Beyond the Classroom: Social Media as a teaching tool

BY JOANNE KERSTEN

In today’s culture social media is hardly seen as something to be used in the classroom.

Whether or not it should be used for education, social media has taken the world by storm.  Now almost everyone is connected to distant relatives and old friends though Facebook, sharing photos in the moment with Instagram, and posting their opinion in 140 characters or less on Twitter.

Franciscan University of Steubenville communications professor James Coyle has hope for its use in a classroom setting.

“Social media has the potential to be used very effectively in teaching,” he said.

He reflected on how technology overall has changed, remembering the time when he wrote out everything on the chalkboard.  Now Coyle said that he likes to use PowerPoint because of its ease and efficiency.

However the use of social media in education faces many problems.

“I thought that social media would be more effective in teaching by having students engage in content or ideas outside of the classroom,” said Coyle. “That has not worked so well.”

Social media is seen as a recreational activity, not something to be used for academic or business purposes.  A recent article in USA Today titled “More professors using social media to teach” stated that some students find it hard to engage in social media with a distinct purpose.

Coyle agreed with this point.  He said, “It’s hard to switch gears when you are used to using something for recreational purposes to easily use it for serious academic and business purposes.  We need to learn to do that.”

However he also said that this problem is not a new one.  Professionals have struggled to use forms of media that were associated with recreation as teaching tools. Coyle spoke of his time working in the television industry.

“We tried to bridge the gap between the boring lecture on television, and the entertainment program they watched at home,” he said.

The overall use of technology specifically as a teaching tool has both good and bad sides.  Coyle said that he enjoys how easy it is for students to be able to look up information relevant to the class during the lecture.  Although, “it can be disappointing,” he said in reference to when students abuse the internet available in the classroom.  He also said that computers can be distracting to the student using it, and others around them.

Coyle also incorporated the Christian approach to social media. “The large part [of the new evangelization],” he said, “is re-educating and leading people to re-commit to their relationship with Christ.”

“One thing that I hope I can help students realize is that not only are they consumers of media but they can create and share media publicly, and have the responsibility to do so,” Coyle said.

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