In the past decade, all forms of social media have grown significantly in popularity, pertinence and purpose. Although social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are often thought of in the context of personal lives, many professors have started integrating the use of these platforms into the classroom and homework assignments.
Dr. Michael Frank, professor of political science, has taught at AU for nearly two decades. In his time teaching, Frank has watched several of his colleagues change their attitudes toward using social media, even for personal use.
“Like me, I think most of my colleagues in the time that I’ve been here have begun to use social media, at least in a personal way,” said Frank. “I’ve seen a handful of my colleagues over the years begin to use social media more professionally, such as interacting with other scholars via Twitter.”
As professors began using social media as a professional tool, social media platforms began creeping into classrooms across campus.
“A few of my colleagues are using social media in the classroom,” he said. “It comes down to your approach to teaching and assignments. I have a social media assignment I’ve used the most and I’ve stuck with it because it seems to work.”
Frank explained that his typical social media assignment is designed to help students use social media in a more professional context.
“The nature of the assignment is that students have to create a professional Twitter profile,” said Frank. “So, they summarize their professional aspirations in 160 characters or less and my students are required to follow major media organizations for the purpose of following the news about American politics on a regular basis throughout the semester.”
Frank explained that social media is the way to be informed, and students should make an active attempt to always remain informed.
“When I was an undergrad, they made us subscribe to the New York Times,” he said. “I had stacks of the New York Times. I learned a lot about what was going on in the world by virtue of interacting with the news, so I value looking at the news on a regular basis.”
According to Frank, his view of social media shifted greatly when he determined it was the most efficient way to remain informed.
“It was a really interesting moment for me to realize that the needle had moved for if you wanted up-to-date information,” he said. “It was just a telling moment. It’s like, ‘Wow, I can be better informed by paying attention to Twitter than I can by watching the news.’ We’re kind of used to it now; for the people who are interested in following the news, it is kind of a straightforward way to be informed.”
Jack Lugar, associate professor of cinema and media arts, is another professor who encourages his students to use social media for his classes. However, Lugar recognizes that social media must be used in the correct way in order for it to be beneficial.
“I think it’s the constant battle of using the technology for good and not letting it be used for distraction,” said Lugar. “Some professors, I think, just see it as distraction. I choose to think about it differently. I believe that we should use that tool in class in a positive way and most respect that.”
Lugar explained that he uses social media in a unique way, hoping to encourage his students to always keep their eyes open.
“I have fun with it,” he said. “I’ll post an answer to an exam question on Twitter because I want students to be paying attention. I will typically post something out there as a bonus question.”
According to Lugar, social media is a tool he uses to interact with and get to know his students.
“I had two or three students follow me after the first day of class because I put my Twitter handle up on the screen and it was great because I saw that and I followed them back,” he said. “The next day in class, I knew who they were—I knew them by name. So it was a nice chance for me to actually loosely interact with them and get to know them a little bit better for class time.”
According to James Newton, MBA assistant director, the growth in social media usage across the globe continues to grow.
“There are probably seven billion people on the globe and I think about four and a half billion are on social media,” said Newton. “It really is incredible to see how much of our everyday lives we use it in. Social media has transformed so much.”