Some of the most interesting and beneficial college courses that I have instructed or have taken, included some form of interactive discussion using social media. If fact, many colleges and universities host a campus web service providing classroom discussion forums and student chat rooms. I believe this is an effective instructional tool but it is also limited. If classroom discussion was available on social media platforms, curriculum topics could include global perspectives and experiences. Yes, some course material is more sensitive and should be held within the course web service, but other topics could simply contribute greater social benefit and a more robust learning experience.
For example, I often invite guest speakers to visit my course and interact with my students. Not only do my students gain from the guest speaker’s contributions, but through their interaction and discussion, the guest speaker benefits as well. Many times I have been told that the college student perspective has led to a change or update in the guest speaker’s profession. For instance, during one of my law and ethics courses, our guest speaker who is a State Senator said that their engagement with my students was a good opportunity to interact with their local constituents and had gained from my student’s opinions, experiences, and perspectives about legislative issues. In fact, the Senator was also inspired to try a new direction with a campaign strategy.
This got me thinking, if interaction between my guest speakers and my students was so beneficial for all involved, how could I promote these benefits on a larger scale? How could I encourage a more effective partnership between my students and other resources outside of academia? What I have begun to practice and what I recommend other faculty to investigate is the use of Social Curriculum. Social Curriculum is a web-based interactive learning environment used for course assignments. Twitter and blogging are two specific Social Curriculum tools that stimulate interactive discussion, build professional networks, and prepare our students as responsible digital citizens. One instructional tool that faculty can use includes a Twitter hashtab for a Tweetchat. This application is free and provides a forum for real-time conversation that can connect guest speaker(s) to students. It provides a forum for interactive, current, and ongoing discussions.
Another example of Social Curriculum includes the use of Blogging. This social forum provides students an outlet to creatively express their responses to course topics either on their own blog website or on a course blog website. This helps to engage student interest while making connections between course content and practical application. It also allows students to gain from other professionals and scholars in their discipline. In the very least, regardless of the course subject, faculty will be encouraging responsible social business skills. As we develop Social Curriculum, faculty are preparing students to be responsible digital citizens in a social media culture.