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Transcript of USA Today Chat on social media, multitasking, and learning

Posted by reyjunco on October 25, 2010 in Survey Design |

The following is a transcript of an online chat I conducted on Friday October 15, 2010 with USA Today about how social media and multitasking affect student learning.

USA TODAY:

Hello, everyone! We are really happy to have Rey Junco with us today as our moderator. Rey teaches at Lock Haven U and has done a lot of research on how using social media affects student engagement and success. We’re open to any questions you may have on the topic.

Rey, could you give us a bit of overview on your research on social media?

Rey Junco:

Hi there everyone. Thanks for joining our online roundtable on multitasking. Generally, I conduct research on how emerging technologies impact student psychosocial development and academic success. Lately, I’ve focused on how engagement through social media impacts engagement in the real world.

Rey Junco:

You can read more about my research here: http://blog.reyjunco.com/about

Rey Junco:

And download publications here: http://blog.reyjunco.com/publications

Rey Junco:

Hello everyone. Thanks for joining today’s online roundtable discussion of the academic effects of multitasking. Please introduce yourselves.

[Comment From Katie Pesha]

Hi Dr. Junco – What social media tools have you found to be the most successful when encouraging student engagement?

Rey Junco:

I’m Rey Junco, an Associate Professor at Lock Haven University and I conduct research on the effects of social media/emerging technologies on college students.

Rey Junco:

Katie, great question. First, social media have allowed us to move beyond a static Internet to a more social and interactive ones. The technologies are designed to engage online users. Whereas we used to “surf” – read, shop, view… we now engage and connect by creating, sharing, and commenting.

Rey Junco:

So, social media are great technologies to help us with our goals of engaging students.

Rey Junco:

I have done a lot of work with Twitter and have research evidence to show that when used in appropriate ways, we can increase student real-world engagement and academic success by encouraging them to use Twitter.

USA TODAY:

What specifically do you use in your classes?

Rey Junco:

You may be expecting something revolutionary, but I use face-to-face engagement in my classes.

Rey Junco:

While I’m a techie and conduct research on social media and engagement, my ultimate goal is to improve real-world engagement.

[Comment From John Kaminski]

Do you find that students would normally be using twitter? It seems to be for more of an “older” crowd. I use that term loosely!

Rey Junco:

So my personal classroom “tech” is this – get to know my students, check in with them regularly, call on them in class, be empathic and responsive to their needs, and generally challenge and support them.

Rey Junco:

John, good question. It truly depends on the university. Twitter is more popular at some schools than at others. The university where we conducted our Twitter research was great because not many students were on Twitter.

[Comment From Gisela Lukacs]

Are you literally using these media to connect with them yourself, or getting them to connect with each other?

Rey Junco:

Gisela – good question. The answer is both. I use newer media to encourage students to connect with me and with each other. I think there is great power in building learning communities with students that transfer from online to offline.

USA TODAY:

We’ve had some articles lately about professors using texting to get more, shall we say, reserved students involved in asking questions. Does this help students get into the discussions?

Rey Junco:

Absolutely! The first observation that drew me to this line of research was 10 years ago when I started teaching first year students, I placed my IM screen name on my syllabus as a way to get in touch with me. I found that introverted students who IM’d me were then more likely to be engaged and participate in class.

USA TODAY:

Since you have looked at how multitasking affects academic performance, what are your conclusions?

Rey Junco:

The summary of my work on multitasking is this– in today’s society, we are bombarded by streams of information. Some multitasking is appropriate, even justified given the situation. However, for a high-risk event (like driving a car) or a high-stakes event (like learning) multitasking is a bad idea.

USA TODAY:

This question was sent to me yesterday via e-mail: Everybody does lots of things at one time nowadays – why is this such an issue in class?

Rey Junco:

More specifically, it’s almost impossible to learn new material while multitasking. And students know this. You can read about it in my recent paper on academic effects of multitasking available here: http://blog.reyjunco.com/multitasking-has-negative-effect-on-student-academic-work

USA TODAY:

Do you have any quick tips on making sure your class-work doesn’t suffer if you really NEED to use social media at some time in class?

Rey Junco:

The reason it is such an issue in class is because of what I said earlier– if you are trying to learn new material, it will be impossible if you are multitasking.

Rey Junco:

I’m a psychologist… humans have very few NEEDS. If you feel like you must multitask while in class, ask yourself why bother going to class?

USA TODAY:

Have you specifically been able to measure how social media use affects grades?

USA TODAY:

Good point on that other question! Since the goal is to learn (and graduate!), it should be the first priority.

Rey Junco:

Actually, yes. I have some data on how social media use affects grades coming out in a paper really soon in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. Let’s just say, the results were surprising. Up until this point, there have only been studies correlating social media use with grades. Our study was a controlled experiment which allowed us to make cause-and-effect inferences. I’ll post it on my blog as soon as I’m able.

[Comment From John Kaminski]

So for those of us techies that are interested, how do you propose we integrate this type of social media into our classroom?

Rey Junco:

John, start slow. Use only one thing first. Don’t go right in and use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and del.icio.us all at once. Make sure you are clear with your students about your expectations for social media use and how you will evaluate their participation. You should also consider privacy and personal comfort issues in social media use and have a discussion with your students about it.

USA TODAY:

This question came from Deaney Kirk: I have been surprised to see how resistant students are to some technologies, in particular to using Twitter (although this semester I had same issue with LinkedIn). I have done assignments several times around Twitter but most of the students don’t get it and as soon as the assignment is over, never tweet again. Have you seen this yourself? Any suggestions on what I should be doing to overcome this resistance? Thanks.

Rey Junco:

Thanks Delaney. The most important way to create buy-in is to show students why Twitter can be helpful to them. Show them the value of it and they’ll be more interested in participating. For example, you can show them how they can follow researchers in their field, or weekly professional chats, or how they can follow the backchannel at conferences.

USA TODAY:

Another question via e-mail: How do social media programs in schools help young adults connect online in more than a social way? Are there ‘higher purpose’ benefits, like increased social consciousness through the sharing of discussion on socially relevant and important topics?

Rey Junco:

Absolutely! Not only is there research to support that connecting online is related to social capital, there are frequent conversations about socially relevant topics. Some recent ones I can think of are how to move education forward in a time of diminishing resources, conversations about ethical farming in developing nations, and civil rights for LGBT individuals.

USA TODAY:

From Donna F: It’s amazing how fellow students spend a huge amount of time tweeting, texting, Facebook/MySpace-ing, and more. How do you make ‘in the classroom’ social media any different?

Rey Junco:

Donna: It’s important to consider context. I would never ask students to live tweet in my classroom of 30-50. I can accomplish the same by engaging with them face-to-face. However, when you have classroom sizes in the 100’s, using social media for real-time feedback (i.e., checking in) can be really helpful. Not only does it help the instructor “put their finger on the pulse” of what students are learning, but it helps introverted (and reticent) students communicate in ways they probably wouldn’t in those classes.

USA TODAY:

I’ve seen an article about a campus that “forbids” students to text, etc. in class. What’s your take on that?

Rey Junco:

My take? That’s ridiculous. It was a great PR ploy though. It really put them on the map.

USA TODAY:

LOL

Rey Junco:

:)

USA TODAY:

I’d like to go back to Gisela’s earlier question. How and why are you having students connect with each other?

Rey Junco:

Ah, great question. This all goes back to the theory (and related research) on student engagement. To summarize: an engaged student is more successful than an unengaged one. Students who are more engaged are more likely to graduate college. They also exhibit increases in critical thinking skills, maturity, self-esteem, and other factors that we consider “desirable outcomes of a college education.”

Rey Junco:

Connecting with each other also helps students transition when they are new to the college experience. Building a sense of community is extremely important for student success.

USA TODAY:

We have just a few more minutes, so I’ll ask for last questions from our audience.

[Comment From Shannon Sesterhenn]

In your opinion what is one of the leading problems we face in higher education and how can using social media resolve that problem or issue? Specifically in the classroom, not necessarily in a social networking capacity.

[Comment From Katie Pesha]

The Chronicle recently had an article entitled “WIll Technology Kill the Academic Calendar?” Do you feel there is a threat that too much emerging technology will threaten the bricks and mortar of a campus and diminish valuable face-to-face interaction?

Rey Junco:

Great question Shannon. Of course, I’m biased because of the research that I do. I think that student academic engagement is a serious problem. I hear faculty members complain about how “students today aren’t (fill in the blank) like we used to be.” The reality is that this is a shared problem. Our faculty need to come up with better ways of engaging students and stimulating a love for learning. Social media can help us do that. The old model of the professor sitting at the front of the class “professing” doesn’t work anymore. We need to encourage active and participatory learning. This isn’t a shift that’s occurred because of a new generation of students– it’s a new generation of us– society has been shifting towards a more participatory culture for some time.

Rey Junco:

Katie, I don’t think so. There’s only so much you can learn through technology. My own philosophy is that social media is good tool to encourage engagement, but the real “fun” happens through face-to-face interactions. It’s all about translating what’s happening online to fuller and richer real-world experiences.

[Comment From Sarah]

How do you see the increasing integration of iPads influencing education?

Rey Junco:

Sarah, so far, I haven’t seen much integration of iPads in education. I know there is a lot of excitement about using them from some educators and have read a few news stories about just that. I think it’s very important that whenever we integrate something new (not just technology) into our teaching, that we evaluate its effects.

USA TODAY:

Unfortunately, we’ve run out of time! Thank you, Rey. It’s been a pleasure talking with you, and we look forward to reading more of your research results. We all love discussions like this about education and making the most of the college years.

Thanks to all of you for participating today. We’ll be doing this again, so keep an eye out for the next Roundtable e-news. The transcript of today’s chat will be on USA TODAY College next Monday so you can share.

Rey Junco:

Thanks for participating, everyone. Please feel free to drop me a line if you have further questions.


  • Jenn123

    I found this interview very interesting. As an educator, what is an example of a project you designed around social media that the students enjoyed completing?

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