Utilizing Social Media in the Classroom Part 2 - a Q&A with Paige Jarreau

October 24, 2016

Science Communication Specialist for LSU College of Science Dr. Paige Jarreau helps students and faculty utilize social media tactics to bring new opportunities to the classroom.

I caught up with Paige to hear about those innovative tactics. In part two of this two-part Q&A (read part one here), she explains how she interacts with students on social media and provides notes for faculty to think about to optimize student learning.

LSU CxC: How often do you encourage your students to use social media in the classroom and for class purposes?

Paige Jarreau: As a postdoc teaching science communication and social media, I often had my students using social media, both inside and outside of the classroom. I had my students live-tweet [use Twitter to talk about in real-time] guest lectures and class discussions. My students posted their assignments to either a class blog or to their own individual blogs they created for class. I also had students peer-edit each other’s blog posts before publishing them, so that there were fewer typos and other mistakes in the published posts.

"Through social media, students – especially graduate students – can establish themselves as experts in their fields of study."

Social media use in and outside the classroom can be very empowering for students. Students are ALREADY using social media to chat with their friends, to get their news, and to network, so why not help them learn to use social media platforms more effectively and professionally in a classroom setting? I had multiple students get internships after taking my strategic social media and science communication classes because employers saw them tweeting about science or strategic communication strategies. Through social media, students – especially graduate students – can establish themselves as experts in their fields of study.

When I started using social media in the classroom, I found that students who were normally quiet in class would engage with me on Twitter through mentions and direct messages. And the students learned more from one another, having a means of communicating with each other easily outside of the classroom. We had a unique class hashtag they could use to find each other on Twitter.

LSU CxC: What are some important considerations for using social media in the classroom?

As empowering as social media use can be for students, there are some issues faculty should be aware of before using this technology to supplement classroom learning. First of all, students are not the “digital natives” they are often assumed to be. They don’t automatically know how to use social media professionally, or how to find and/or recognize reliable information on the social web. As faculty we must introduce students to professional uses of social media and give them instructions on how to use social media ethically and with respect for their professors and fellow classmates.

Also, we can’t forget that effective multi-tasking is essentially “not a thing.” While I had my students live-tweet some lectures, I also gave them the option of taking notes and sending the tweets out right after the lecture, or I provided the lecture presentation slides so they didn’t have to worry so much about taking notes. I also used live-tweeting more strategically, for example during designated discussion times in class, instead of having students live-tweet during the entire class period.

LSU CxC: What benefits do you think the students get out of using social media in class?

PJ: There are many benefits students can get from learning about and using social media in the classroom or as a supplement to classroom learning. Perhaps most importantly, students learn how to use social media for specific and often strategic goals (like sharing knowledge, finding particular resources, locating and communicating with classmates online, etc.) They learn how to network and find conversations to engage in that aren’t just “noise” but are useful, intellectually stimulating and that might even earn them a job upon graduation.

"By putting those 'digital distractions’ to work for course content, you can actually co-opt those distractions to be engaging and interactive learning experiences."

Some faculty find that unless they ban smartphones in their classrooms, students are often ALREADY using social media during lectures, but to browse Facebook, do their online shopping, and who knows what else. By putting those “digital distractions” to work for course content, you can actually co-opt those distractions to be engaging and interactive learning experiences.

LSU CxC: What benefits do you gain from your students participating in social media in the classroom and during the semester?

PJ: As a faculty member, it’s often very useful to see your students’ “notes” in real-time, which is essentially what you get when they live-tweet or blog a summary of a lecture. For me, it helped me get a better tab on student learning in between tests or formal writing assignments. If a student tweeted out something during lecture that was not scientifically accurate, or wrote a blog post about a paper they had to read for class that didn’t quite reflect what they should have taken away from the paper, I would tweet to them after class or comment on their blog to say (respectfully) “actually, what I meant was…” and promote learning through instances of misunderstanding or miscommunication.