“Following” Your Professor?
June 24, 2011

With over 5 million users, Twitter is the third largest social network.  Young adults (ages 18-24) are the most active users of status update services through social media. However, they seem to be the primary demographic missing from Twitter. Twitter, the micro-blogging site, is slowly trickling into the education system in hopes of bringing professors and students closer through a more impersonal setting.

Many professors are starting to experiment with Twitter as a teaching device.  Professors who teach in the public relations and communication field are finding that social media are key devices for the educational content.  These professors expect students to practice incorporating social media as a marketing strategy to use for future business clients. Thus, students who “follow” a professor’s tweets can look at additional information that complements the professor’s lecture. Students are also able to ask further questions not only about the lecture but about the industry.

Other faculty members are questioning the use of Twitter in an academic setting. Of  those who have never used Twitter, 68.8% question its educational relevance.  Many professors feel they have enough channels of communication to discuss academic information with students already.  These professors feel  like if they add Twitter to the combination, many students and themselves will  experience “technology overload”.

Instructional uses of Twitter as a “learning tool in the classroom” are less popular than other Twitter function. Whether the instructional use will gain popularity in the coming years does not seem promising.  Just over half of current Twitter users say they expect to increase their use of micro-blogging during the coming academic year. Most Twitter users say their use will remain the same.  Schools and professors will need to construct a plan of action to encourage student participation.  They should plan for challenges such as:

  • Keeping students focused on the topic
  • Learning how to write clear, concise tweets within the 140-character limit
  • Ensuring comments remain constructive and professional

Schools also need to remember a key concept, Twitter does not happen overnight.

Students’ Writing Assignments “Dumber”?
June 20, 2011

Social media makes our messages condensed. Twitter allows up to 140 characters; Facebook allows up to 420 characters.  Many would think this would create clearer messages.  Wrong.  Welcome to the world of grammatical, usage, and spelling errors.  Slang terms such as BTW (by the way) have suddenly become incorporated into student assignments- a major concern for teachers.

According to a recent Pew Internet & American Life survey, 85% of respondents use some form of electronic communication.  While much of the younger generation has become accustomed to the social media slang, the teachers cannot understand what the students are writing.  Teachers understand that text messaging is a large part of young people’s lives; however, this should not excuse the formal writing students are assigned. Many teachers believe there has been a decline in students’ writing abilities due to new media.

Even though teens are heavily embedded in the digital age, most do not believe that communication over the Internet or text messaging is writing.  Teens generally do not believe that social media negatively affects their writing.  However, many do acknowledge that some of the slang does occasionally slip into their assignments for school.  In particular, teen bloggers and social network users have a tendency to use shortcuts and emoticons in their school writing assignments.

Parents have a different view about the effect of social media on students’ writing.  They believe that computers have a positive influence on writing and even make some students better writers.  Reasons a computer makes a positive influence include revising and editing easily, presenting ideas clearly, and the opportunity for creativity. Other parents do not believe that social media has any effect on writing.

Some feel that this is simply an evolution of language while others feel that the social media “is dumbing down” the English language.  The future is unclear as more generations of students grow up in the age of social media.

Have you ever used a shortcut like LOL (laughing out loud) or an emoticon in a school assignment?