The following, entitled "Social Media In Higher Education," is my Proposal for the HASTAC 2015 Conference:
This paper will discuss the importance of collaboration and active participation in reshaping higher education from the perspective of an undergraduate student. As a student, this semester I am involved in a FemTheory DOCC, a Digital Writing course, and an internship with the Digital Humanities Department at Richard Stockton College. These experiences have given me a unique perspective on the use of social media for Academia, specifically higher education.
While many professors and teachers have viewed social media sites as a distraction to students’ education, I believe there is much untapped potential to use these sites for educational purposes. Both Twitter and Facebook are sites that most students are engaged in already. This makes it convenient for a student to get involved beyond the classroom on his/her own time. It’s a place where a student can go beyond “doing the work” and can connect with the material. I have personally experienced the empowerment of participation and collaboration as I’ve begun to build a network of peer review through Twitter and Facebook. I have begun to share what I am learning online and participate with others who are involved in my areas of study.
I am participating in a Feminist Theory node of the FemTechNet DOCC. This means I am participating in the Facebook FemTheory DOCC group along with two other similar Feminist Theory classes from The College of New Jersey and West Virginia University. The experience has been eye opening for me. On the simplest level, it is empowering for a student to not only consume the knowledge from a course but to have an outlet to participate. I've found myself eager to share articles, opinions, and to seek feedback from my classmates. Being a part of this DOCC has taught me that participation empowers me in a way that greatly enhances my education. It has pushed me to go beyond the minimum to get a grade. Participation has been the connecting piece between the classroom and my life. I’m constantly connected to my social media, and through participation in this Facebook group I am constantly connecting to the material, researching further, and teaching others.
For my Digital Writing course, I have been using Twitter to build an audience for a blog I’m in the process of creating for my final project. We were also involved in a condensed game of Twitter Vs. Zombies which turned out to be an incredible learning experience. Through participation in the game I created connections that now extend outside of the classroom through Twitter. We worked together to “survive” throughout the game, using specific hashtags while tweeting and retweeting each other. We needed others to tweet for us once “bitten” to remain in the game as a human. This taught me about collaboration, and working together to accomplish a goal. We also had challenges added into the game that involved sharing material regarding Feminism. I shared articles, pictures, and reasons why I need Feminism, and learned so much from my peers who shared the same. What’s truly revealing about this game is that it all took place outside of the classroom. As I went about my day I was able to instantly interact with others within an academic network, learning from and sharing with them.
Social media has empowered me to become involved in the my own educational process-to challenge myself beyond the assignments; it has given me the platform to get engaged, to find peer review, and to share what I am learning. It has shown me the importance of participating in my own educational process. However, the experiences that I’ve had this semester have been the exception in my education.
If the goal of higher education is to create productive members of society, then it’s important for students to actively participate in their education rather than only consuming; this participation and peer-review system is already in place for young people through digital media. Use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook in my classes would enhance my education by tapping into this environment of participation. It would help me to connect the material into my life outside of the classroom, beyond the grade I will receive. It would help me to create a network of mentorship outside of the classroom and even beyond the semester. The majority of my experience as a higher education student has not included use of social media as a class requirement or option. As a 21st century higher education student the use of social media, to enhance the material and to encourage participation and collaboration in my classes, should not be a rare occurrence, but a staple in my education.