How to make use social media in class

In a recent conversation with a college professor, I ventured to ask whether he has students turn off their cell phones and close their laptops in class. He said unapologetically YES. I told him of my work in social media, and I invited him to share more about his concerns with personal technology in the classroom. He voiced a fairly common concern: he wanted the students’ full attention and personal technologies would divide their attention and take away from that. (but, so does daydreaming or doodling or dozing off, ahem)

Granted, that is certainly possible. It’s within the realm of possibility that using technology in class could be a distraction. It’s also possible that students could pay more attention and more engaged in class when they use personal technology. One research study showed that students who used Twitter for class discussions and assignments increased their engagement more than twice as much as a non-Twittering control group. Plus, they achieved on average a 0.5 point increase in their overall GPA.

I offered 2 examples of where I’ve personally seen how technology does increase attention and participation from the students and/or audience.

1. Text in comments and questions during a lecture/ presentation. In a workshop (aka seminar) setting, on several occasions, I’ve setup a (free) Google Voice, and posted that phone number in the footer of my presentation slides (be it Powerpoint or Keynote). I invite the audience to text in their questions and comments any time, whether during my presentation, or while someone else is asking a question or commenting out loud.

One thing that hinders interaction during a class session is that only one person can talk at a time. If a student/participant has a question while someone else is talking, s/he has to hold that question until they’re finished talking. Holding onto that question draws their attention away from the person talking, and there’s a good chance the person could forget their question.

When I ask an audience to raise their hand if they have a cell phone, every hand goes up. Almost everyone has a cell phone these days. Right?

Results? Some groups text in more than others. The audience pays more attention because now they have another way to engage and interact with the presentation.

During my presentation, I check my cell phone periodically, and at what I deem to be an appropriate time, I can read the text out loud, answering a question or using a comment to reinforce a point. Occasionally a question can serve as a segue to the next point — that’d be a spontaneous bonus.

One catch: this won’t work if there’s no cell phone signal. That’s already happened to me once. Ahem (at&t)

2. Provide a transcript. I took an online course as an alumni of Dallas Theological Seminary, where I paced myself through watching a series of online lectures. What made this course so much more engaging was that it provided the lecture transcript! Wow! That freed me from scrambling to trying to take notes and falling behind. I could listen to the lecture and read the notes! Learn the content with double reinforcement. And, people can read faster than they can listen (on average, twice as fast). But words alone is only a part of the total message that can be communicated; tone of voice and body language can add to the message communication and that comes through audibly and through video. Aside: One often-quoted study cites, “communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% content of the words you use.” But this study was only in cases of expressing feelings and attitudes. This statistic should not be used to assess all communications in general.

One more thing.

Provide real-time notes and supporting materials on an limited-access website. While in a classroom and after a classroom, invite people to open their laptop (or tablet PC or smartphone) and go to a class website. And have the network setup so that is the only place they can go. Then, Professors / teachers can rest assured that students aren’t browsing the web, checking email, or Twittering or Facebooking. Consider this a live annotated bibliography meets real-time footnotes.

The IT administrator department would simply setup the wireless network to be allowed to access the websites specified by the teacher/ professor. Each classroom can have a separate wireless router, so each wifi network can be individually configured. To make it quicker to configure, a web-based admin website can be used by the presenter to setup what can be accessible.

That’s not hard to implement, right? Know anyone already doing this? I’d love to hear about it! Please add a comment.

[photo credit: flickerbulb]

You may also like...