Teachers have been too slow to incorporate social media -- which can be an attention-grabbing and effective teaching method -- into their courses, according to research by an assistant professor of journalism and media arts at Baylor University.
Adding social media to lectures, textbooks and traditional discussion groups not only prepares students for current and future communication trends, but it gives those who are too shy to talk in front of their classmates an opportunity to open up via the Web, said Dr. Mia Moody in the current issue of Journal of Magazine & New Media Research.
The international peer-reviewed electronic journal is published twice a year by the Magazine Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Using social media in the classroom can foster critical thinking by allowing students to "create, swap and manipulate information on many levels and in real time," Moody said in her article Teaching Twitter and Beyond: Tips for Incorporating Social Media into Traditional Courses.
By creating a Facebook group for courses and inviting students to post articles and information, teachers can encourage dialogue through a medium students often use for many hours a day. Instructors can use social media to encourage critical discussions on such topics as media stereotypes, Moody said.
"One exercise, for example, might encourage students to discuss the prevalence of hate groups in social media or compare and contrast the goals and objectives of race-related groups on Facebook," she said.
Social media also can provide quick, easy access to instructors outside the classroom, Moody said.
"Instructors can chat with students who have questions about a project and need a few minutes of their time versus stopping by for an in-depth office visit," Moody wrote. "This works particularly well with students who have a disability or those who have internships or jobs."
Another benefit of the social media is to invite feedback from people who are not enrolled in the classes. Discussion with diverse groups encourages students to question media portrayals and become aware of their own biases, Moody wrote. That can be especially helpful for students planning careers as reporters, magazine writers or public relations professionals, she said.
Instructors of media culture studies could assign students to blog about issues and current events related to race, gender, religion and politics. Tackling such topics, many of them controversial, enables students to practice critical thinking and develop writing skills.
In the article, Moody offers several tips for teachers, including assigning students to create PowerPoint videos to display key points from their stories or to create short video clips using Skype or Flip cameras as an easy, inexpensive way to record interviews.
Moody is the author of Black and Mainstream Press' Framing of Racial Profiling: A Historical Perspective.