I've recently talked with a lot of faculty members who are curious about small ways they might begin using social media in their classes. Usually the desire to integrate social media is coupled with a few key concerns: time constraints and the gimmicky factor.
I completely resonate with both wanting to make sure a class is a true learning environment as well as the need to not add another task on top of all that faculty are doing. That being said, I have found social media to be extremely helpful in facilitating learning...and it is fairly easy to integrate.
Since sharing is caring, I thought I'd share a few low-hanging fruit options that faculty could use in fall classes to test out social media.
1. Hastags: The first place I would start is by having a class hashtag. It's a simple tool that will let students categorize any tweet related to the class. I typically put the class hashtag on the first page of my syllabi (by office hours, course title, etc.).
Simply having a hashtag, however, isn't enough to make it useful. You should use it as the professor. Consider providing resources using the hashtag. If you show a video clip, link to it with the hashtag later on. If there is a helpful article, send it out. Lead the conversation.
Ideally, your students will begin to contribute as well. Some ways you can "encourage" this is to have attendance be a tweet by students that shares a resource and uses the hashtag. You could also share study tips on twitter to help students prepare for exams.
What I found especially helpful with hashtags is that it creates a learning community. No longer am I the sole source of information...students help each other. Questions are asked and answered by peers. As a bonus, there isn't a semester that has gone by where I haven't learned from my students. There is so much out there...when you encourage students to contribute in active ways to the learning and content of a course, it's a win/win.
2. Class Lists: Some faculty have used lists on Twitter to help organize class content. This makes it so it is easy to see who is in a class. It also is an added benefit for a professor as you scroll through all the activity happening within a class. One benefit I particularly enjoy about lists is the ability for all the students to "subscribe" to it without having to follow each other. A key consideration (and a topic for another post) is privacy and student boundaries on social media. A list is a very low-risk way to engage a community of twitter followers.
3. Live-Tweet: One final way that I've enjoyed using twitter is by having live-tweeting during my lectures. To be fair, I'm not technically tweeting live while I present. That would be a bit too hard for me. But I have it set up before hand to go out in conjunction with class content.
Overall, my goal is to make learning a life-style, not a time-frame. It's not something that starts when students come into a class and ends when they walk back out that door. I want them to be curious and pursue knowledge throughout their entire career. By integrating content and conversations into a more holistic approach, I hope my students see education as a more robust part of their lives.