The Academic Affairs Committee at AUBG presented the first lecture of the Teacher’s Talk series on Monday, March 26, 2013. The topic of the lecture was “Social Media in the Classroom – Mission (Im)Possible?” Three AUBG professors and a student shared their experience with using social media in the classrooms.
The first to talk was Filitsa Mullen, Assistant Professor in the Arts, Language, and Literature Department. She shared her experience in using Facebook for her Chaucer literature class, “to communicate more freely” with her students. Her goal was to involve them and “to show them interesting things (music, videos)” that cannot be shown in the classroom. Moreover, through the page she tried to connect her students with other scholars in Medieval Literature.
“Not many students joined,” Mullen said. She added that the small number that actually did, were friends with her on the social media. Maria Draganova, a third-year student who was part of Prof. Mullen’s class said that “the group died out cause people did not join or post anything.” The girl said that social media should be used as a “more engaging and more stimulating” space. Draganova also suggested each department to have its own Facebook page, where information can be published.
The second speaker was Mark Leonard, Assistant Professor in Economics. He talked about how he incorporates Twitter and other social channels in his classes. His experience with Twitter dates back to 2008, when he was teaching in Nebraska. “I have been using it [Twitter] as a one-side communication,” the professor said.
He explained that he has been posting news stories for his students. “When I see something that fits the course, I would tweet the source with a hash-tag,” he said. If the students search for the particular hash-tag, they would find the articles even without following the professor on the media. He added that he likes Twitter because “it requires short posts.” Another social channel that Prof. Leonard recently started using is Delicious, “as a mean to collect website links that I can easily transmit to my students.”
Nicholas Spina, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political and European Studies, was the last to share “what worked and did not work” in his usage of Twitter in the Fall 2011, during the time of “the Republican primary presidential elections”. He posted three to five articles on the elections for the students to read. “I posted articles that were interesting: funny or ironic, or unusual,” the professor said. “I found that students were relatively oblivious to the Republican primary. They did not know who is running, how it works, what candidate it stood for.” He found it to be a good way to make them follow politics.“I think students appreciated not only the discussion of the real events but also a teacher who knew about Twitter,” Spina said.
The thing that did not work for him was that he was not sure if the students were reading the articles: “I did not go as far to quiz them.” Moreover, he added that their discussions were not connected with the elections and the posted articles were not relevant at the time. “[..] And when you think about it, you face a lot of competition from other activities,” prof. Spina said. “You cannot compete with entertainment.” The professor shared that he thinks “Twitter is redundant and Facebook offers a lot more options.” Furhtermore, he said that this type of interactive teaching will not work for lower classes, only for upper level ones because of the amount of information presented.
After the speakers were done with their speeches, they engaged into an open discussion with their colleagues and students. They further elaborated on the impact of communication through social media on the students. Other subjects of debate were dotlrn’s efficiency and the focus of attention of students while they are using social media. Sabina Wien, Professor in Bulgarian Language, said that a Facebook page on the same topic might be established in the next months, where the issue can be discussed further.