In the old days when a student had a question or needed help in the classroom they raised their hands. In large lectures usually reserved for freshman students interaction in class was limited to getting help from a teacher’s assistant or talking to the professor after class. With the introduction of mobile devices, interaction with professors and other students has become easier using social media.

When asked how students felt about lectures and using social media devices in college courses, one student replied:

“Instructors who incorporate mobile devices are actively engaging us in the class — they are using the medium of communication that we most often use… [W]e need to find new ways to present material; we don’t need more cut-and-dry lecture formats. Engage us in video, ask us questions, challenge us to think for ourselves while applying the class information in our answers, and we will likely not disappoint. Lectures are just one way to present material, but with the prevalence that instructors are using this format today, one would think it was the only way to teach.”

Purdue University tests new social media application

Instead of banning mobile wireless devices in the classroom fearing they cause distraction, creators of a new teaching application developed at Purdue University are pilot testing it in the classroom. Hotseat is a social networking tool that allows student/professor collaboration both in and out of the classroom. It takes advantage of the mobile devices that students already bring into the classroom and uses popular social tools such as Facebook, Twitter and text messaging.

“Hotseat is really sort of subversive in a delightful way, taking technologies more often used for things like dating or spontaneous get-togethers, and applying them to learning,” says Gerry McCartney, chief information officer and vice president for information technology. “Just like CNN or ESPN offer additional information at the bottom or sides of the telecast to engage the viewer, we’re using Hotseat to inform and engage the students.”

In developing Hotseat, creators say they adopted a philosophy of “run what you brung.” Students can use the application on their smart phone, netbook, laptop or tablet such as the iPad.

Students involved in the pilot program have expressed overwhelming approval of its innovative technology. One student said, “I like to use Hotseat because then I don’t have to stand in front of a lecture full of 500 students and try and talk to the teacher.” Another student commented that “It gives a chance for everybody to be involved because with a class of 300 not everybody can raise their hand and express their feelings; it’s a way to see everybody’s views on the situation.”

Using Twitter in the classroom

A recent survey by Babson Survey Research Group published in April found that nearly 80 percent of faculty members are using social media in some way in the classroom. Professors have often used YouTube as a teaching tool in the classroom; but Twitter has been slower to catch on. In the same survey, only 2 percent of professors reported using the microblogging site—which limits posts to 140 characters—in class.

An article in US News-Education listed five unique uses of Twitter in the classroom to enhance education:

  1. Creating a personal brand-Bentley University’s Alyssa Hammond created a social media course to help students create a personal brand. In the course students were required to use Twitter to create that brand.
  2. Learning to be concise-Daniel Klinghard of College of the Holy Cross uses Twitter in his political science course to help students summarize major political text without going over the 140 character limit.
  3. Personifying characters-In a literature course at California State University-San Marcos students brought characters from Twilight to life, demonstrating their knowledge of the book’s writing style in their tweets.
  4. Teaching executives about social media-In an extension course for executives, University of California-Los Angeles used Twitter to teach executives how to act and react in real time by implementing social media practices.
  5. Bringing clients to class-Students at DePaul University can get lecture notes on Twitter for their entrepreneurial strategy course. With these lecture notes available to the public, students can connect with the business community and develop relationships.

Bringing social media into the classroom has garnered its fair share of criticism. Some educators believe it distracts students from participating in learning. However, it’s hard to argue with progress and technology and colleges who embrace social media as a learning tool are going to attract tech-savvy students and produce a crop of graduates who are abreast with changing technology.

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