NACTA 2010 Conference Keynote

Posted by reyjunco on May 27, 2010 in Presentations |

Welcome 2010 NACTA participants! I’m excited to serve as the keynote speaker for this year’s conference. I wrote this blog post and have invited you to comment on it because I have a short amount of time to engage with you during my keynote address.

My goals of this blog post are twofold:
  1. To learn about what you’d like for me to discuss during my keynote and to provide a space where you can ask questions. I will respond to your questions about using social media in the classroom via the comments section. If you’d like, we can also continue the conversations in realspace during the social events on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
  2. To provide some background on social media use for educators.
My keynote address will focus on using social media in educationally-relevant ways. While Facebook falls under the category of social media, I will only briefly discuss Facebook during my address because I have grave concerns about Facebook’s disregard of user privacy. While I have conducted research on using Facebook for academic purposes, I believe Facebook’s utility in the academic space is now nearly irrelevant given these issues. My sentiments are congruent with the concerns raised in this blog post and in this follow-up by danah boyd. On May 26, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a simplification of their privacy options, although it will take some time before users can begin to trust Facebook again.

I’ll spend more time talking about another social media site, Twitter. Not only because of the aforementioned concerns with Facebook, but also because my most recent research has been focused on using Twitter in educationally-relevant ways. If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, here is a primer:

If you have never used social media and are willing to give it a try, you may find these 3 tips for new social media users helpful. Additionally, here are answers to frequently asked questions about Twitter. The following video shows one of the ways that a faculty member has used Twitter in the classroom:

This video is from a talk I gave at the end of December 2009 about our longitudinal, experimental study of using Twitter in order to engage students:

I look forward to your comments and questions.

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  • Dr. Rankin's video inspired my question/interest: what is the state of Twitter's use in Distance Education?

  • That's a really good question. I conducted a (not-very-exhaustive) search just now and found no instances I can reference.

    I think that faculty in distance ed. can use Twitter in much of the same ways as we did in our semester-long Twitter experiment. For instance, they can use Twitter to continue class discussions, form and maintain learning groups, and help students enhance their sense of connection to each other and to their instructors.

  • After some (not-very-exhaustive) thought, I see Twitter as a great place to share links to other resources but not so good to carry on conversations. I also think (perhaps incorrectly) that education today needs lots of discussions, and distance education really needs focused discussions because of the limited time and resources available.

    Like you said, I think Twitter could help carry the conversation outside the virtual classrooms of distance education, but I don't think it is the best vehicle for day-to-day, interaction in class sessions.

  • J. Moore

    I have noticed that Twitter and texting have resulted in students wanting very concise information that they can get without too much effort. This has resulted in students not reading e-mails that are more than a paragraph in length (“I always read e-mail on my Blackberry, and that one was too long…”), and this is starting to cause us some problems with students not getting information we think they have. I would love to hear about how we can cope with this… I'm guessing students won't change, so we as faculty need to adapt. This summer our university has tried to e-mail students detailed instructions about how to register for classes (as opposed to telling them at orientation), and it does not appear to be working well (based on the number of incoming students who have not yet done it). Thanks!

  • chris

    Dr. Junco,
    I thought posting my syllabus on-line was “cutting edge” engagement – hah! You can see my level of “engagement” leaves a lot of room for improvement!
    Although I am familiar with social networking, I struggle to determine how this technology can be incorporated into my courses – especially without adding another layer of assessment or adding one more task to my to-do list. What is the proper “professional” balance?

    Perhaps the next question to posit is, “How should I be engaged with students beyond the classroom?” Engagement outside the classroom has traditionally been in the form of face-to-face meetings (e.g. students drop by faculty office) and phone conversations. This has evolved into email, web pages, and course interfaces (WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle, etc.). Most recently we see faculty engaging with students via FaceBook, texting, and Twitter. Should we allow the students to drive the method of engagement, or do faculty set limits on the level of engagement? What is appropriate? Maybe the underling question is, “What is a faculty's preferred method of engagement?”
    Another facet would be, “Will these forms of technology be used in students’ future careers?” If so, then how can we prepare students for using these technologies?

  • Hi Chris,

    These are all great questions! I should say that it's important that you are interested in engaging your students more fully. There are those who don't even post their syllabi online, so that's a great start.

    I think I can address many of your questions with this statement– only do what fits for you. During my keynote, I'll share specific ways that we've used Twitter in the classroom and the effects that has had on student engagement and grades. While my research might make it seem like I'm a tech evangelist, I'm not. I enjoy face-to-face interactions much more, but have learned about the power of using social media to connect with and engage our students. A more engaged student performs much better academically. Additionally, social media allow us to more easily create and maintain learning communities during the time our students are out of our classes.

    The issue of time and balance is certainly relevant as we are continually asked to do more with less. Interestingly, just this morning I had a conversation with a colleague in Australia who dislikes having to assess everything; however, if he doesn't, his students won't do the assignments. This can certainly become the case with social media and is something to watch out for.

    Today's more tech-savvy college students are very comfortable (as you've noted) engaging online. So much so that to them, there's not much cognitive differentiation between “talking” to someone online and in the real world. We also have data to suggest that there is a relationship between online and real-world engagement: http://blog.reyjunco.com/social-media-and-colle

    While I believe it's great if we can “meet students where they are,” doing this through technology isn't for everyone. It's ok to recognize this and accept your limits. Technology, after all, is just a tool– what we choose to do with it is what's important.

  • J.,

    Oh yes, it is incredibly frustrating when students don't read their email, especially when important information (like registration instructions) is emailed to them. I think this move away from email has been coming for some time. Carnevale wrote about it in The Chronicle of Higher Ed in 2006 and I wrote about it in my 2007 book. I have two connected hypotheses as to why this occurs. First, we are flooded with an increasing amount of information on a daily basis. To be honest, I don't like reading emails that are longer than a paragraph in length. I tell my colleagues that if they have something to say to me that warrants a full paragraph or more, that the conversation is more appropriate as a phone call. Second, I believe we are to blame. We gave students university email accounts and then we spammed them with information. It became difficult to filter out the important emails.

    I have seen a number of ways to address email nonresponse:

    1. Some institutions have adopted Google email (GMail), which I think is a great idea. They also allow their students to keep their email addresses even after they graduate, giving students an incentive to use the email during their time there.

    2. A web-based portal is a good alternative to trying to reach students via email. At some institutions, the portal must be accessed by students regularly (to submit course assignments, pay fees, etc.) and messages can be posted on the portal entry page.

    3. Using mobile applications has been another successful method for reaching students. There are companies that provide text messaging and mobile integration for entire institutions. Other institutions/colleges/departments choose to develop mobile applications for iPhones (http://www.utexas.edu/iphoneapp/) or retool their websites to be mobile-friendly (http://m.wvu.edu/about/).

    4. Social media can be used to broadcast updates. If you broadcast program updates on Twitter, students can access them via Twitter directly, by subscribing to the Twitter RSS feed, or by receiving text messages. Other programs have decided to create Facebook pages; although as I've noted in my blog post, I would advise against using Facebook given their disregard for user privacy.

    An important first step in this process is to talk with your students– ask the nonresponders why they aren't responding and ask your students what would be effective ways of reaching them for important academic information.

  • Harry Field

    It has been my experience that the adoption of new technology in the classroom widens the gap between the good students, who like new technology, and the lower achieving students, who resist using it. It seems that as I adopt more technology the glass grade distribution becomes more bimodal. Has this been your experience?

  • Bkelley

    From a researcher's point of view, a couple of questions. Which social media options do you think will remain effective/popular in the next 5 years? in preparing things like grants that have to be submitted far in advance of when the actual work will be done, what's our best bet if we want to include a social media component in the project? And, what is your take on social media use in low income populations? students vs. non-student young adults?

  • There are certainly important differences in how students use technology that we must be sensitive to. I'll present research on the digital divide and digital inequalities and discuss some ways that we can help engage students who aren't as interested/able to participate.

    It is important to remember that while our students may be more tech-savvy than other generations, there are still significant differences between them. I like to say that “there is more within-group variance than between-group variance” in this case. Therefore, when we introduce new technologies in the curriculum, we should also provide enough tutelage on those technologies to make sure all of our students are “on the same page.”

  • I think that the technologies that will continue to be effective and popular will be those that allow users to:

    1) Easily create and share their own content
    2) Democratize roles and relationships
    3) Have strong privacy options
    4) Connect easily with others

    Some of the grants I'm currently writing are focused on the use of Twitter. I've chosen Twitter for these projects because of my previous work with social media, but also because Twitter is still “fresh” for our students. At some institutions, there are fewer students using Twitter than other social media services giving us an opportunity to shape the way we use it for educationally-relevant purposes without seeming obtrusive.

    Some of my research has focused on the digital divide in how people from minority racial/ethnic and lower socioeconomic backgrounds use technologies. We've recently found that use of mobile phones helps bridge the digital divide for some students (http://blog.reyjunco.com/the-digital-divide-in-…). I think that it's important to provide skills education so that everyone is “on the same page” when using technology in the classroom.

  • Jeanbert

    How can one transition on Facebook from communicating with a person as a student to communicating to them as an alumni?

  • Great question! How are you using Facebook to communicate with your students? Knowing that will help me answer how to communicate with them as alumni.

  • Jim Lassoie

    I have been leading a team building an Internet platform connecting classrooms to field practitioners in areas of conservation and sustainable agriculture; e.g., see http://www.agriculturebridge.org. As an R&D project it has been successful attracting financial support so far (USDA & NSF) and preliminary evaluations show its value as a learning system. I'll report on this project during the conference.

    My question concerns how to move this project beyond the R&D phase, which is supported by outside grants and contracts. Of course, the private sector is actively involved in marketing education, but we are dealing with rather specialized subject matter that is likely not going to generate the kind of sale's figures needed for commercialization.

    Thanks for any insights.

    Jim Lassoie

  • LW

    Do you think that social media has changed the way students respond in course evaluations? Does the anonymity of blogging and the sometimes strident postings carry over into classroom assessment?

  • JFalk

    After watching the UT Dallas clip in the posting, I'm more curious now about the logistics of using social media in class sessions.
    Are there more distractions in class when computers are encouraged?
    Should student participation be graded (and required) for students to increase student engagement?
    Does the limit of 140 characters create superficial learning, or a deeper understanding of the content?

  • Jim,

    This looks like a magnificent project! I can't wait to hear more about it and to talk with you about options after the external funding period.

  • Online communications don't necessarily equate to more negative feedback; however, there is enough evidence for me to believe that technology acts as a shield by which users feel comfortable expressing thoughts they may not express in realspace. We've got an article awaiting copyediting that touches on the research in this area. If it's finished in time, I'll bring copies of it to the conference.

  • During my keynote, I'll share the outcomes of my study reported in the other video in this post. I don't want to ruin the surprise before the keynote; but I will say that there does seem to be a positive effect of limiting responses to 140 characters.

    The way Twitter was used in the classroom at UT-Dallas was not how we used it. We wanted to use Twitter to supplement course discussion outside of class time and to build community.

    My students won't do anything unless I grade it, so yes, I would recommend that participation in social media be graded. It certainly increases engagement in both the technology and in the course.

  • Nbrown

    Looking forward to your keynote, Dr. Junco. I have never used twitter, but am not opposed to it. I am hoping you will comment on how to “segregate worlds” when using twitter. You mention that knowing your audience is important. Can you set up one twitter account for use with your students, and a different one with family/friends, etc., then keep them private to those groups?

  • I will comment on this during my keynote. This is certainly a matter of individual preference. For instance, I maintain only one account for each site (although I use privacy settings judiciously).

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