Last week, StudentAffairs.com published a piece I wrote entitled, An Experiment Using Twitter in Teaching a Student Affairs Practicum Course, in their Journal of Technology in Student Affairs. (Please check it out and let me know what you think!) In one of the later paragraphs of the piece, I wrote about my plans for teaching with social media in the future. As many of my students will tell you, I like to try one or two new “teaching experiments” each semester. Usually these experiments involve some kind of technology or social media use. With another semester under my belt, I wanted to write a small follow-up piece on some new lessons learned. I undertook two new experiments this semester:
1. Using a Twitter backchannel during a panel presentation.
Twitter backchannels are increasingly common at student affairs and higher education conferences. Backchannels are when a specific Twitter hashtag is established allowing attendees (and even those from home) to follow a thread of conversation. People may pose questions, post quotes from a presentation, post an opinion, or engage in discussion. Sometimes these backchannels are displayed during the presentation itself.
Knowing that this is such an increasingly important part of the conference experience, I wanted to ensure my students had at least had some exposure to it. In the course I teach, we had a panel of newly graduated professionals come in to talk about their experiences with the job search. During the prior week’s class, I asked the students to set up a Twitter account. I also established a hashtag and asked them to practice tweeting in the week leading up to the panel. At the panel itself, we projected tweets on a screen and conducted the Q&A potion via Tweet. After the panel concluded, we processed the experience together.
The experiment worked pretty well. It accomplished its goal of exposing students to Twitter and students gained an understanding of how Twitter could be used as a discussion platform. The only change I would suggest for the future would be to more clearly discuss what is appropriate to Tweet in a publicly broadcasted forum. A couple of tweets, although meant to be “funny,” were a bit awkward and distracting to have show up in such a small and intimate program. A little “Twitter etiquette” conversation wouldn’t hurt.
2. Professional branding and identity online
A number of folks have written about the increasing importance of teaching digital skills and branding as a competency for future professionals. (@EdCabellon calls this digital identity development in his blog post on the topic.) Eager to try this out with my class, I constructed a lecture introducing my students to the importance of online identity curation. Some of the topics I covered included Googling your name to be aware of the results, deciding on a screen name and squatting or using it consistently across platforms, and, making sure key profiles and privacy settings are up to date. Although I wasn’t completely happy with the lecture content, which I believe could use more development, I walked away from the experience firmly believing that its inclusion in professional preparation is necessary. I would definitely continue doing it and will hone it for the future. One suggestion may be to do it in a computer lab so students could have hands-on experience, in real time, with some of the concepts.