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.
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.