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Benefits Of Using Social Media in the College Classroom

Added: Wednesday, January 18th 2012 at 11:08am by robburton
Category: Education


For the past five years, I have used Blogster as the primary medium for students in my Literature courses at California State University, Chico, to fulfill their writing requirement.  Every week, they’re responsible for composing articles on topics related to the works of literature we are discussing in class. Typically, these are works of fiction and non-fiction from different corners of the world. (Titles for the upcoming Spring Semester 2012 originate from places such as South Africa, Japan, Pakistan, India, and of course the U.S.).  My purpose is to allow students the opportunity to share their thoughts about world literature with the world by using Web 2.00 tools. Frequently, the world writes back, which makes the whole experience even more exciting (and “real”).






Here is my list of 3 reasons why I believe social media (blogs in particular) serve a useful purpose in the college classroom.

1) Students are encouraged to develop an authentic style or “voice.”    Let’s face it, most—if not all—students in today’s college classroom grew up with Web 2.00 tools. They learned to communicate through these tools (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, YouTube). They learned about the world through these tools (Wikipedia, PowerPoint). The tools have seeped into their identity; indeed, have shaped the core of their identity. So it would seem natural that they be encouraged to use these tools as a means of self-expression in an English class. In fact, it could be argued that teaching students how to blog effectively and skillfully serves as a crucial antidote to the sloppy, mindless forms of communication that Web 2.00 tools can sometimes encourage and foster. (Think text-messaging).   

2) Students write to a world audience.  I constantly implore my students to keep in mind that they are no longer writing to a single person (a tweed-jacketed professor) but to possible readers in Sydney, Singapore, or Stockton. This now means that they must have something interesting to say and must be able to say it in an interesting way.  Otherwise, they won’t have an audience.  True, I am still the ultimate arbiter (with or without a tweed jacket), but when I grade, I do so with a view to how well the student creates a compelling voice for a wide audience (rather than writing as if it were simply a tedious class assignment).  

3) Students can now enjoy using a visual and verbal medium.  Research shows that some students are visual learners while others excel at verbal skills.  In “the old days” (15 years ago, say), student writing was one-dimensional. The so-called Term Paper often consisted of a Thesis Statement followed by expository development of this key central idea. I am not criticizing this highly disciplined form of writing. In fact, I cut my professional teeth on its rigorous protocol. However, I am thankful that today’s college students have more freedom to experiment with visual images (from digital photographs to videos) in combination with good writing.  Nothing replaces good writing, of course, especially in an English class. But, for an increasing number of students, having visual accompaniments can enhance the quality of their work and help to create a unique literary voice.



Notice that I am not highlighting the disadvantages or dangers of Web 2.00 tools here. Yes, they are real and I am aware of them. Here are the ones at the top of my list: piracy, plagiarism, and paucity of thought.  But any tool (from the automobile to the cell phone) has its limitations. And so, for now, I’m going to emphasize the benefits and advantages of using social media in the college classroom.

May the blogging Muse be with you!





User Comments

I love reading your students and I've even made "friends" with a few of them...and I so agree with your reasoning, blogging is an excellent academic tool and reaching students on a level they are comfortable only makes sense.

Thanks for sharing your students with us Rob!

Thanks!  I appreciate the way you have interacted with my students in the past.


I have found that very few interact with their 'world audience'--at least at blogster even though many of us had tried--it seems more of an 'assignment', something they MUST do, instead of enjoying/learning from their audience! :O)

I now just read them and don't comment. LOL

Of course not all students participate as vigorously in the blogging experience as I would like.  But most do, actually.     

Not from what I have experienced :O)

As a Ph.D professor and author of many books in the field of business, management, and human resources, I also at first thought it would be interesting to correspond from Kentucky to Chico St. But alas, I was told this was forbidden territory... Too bad - for them.....

"Forbidden territory"?  I don't quite understand......

People of blogster have been told not to condusct them selves as they would with other bloggers. People have been told not to argue with your students. People have been censored when dealing with your students.  People are afraid to communicate with them.

Wow.  Heady stuff..... Sounds like a veritable melodrama.

Yes it is.  Special rules for special bloggers.  You can read it here :



Yes, I agree.  Thanks for the comment.

Being a student myself I have to admit that I am dissappointed that bloggers are asked not to argue with us and might be censored in responses.  I believe healthy argument helps to expand our minds and insight.  I was actually hoping for the potential arguments/disagreements generated from our blogs. 

Kendall:   Actually, many bloggers like to argue with and challenge our students. That's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.  

I have only positive things to say about your students posting here. I would love to see an open (for viewing) forum between you, other professors, and Chico State students discussing your views on navigating the vagaries of blogging. Thx

Yes, I'm up for it.  Thanks Neo.

This article is very good,l love it very much!!

Having the opportunity to take this class with Professor Burton allowed me to experience a new horizon, a new spectrum of arranging my thoughts in a different way by knowing that the world will be exposed to my own readings. This method shows that all the professor's should try to use the latest technologies to enhance the experience of the students and allow them to learn in a new way.

I agree with you sir. Sharing ideas is fun and at the same time, we can be able to learn new things from shared ideas by others. I'm also thankful to technology that they created different social media as a brige for interrelationship between people. You are like my literature teacher sir that he allow us to come up with our own ideas and let other know about it. With that, I am eager to learn new things and share it to others. I can feel that in this way, I am not alone and there are people out there who interact to me even if we are not talking in person. I'm very glas you have this post of yours. Thank you!

Home Expert : Monica Eddwards


I have personally enjoyed reading, and sometimes interacting with your students. They are lucky to have this format to "interact" with each other, other bloggers, and "the world". I find a vast majority of your students very intellectual and very friendly.

Back in the days, we didn't have the internet - not until the mid-1990's - but by then, I was already out of school. But we probably would have done the same thing, as you and your students are doing now. And, that is fantastic!

Thank you for allowing your students blog here!

=) {#basic-cool.gif}

looking forward to reading their writings:)

Thanks Cassandron.  Your points are valid and well taken.  I've been thinking of switching Blog platforms (partially,for the kinds of reasons you mention) and will probably do so at the end of the academic year.  In the meantime, I hope you can grin and bear the plethora of voices issuing out of this small northern California college town!

P.S. Our next book is a collection of stories by the surrealist Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami---guaranteed to raise a few chuckles, if not eyebrows.


Although it is harder to check out all the students now that the Multiply group has enlarged the Blogster base, I will miss the students if they leave.  While some are so/so, you seem to get 1 or 2 really good writers each semester, and they have added to the value of Blogster.  I think your idea of blogging was a good one, the kind of thinking that ends up opening new avenues for people.

Yes, I also wish that more of my students would engage with these valuable discussion opportunities.  In fact, I give them incentives to do so (bonus points, etc).  Some do.  Some don't.

I deliberately try to finish the semester with a more light-hearted book. Some levity and laughter go down well at this time of the year!!!


Thanks skinnyguy.  I will probably keep it going for the Spring semester and then review the situation over the summer.  In the meantime, thanks for your valuable feedback to the students whose writing you have followed.

I attended and graduated from Black Hills State University while I was in the Air Force.  This concept would have made my Written Composition course a much better learning experience.

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