for some group members.

Recommendations:

  • Require group work and face-to-face interaction when using digital technologies—Joe Schroeder’s students worked extremely well together on a collaborative Google Doc while sitting together in person, which begs the question: would they have communicated as well together if they had not been sitting in the same physical space?
  • Require students to meet with relevant people on campus (Information Services, Writing Center, etc.) to ensure that students are aware of the resources available to them.
  • Have students grade each others’ contributions to group work—Joyce Bennett requires students to keep an individual work log throughout a group project, in addition to grading their classmates at the end.
  • The new collaboration rooms on the first three floors of Shain Library and the white boards available in the lower level are very popular among students working in groups.

    Shain Collaboration Room, March 2015
    Shain Collaboration Room, March 2015

Digital Accessibility and Inequality: Not only does immediate access to digital technologies shape a student’s ability to complete assignments and learn new technological skills in college, but inequalities in access to technology before arriving at Connecticut College contribute to variations in digital fluency among the student body. Sometimes students are simply unaware of what is available to them through various campus resources, including the library. Kathy Gehring pointed out that even the use of electronic resources dropped significantly during the Shain renovation when the library was not physically accessible.

Recommendations:

  • If you are planning to use an app that relies on smartphone or tablet technology, consider that not all students have access to these mobile devices. Web-based avenues of communication (i.e. Moodle forums, email, social media, Google Drive) may be necessary to ensure that all students are able to participate in the conversation. Luis Gonzalez’s recent post about the Digital Divide sheds light on this issue.
  • Many courses since 2006 have been supported by the Instructional Technology team’s Digitally-Enhanced Learning Initiative (DELI). Participation in the program ensures that all students in a proposed course will have access to the same digital device.
  • Again, requiring that students meet with librarians and instructional technologists, whether in a class session or outside of class, will broaden awareness of the library’s technological resources and assistance, including many workstations with a wide range of software, the Advanced Technology Lab’s digitization equipment, electronic scholarly resources, iPad Minis that can be checked out at the circulation desk, one-on-one training, and more.

Digital Editing Tools and Methods: How can we leverage digital technologies in the editing process for written student assignments? Some professors noted that students have ignored marginal notes in Word documents in the past and resubmitted their work without accepting all the editing suggestions. Is this a case of students not knowing how to use the review features in Word? Many students have expressed that they prefer handwritten comments, and faculty often prefer this tried-and-true method, as well. But do some digital editing tools serve to enhance the learning process for students?

Recommendations:

  • Karen Gonzalez Rice has garnered universally positive feedback from students regarding her recorded audio responses to assignments. Using screencapture video recordings might be a great option for evaluations of students’ visual or written works, if digital files were submitted for the assignment. Jing is a free, easy-to-use tool for creating screencapture videos of up to five minutes (encouraging concise feedback!).
  • Joyce Bennett loved using Blackboard at another institution to receive, edit, and return her students’ assignments without any exchange of paper, all within the course website. Moodle offers this option too! Contact your Instructional Technology liaison for assistance, if you would like to experiment with this capability.
  • If you make marginal edits and comments in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, use the suggested edit function, which does not replace the students’ original content. You might also require students to reply to your comments to ensure that they address each one.

Thank you to all who attended Talking Teaching this past Tuesday!

Digital Literacy: Talking Teaching Recap (Part 1)

The Technology Fellows Program and Information Services department co-sponsored this Tuesday’s Talking Teaching event, which focused on the concept of the “digital native”–a term often applied to the Millennial who uses technologies with a fluency not afforded to preceding generations. Faculty shared their diverse experiences, successes, and concerns with digital encounters in their courses. Throughout the discussions, it became clear that there is often a disjunction between what professors (and the students themselves) assume students know about technology and what they actually know. Effective leveraging of digital technologies to enhance pedagogy requires careful considerations of such factors as accessibility, differences in types of digital literacies, and the potentially negative effects of digital technologies on the development of collaboration and communication skills. The following is the first in a two-part summary of some of the important challenges and considerations raised at Tuesday’s meeting. Each discussion point is followed by some of the successes shared and techniques suggested by the group.

Digital Skills Training: When adopting a new technology in an assignment or classroom activity, how do you approach training students?

Recommendations:

  • Hands-on work time in class is important to give students the opportunity to ask questions and problem-solve together.
  • Model behaviors—Tek-wah King consistently displays his iPad throughout class across the semester to help students learn over time which applications work best for which tasks.
  • Give students guidelines for how long a task should take to avoid the situation in which, before reaching out for help, they spend four hours trying to figure out how to use a technology that should have taken a few minutes.
  • Lynda.com tutorial videos—Embedding assignment-specific tutorials into your course Moodle page may work better than simply directing students to this vast resource and expecting them to find the best tutorial to meet their needs for a particular assignment.
  • Suggesting or requiring that students meet with librarians and instructional technologists during the semester will ensure they recognize the training services and digital resources that are available to them in the library.
  • Inviting librarians to your class to provide assignment-specific reference instruction sessions helps students learn how to use databases, digital citation tools, and digital collaboration tools that they can apply to many of their courses and assignments.

Digital Literacy is a Process: How do we ensure that students see digitally-enabled activities and assignments as part of a progressive process? Rather than building a broad toolkit applicable to many courses and future endeavors, students tend to approach each technology learned as assignment- or course-specific, often failing to apply these skills and resources in their other classes, or forgetting them by the next semester. Are students struggling with the pace of change? How do we distinguish between discipline-specific skills and more generally-applicable ones?

Recommendations:

  • Better scaffolding of technology skill acquisition across a semester and across the four-year curriculum
  • Develop and codify a way to track expected development of digital literacy skills over time
  • Repeat and assignment-specific interactions with reference librarians and instructional technologists help students gain and retain skills and learn to apply them across their coursework.
Photo by Sean MacEntee, 2012, Flickr
Photo by Sean MacEntee, 2012, Flickr

Generational Differences in Types of Digital Fluencies: Students tend to be especially app-savvy, but they do not necessarily understand other elements of computing, such as programming. App user interfaces are designed for “elegant consumption” and assume no user knowledge of the back-end processes. Digital literacy assumes an amount of experience that affords the ability to be able to easily adapt to changes in software and hardware as time goes on; but if students do not have the foundational knowledge, they will be unable to just “click around” and figure out new interfaces and software. Despite students not knowing life before the internet, professors often have more years of experience with a broader range of technologies. A seemingly basic task of creating a PDF may be completely foreign to a student who was never asked in high school to submit a document in that format.

Recommendation:

  • When adopting or assigning a new technology in class, always assume that at least some students may have no foundational knowledge. You can always change pace as you learn more about the students’ skill levels.

Further discussion:

Several faculty members wondered how we can leverage digital technologies in the editing process for written student assignments, which led to a robust discussion of digital editing tools and methods. Others wondered how we are using technology to replace certain interpersonal interactions, and at what cost? We also discussed issues of digital accessibility and inequality in the development of digital literacies. Stay tuned tomorrow for a follow-up post on these topics!

From the Archives: Advising Week Tip

By request, I am reposting this information about using Appointment Slots for scheduling meetings with students. The post was originally published on November 9, 2014. Enjoy!

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Because it is advising week, and because I had a request (thanks, Emily Morash!), this post is all about automating the process of setting up meeting times with students. I’m using the Appointment Slots feature in Google Calendar that is available to anyone with Google Apps for Education. Appointment slots allow you to create periods of time, “slots,” that you are available, share your appointment slot calendar with students, then students select the times that work best for them. This tool cuts down on monotonous and not terribly productive email communication to schedule meeting times, and it allows students to take responsibility for scheduling meetings with you. With all the time you will save, you may even be able to offer more meetings times!

I created two short (2min) videos showing how Appointment Slots work:

  1. Create the appointment slots in your regular Google calendar. Watch the video.
  2. Share the appointment slots with students and they sign up for a time. Watch the video.
  3. Appointments show up in your calendar and the student’s calendars as regular events.

There are many options for using this tool: office hours, advising, oral exams, small group work, research paper feedback, and more.

The Google documentation available here provides more step-by-step instructions if you prefer written instructions to a video. Let us know how this works for you!