Social Media in the Classroom

We recently wrote a story about SDSU faculty using social media in their classes. The response we received from faculty members sharing their experiences was too much to include in that story. So we thought we’d share more here. If you have your own experience you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you …

I teach classes with a wiki. For example, here’s a class on literacy, technology and rhetoric.

In that class, I have the students work with blogs, social networking sites  like NING, and content management systems like drupal and Sakai. We will also experiment with open source software this semester. Students work in groups on the wiki, they can add links and materials (since it’s all
editable) and the wiki sends out email notifications when things are added.

I have also taught writing classes with a wiki. I find it’s a flexible, simple tool that supports collaboration, group work, and furthermore it provides students with some experience of a platform for writing and for coordinating activity that has some relevance for their future lives (for
example a lot of small to medium sized businesses have switched to wikis or other lightweight, open source CMSs to do knowledge management or run intranets or organize documents/info.)

I’m also experimenting with putting our teaching materials for first year writing on a wiki.

Chris Werry uses wikis in his rhetoric and writing courses at SDSU

Chris Werry uses wikis in his rhetoric and writing courses at SDSU

My interest in doing this is partly practical – open up our teaching resources to our own departmental community, to make it easier to show incoming teachers, TAs and other folks on campus what we do (this is usually not possible when the materials are on Blackboard), to share ideas/materials with teachers and with groups outside SDSU that we have relationships with.

It’s a very simple, free, hosted wiki, and some of the things that are nice about it are a) you get wiki coordination and communication functions like email notification when things are added or changed, and b) some of the social media aspects of a platform like Facebook.

I still use Blackboard as a supplement to my teaching – it certainly has its uses, and it’s a powerful, reliable, easily scalable tool that is particularly useful for big classes. But for smaller, seminar style classes, and to support classes with a lot of writing and interaction, I think CMSs that draw on social media are particularly useful.

I hope that over time simple hosted wikis like this can help build “CMS literacy”, show there are alternatives, and provide training wheels for later adoption of more sophisticated open source CMSs such as Sakai, Moodle, Social Media Classroom (recently developed by Howard Rheingold), drupal, etc.  That is the direction I’d like to see more classes go at SDSU (and elsewhere) since I think there are a lot of good reasons – in terms of pedagogy, sharing resources, making online teaching spaces more useful and relevant to students, etc.

I see social media being adapted in key areas of academic life – publishing, teaching, disciplinary organization and action – and I think it has a lot of potential, but it’s all still very uneven and fragmented, and particularly in the humanities, there needs to be far more coordination, and institutional/disciplinary support.

~ Chris Werry, Associate Professor, Rhetoric and Writing Studies


Filed under New Media

6 responses to “Social Media in the Classroom

  1. Great article and I agree that an ongoing challenge at SDSU is the diversity of technology capabilities and preferences — not only among faculty, as Bey-Ling Sha pointed out, but also among students. We do have many innovators among faculty who have bumped up against the pedagogical and technical limitations of Blackboard. Those limitations make Bb a safe, consistent experience for faculty and students who might be hesitant to adopt other online technologies for teaching and learning – hence my quote in the article about Blackboard as a desirable starting point.

    But I do want to emphasize that there are great reasons – many nicely articulated by Chris Werry in this supplement – for using freely available web-based tools such as wikis, blogs, Google apps, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Issues associated with these include information security and privacy, accessibility, and support for students learning and using these tools –

    ITS instructional technology consultants are available to all instructors who would like to expand their use of Blackboard AND/OR social media / web 2.0 tools in pedagogically sound ways. The new FIT Center ( is the hub for this kind of support, and we encourage interested SDSU instructors to drop by!

  2. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Social Media in the Classroom « San Diego State University [] on

  3. This semester, I created a new FaceBook “PAGE” for my two courses (GEOG104 and GEOG381). It is optional for students to become a “fan” of this page on FaceBook. That way, they can separate their own “Facebook” website and the Classroom Page. I am still trying to explore these possibility of utilizing social media for teaching.


  4. The student who tweeted that comment during lecture actually responded to my tweet later on and apologized. She even used class concepts in her apology (that I shouldn’t use global attributions–assuming the stable and consistent personality trait of rudeness–to her behavior). The feedback was nice, as I got the impression that she understood the necessity of considering her audience in her use of social media.

  5. We have a thriving community of instructors exploring new media for learning. For an overview of some of the types of uses our faculty have been exploring since 2005 go to the pICT Faculty Fellows page on our website.

  6. blockgreg

    Really interesting concept here about Crowdsourcing Grades, from a professor at Duke University

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