Let me first say that I’m on the various social media sites, and I’ve tried limited experimentation using them this term in my online classrooms.
That said, as a writing instructor, I am conscious of the critique that the use of social media is in some ways hurting our students’ writing and hasn’t quite earned its place in our academic classrooms yet. I’m also a graduate student and adjunct instructor at the University of Cincinnati (@UofCincy) where President Santa Ono (@PrezOno) is an avid user and proponent of social media. Yet, still, I have approached the extensive use of social media in the general writing classroom with some caution.
Until yesterday morning when I listened to President Ono speak on his use of social media at the Creative Mornings Cincinnati lecture, and I left with a new approach to its use in our classes—and I’m kind of on board. Here’s why you should consider it, too (and I’m saving the reason that “turned me” for last.)
- Social media use is writing after all. While we can argue its quality, we can all agree it is writing. It’s a genre for sure, so it deserves some consideration.
- Using social media is a way to engage in a living conversation. “Hey, Johnny Student, did you know that not only is Twitter a way to share pictures from last night’s party, but you can also access current research and arguments from all kinds of fields. Science. Education. Law. You name it. Yeah, there really is a conversation taking place that I want you to join.” It would seem much more exciting to me to engage with living conversations than static texts pulled up from a database. Why not show them that there are actual dialogues happening right now, rather than trying to explain how their papers fit into the abstract context?
- Social media is writing is building community. Here’s where President Ono convinced me. Using social media is writing. And, when we ask our students to write, we’re asking them to join the discussion of a larger community. So, if we think about the role social media writing can play in our students’ membership and cultivation of discourse communities, why aren’t we using it more?
Am I encouraging all of you to go out and create a Twitter handle for your classroom or use it every day? No. Although, there are some instructors in journalism who have successfully tackled this, including Michele Day (@michday) and the Journalism in the Digital Age program at Northern Kentucky University (@nkuedu). But, for the rest of us still on the fence, I would encourage us to be a little more open to the idea of using social media to build community through writing. Is there a downside to expanding digital literacy beyond embarrassing photo posts? If you’ve already started using social media in your writing classrooms, I’d enjoy hearing your results.