Embrace Social Media for In-Class Success

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Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — every class, instructors go head-to-head with these social media services in a battle for students’ attention. But what if there was a way to make this less of a competition and more of a collaboration? During a recent discussion hosted by the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, three Brittain Fellows from the School of Literature, Media, and Communication discussed thoughts on integrating social media into lesson plans. Below, Mollie Barnes, Jason Ellis, and Marty Fink share their strategies.What Would Whitman Tweet?“@Milton I gotta new rime for you, homeboy. Get on my ship. #MyFreshLiteraryRide” — welcome to Barnes’ spring 2013 English 1102 class. “Teaching Whitman’s Leaves of Grass can be a challenge, because you’re asking students to read a famously long poem and then figure out what it means,” Barnes said. “That’s why I thought Twitter could be helpful.” Barnes was looking for a way to help her students better understand the words of poet Walt Whitman. And using the concept behind Twitter (limited to 140 characters or less) seemed like a good approach. “I asked students to turn each poem they read into a tweet and encouraged them to focus on what it would sound like if they were writing them in Whitman’s voice,” Barnes said.  Although she asked students to write tweets, they weren’t actually posted to Twitter. (Barnes wanted the focus to be on writing the tweets not on making them public to those beyond class. But in the future, she would like to actually use Twitter.) Instead, the class treated a real-time Google Doc as its own faux Twitter.  Writing the Brain — Social Media StyleInstead of simulating Twitter, Ellis’ English 1101 students used the real thing. The project “Writing My Brain for Success at Georgia Tech” provided students with an opportunity to experience written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal (WOVEN) communications. “I designed this assignment because there is a body of evidence that suggests that conscious reflection enforced through writing can cause subtle shifts in a person’s thinking over time,” Ellis said. “We can each write our brains through this practice over time. In this assignment, we are taking this a step further by expanding the project to include other modes of expression.”The goal of the project was to get students to record, reflect on, and revise their academic, professional, and life goals, he added. First students were asked to tweet as many times as possible during a day about their thoughts — especially those related to goals. Next, Storify was used to curate the tweets in a way that allowed students to pull them into a document and write a sentence or two of reflection about each one. This information was then used to create a poster and five-page essay. (For more, see Ellis’ syllabus at“I will assign this project again, because students come away from it with a better understanding of the rhetorical choices at play when selecting a medium for their compositions, and of the changing attitudes toward social media as a serious platform for professional communication,” he added.Autobiography of the Selfie Much like Ellis, Fink’s class assignments aimed to build WOVEN communications skills, but she used comics and Instagram. “This assignment encourages students to think creatively about how digital storytelling functions in contrast to print forms and how social media both constrain and expand possibilities for the sharing of life narratives,” Fink said. The course examined how comics can effectively narrate life events including experiences of dealing with challenges such as homophobia and sexism. So, Fink decided to have the students create their own comics. Each was asked to take 50 photos via Instagram. Then the photos were used to create a handwritten comic, which was then made digital again using a range of media from Twitter to YouTube and audio-sharing platforms.“I was blown away by the ways that the students took the information and translated it,” Fink said. “The impressive range of students’ engagement with digital media, and the creativity they demonstrated in formulating nuanced insights and critiques of the Instagram platform were energizing for me as an instructor.”



  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Amelia Pavlik
  • Created: 12/09/2013
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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