• 02Mar
    Categories: teaching Comments: 0

    Today I gave a brownbag talk about using social media in the classroom. I focused not on why people might use these tools for teaching, but on the how, since I think having a good understanding of the latter can help answer the former. And I have no ambitions of being a social media evangelist–there are plenty of situations in which other tools are not only available, but do the job better.

    Of course, in the case of teaching in journalism, public relations, mass communication, and related fields, sometimes part of the purpose is to make students aware of what tools are out there, and give them some practice using these tools in appropriate ways. In this case, instructors sometimes find themselves working outside their comfort zone, since they may not be familiar or entirely comfortable with (or convinced of the utility of) certain forms of social media. Even though I’ve spent lots of time online in the past *cough* years (okay, fine, let’s just say more than a decade), I still don’t know everything that’s out there, and I have my personal preferences.

    My presentations don’t lend themselves well to Slideshare, since I use very little text and prefer to fill in most of the content orally. So it’s difficult for me to share everything I discussed. However, I’m happy to post the contents of the handout I gave, which has some sites and resources about social media in general, a few specific to journalism or public relations, and a couple specific to educators. Hopefully there’s something useful in here, anyway. I’ve also tossed in a few sites I mentioned or showed in the presentation but didn’t include in the handout.

    Note: I do talk a little about directionality as one of the criteria for assessing a social media tool, and deciding whether and how to use it. The terms I use are familiar to most public relations scholars, but might seem strange to others. In particular, people often struggle with the difference between two-way symmetrical and two-way asymmetrical modes of communication. In brief, asymmetrical communication takes place when people can give feedback, for example in the form of comments on a photo or blog post, but it’s difficult to engage in real back-and-forth dialogue. Blogs that offer threaded comments make symmetrical communication more likely, although what really takes place depends entirely on the people involved. I think one-way and multi-way communication are pretty self-explanatory.

    So, here’s the list of resources:

    Social media sites


    This list doesn’t even pretend to be comprehensive. Think of it as a starting point for exploring Web 2.0 for your own purposes. Sites are grouped according to directionality (which way the conversation flows), permanence (how long information remains available), and content structure (what types of content each tool uses, and in what format).



    Mixed permanence, linked content

    Social bookmarking. Useful for sharing resources with students, marking online items for use in the classroom, and for students working on group projects who may need to share research.
    Link sharing site. In addition to tagging, Digg also ranks sites by the number of incoming links added by users.

    Two-way asymmetrical


    High permanence, long format text content (w/multimedia embedding)

    One of the oldest mass-blogging sites. Now owned by Google, so can be integrated with other Google accounts via shared login. Free. Home to many academic bloggers.

    WordPress.com and WordPress.org
    The .com address is for free blogging accounts; the .org is for software hosted on third-party servers. Probably the most widely used in professional blogging circles.

    Example: JMC417 class blog
    This is our class blog, and runs on WordPress. Note that comments are not threaded, so replies use the widely adopted “@” convention.


    High permanence, multimedia content


    Photo sharing site. Allows formation of image sharing groups, individual (not social) tagging, favorites. Owned by Yahoo! & uses their login. Also a good source for Creative Commons images for  presentations. Unthreaded comments, multi-level “friending.”

    Example: Flickschool
    This site is really a wiki, but it relies on Flickr images (among other things) to create a resource on multimedia documentary production.

    Video sharing site. Allows users to rate videos, subscribe to “channels.” Owned by Google. Unthreaded comments, built-in viewership counter. Videos can be easily embedded in other social media platforms (blog posts, Facebook, etc.).

    Example: Digital Ethnography Project
    A fascinating ongoing project at Kansas State University.

    Slide presentation sharing site (PowerPoint, Keynote, .pdf formats currently accepted). Now also offers “slidecasting” capabilities, or podcast narrations to accompany slideshows. Allows users to rate and favorite presentations, and easily share them on other platforms. Logged in users can also download presentations. Unthreaded comments, built-in viewership counter.

    Example: Life Cycle of a News Story
    Comparing traditional journalism to the new Web 2.0 paradigm.


    Two-way symmetrical


    High permanence, long format text content (w/multimedia embedding)

    Blogging site. Free and paid accounts available. Threaded comments, tagging, locking and filtering of posts to control visibility. Created as open source, so there are clones around (e.g., InsaneJournal.com). Home to the vast majority of media fan communities.

    Example: Academics Anonymous LJ community
    Note the threaded comments (usually accompanied by email alerts), which allow commenters to engage in direct dialogue with the blog author and each other.

    Personal (or commercial) profile site with some blogging and multimedia functions. Personal accounts are free. Threaded comments, subscriptions with email notifications. Used heavily in arts & entertainment (especially music, also film & TV), with less emphasis on blogging. Outside of entertainment, caters primarily to a young tween/teen user group.




    Low permanence, short format text or link content

    “Microblogging” site, with posts limited to 140 characters. Accounts may be public or controlled-access.

    Examples: There are numerous examples of interesting applications of Twitter, alone or in mashups. Here are a few of my favorites:

    Tweet Chicago
    Creative use of the Twitter API by the University of Chicago Law School to produce a page populated by students and faculty, giving visitors a real sense of the people who make up the school.

    Google Maps meets Twitter trends
    Combines location data with trending topics, to map Twitter trends in geophysical space.

    BBC News map
    Similar to the above, this mashup links RSS feeds of news items to their map location.

    The mother of all Twitter mapping sites, it shows a random selection of tweets popping up all over a world map. Warning: may be mesmerizing.

    Remember the Milk – Twitter integration
    Now you can add items to your to-do list, and receive alerts, all via Twitter.


    Medium-high permanence, variable format text, link or multimedia content

    Discussion forums

    There are thousands of discussion forums on the Web, most of which are dedicated to specific topics. The ones listed below are just examples of a few different formats. Terminology note: “pseudonymous” sites require users to maintain a stable moniker in order to participate in discussions; “anonymous” sites do not.

    Jobs in Social Media forum
    Newish and, so far, not very active discussion forum for anyone interested in discussing social media, particularly from a career perspective.

    Chronicle of Higher Education fora
    Pseudonymous discussion site for academics.


    Wikis are highly decentered, but can be a powerful way of producing group-sourced content on any topic, in a relatively stable and lasting form.

    Twitter Fan Wiki
    A good example of the “hive mind” knowledge sharing power of wikis–and also an excellent information resource for Twitter.

    Crowdsourced news outlet.


    Social media articles & resources


    2008 Horizon Report
    A detailed report on the state of social media use in higher education, particularly aimed at identifying emerging technologies and usage trends. Well worth reading.

    Blog directory and ranking site. Good starting point when searching for blogs on a given topic.

    Teaching & Learning group (Facebook) –
    A Facebook group for university professors interested in exploring the educational possibilities of Facebook. Invitation or approval required.

    A blog of visual presentations and illustrations to explain various aspects of social media. Some very useful information here, updated regularly.

    PR 2.0
    Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks in San Francisco, focusing on PR and New Media. Useful even to those not in public relations, since his work focuses on how people use the social mediasphere.

    A directory of short URL services
    A post from the blog PR 2.0, mentioned above, that offers a very useful (and well maintained) guide to the pros, cons, and various features of the different URL shortening services. Especially helpful to Twitter users.

    Using Wiki in Education
    Collection of case studies (self-published; paid download or hard copy in book form) about how educators at various levels have used wikis in the classroom and for research collaborations.

    AcademHack on Twitter in the classroom
    A description of how one humanities professor has used Twitter with students, and some of the results.

    An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube
    Anthropology professor Mark Wesch of Kansas State University presents his research on YouTube, conducted as part of a course on digital ethnography, at the Library of Congress. Nearly an hour long, but worth every second.