Social Media Project Update#2

So great news on this project front.  I will be presenting at the Massachusetts Community College Teaching, Learning, & Student Development Conference 2013 in April.   The focus is on social media and faculty/student engagement and I plan on bringing this research into the discussion. Below is the title and abstract.

Title:  Where Faculty Fear to Tread:  Role Modeling Civility in a Digital World

The rhetoric of social media boils down to being a miracle of the modern age or a clear sign of society’s self-destructive tendencies.  To this end, faculty and schools often fail in engaging their students through social media in meaningful ways.  So while colleges help equip students for the physical world, they poorly prepare them for the digital world.  This presentation looks at the ways and the whys for faculty and colleges to maintain a strong social media presence to aid and act as a role model for students in the digital world.  Just like faculty role model in students’ physical worlds, it becomes increasing important for faculty to be role models as digital citizens and work to develop students’ digital identities.  In an age in which applicants are Googled by interviewers, it’s important that faculty guide and encourage students to consciously maintain a public identity that both speaks to who they are and how they conduct themselves in this ambiguous and emerging new public sphere.  This workshop will address some of the concerns and misaligned fears about social media, identify some of the reasons and ways faculty can role model good digital identity, and provide some ways of constructing clear guidelines about productive social media between faculty and students.

So there has been some great response through email, Facebook, and in the comments sections by people about the project.  Since the last update on this project, I am now just under 140 participants that have filled out the survey.  That's great, but I'd really like to get more.  To that end I'm making March 1 the last day for submissions and I'm hoping that I can double the number of entries that I currently have, if not more.  So please, keep sharing this along and sending it to faculty and students.

For those that want to familiarize yourself with the original post or take the survey (or send the survey along to others, here is the information on that:

A few people have asked me about what they could do to help to support it and get more attention:

  1. Share a link on Facebook with your endorsement to this post (, the original call for participants (, or to the survey itself (
  2. Tweet about it with hashtags related to your school, discipline, or technology (2 good sources for relevant hashtags are Inside Higher Ed's Twitter Directory and Complete Guide To Twitter Hashtags In Education).
  3. Post it to your Google+ account.
  4. Like it on Stumble.
  5. Give it credit on Reddit (
  6. Post it to your LinkedIn and/or Academia.Edu accounts.
  7. Post it to relevant Groups/Communities that you belong to on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and other social networks.
  8. Write about it or mention it on your own blog (and email me so I can give you props here).
  9. Post it on any other online forum that hasn't yet been mentioned but you are now thinking in your head, "Gee, I wonder if I should post it here."
  10. Take the following message and email it to your colleagues, instructors, or students (past and present).

A colleague/friend/acquaintance/stranger of mine is exploring interaction between college faculty and students via social media.  If you are a faculty member that uses social media with your students OR if you are a student who has used social media to interact with one or more faculty, would you mind filling out this brief (10 questions) survey?

If you'd like to know more about the project, you can check it the description here.


I appreciate all of your efforts and help thus far.  Seeing that people have filled out this survey from all over the world is pretty cool and the comments are absolutely fascinating.  As I move forward, I will be using this blog as a central place to share the data and results.  Be sure to subscribe to the site (upper right hand corner) by email or RSS feed to keep abreast of the future results.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


  1. The last thing on my list is to communicate with students using anything other than e-mail and/or Skype or CC. Overuse of such programs as FB, Reddit, Twit...and so forth are, at least in part, to blame for the lack of time students tend to have when it comes to completing more important schoolwork.

    In addition, the reliability and validity of your survey results will be highly questionable given your method of distribution. It does not matter if you get thousands of responses. You have not controlled for false negatives and false positives. You have no way of affirming the accuracy of your participants' responses.

    I believe the idea of teaching students to use digital technology responsibly is more important than measuring or trying to influence student-teacher interaction using such technology. Students need to get back into libraries and shut off their Smartphones...they would be smarter for doing so.


    1. Hi Billy,

      Thanks for your comments and thoughts. I agree that this isn't a formal research project by any means and I don't pretend that it is--but it is the start of at least exploring the topic in a different manner than what I think is the standard paradigm of blaming the technology and social media for being unnecessary or the problem (as you point out) and exploring the what faculty and students who do use it to interact find redeeming about it. Ultimately, I'm using it to help better inform me for further down the line when I want to do substantial academic writing on the subject.

      I also agree that teaching students to use digital technology responsibly is very important, but I also think some of that is in role modelling what digital identity and digital interactions look like (just like we do in the physical world).

      As for the argument of getting back into the libraries--the question is--if they can access those libraries through said smartphones--have we not improved their opportunities for education given they are now spending less time in getting to and from the libraries (which for some of the students at the colleges I teach at) can take 1 upwards of an hour or more in transportation. I refuse to accept the either/or paradigm (technology is good...or bad) but would rather understand the ways in which it can empower our students and guide them down those paths.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

  2. The other day I went to see Les Miserables. On the outside window of the theater there was a BIG sign stating that digital devices needed to be shut off before entering the theater. My partner and I found a good seat in the 5th row.

    One row behind us were four college-aged young women, scrolling, sharing pics, taking pics and gabbing about extremely unimportant experiences. Such as, "Oh, like here is a pic of this dude I never met", "here is my dog", "here is my dog that wants to go outside", etc.

    Perhaps if one or more of the young ladies was searching for a synopsis of the movie, it would not have been as frustrating. I highly doubt if any of them even knew who wrote the book or what the actual theme of the story is revealing in the bigger picture.

    It is an awkward, nor a desired one, to have to turn around and ask these young ladies to respect the policies of the theater by shutting off their "dumb phones." Is this what you mean by modeling? Our phones were off and we were trying to discuss ex-prisoner Valjean's relation with Cosette and how it ultimately affected their lives. Overhearing frivolous chit-chat about the endearing posture of a dog that needs to pee was not on the agenda.

    Yes, students do have greater opportunity due to the advances of technology. I started using a computer in 1979 and had my first pc clone for 10 years...then software was developed and my 10 mgb hard drive and 8088 processor were no longer adequate. Those were the days...computers did not own you. Instead, they were efficient tools that helped us save time.

    The trouble with opportunity is that there is a gigantic assumption that along with opportunity comes engagement. For some it does, but for many others, an assignment is still a task that is easy to put off until later. There seems to be a negative correlation. The perception that a lot of upcoming assignments can be completed in a shorter period of time due to the conveniences of technology.

    I require students to integrate external information into their discussion posts and to cite their sources according to the APA format. Sounds overwhelming, and to many a student it is, without a doubt. However, I share a story with them about when I was in college. A simplified version...

    When I had a short paper due that needed to be cited, I had to go to the library to do some research. In the winter, we got a lot of snow and it was often below zero outside. The library was across campus and I had to walk. Then, I had to find a reference librarian to help me locate a journal. I would read some different parts and copy down the author(s) names, along with the information about the journal(s). Then, I would walk back to my dorm room and create a draft of my short paper on my electric typewriter with corrective tape (many students today do not even know what corrective tape is or how it works). Finally, I would use the examples from the APA Manual and advice from the librarian to input my references. A short paper could take me three or more hours to complete.

    1. Nowadays, with respect to opportunity, the same thing can be accomplished in less than 30 minutes without going anywhere. I did not complain about what I had to do when completing my assignments. I learned how to cite correctly and valued the experience of the librarian. I believe there could be a relation between effort, meaningfulness and learning. That is, the greater the effort required, the more meaningfulness the task is perceived and the more learning that occurs.

      Put simply, this is one of the main problems with technology and its perception today. Many students do not get to appreciate the connection of effort, meaningfulness and learning. Instead, one quickly searches Google for a credible source, copy and pastes short quips from the found source, perhaps changes a few terms and then uses the "cite this course" tab to improperly place the reference in the "short paper" that is then submitted...often through a student's phone. Check it off...assignment completed. Onto FB to see if Sally, whoever she is, posted another pic of her dog catching a frisbee.


    2. Hi Billy,

      Thank you for your additonal thoughts and ideas.

      I don't negate that there is a frivolousness of use of digital technology is out there. There's ample evidence of that everywhere. However, I do know from my own personal experiences that digital technology and in particular, social media with previous instructors as well with previous students that I (and they) have enhanced the overall quality of the class.

      It's certainly not a cure-all and it certainly has its problems. But I'm interested in looking at those areas wherein the connection can enhance access, opportunity, and menaing. My interest isn't to the detriment of the problems that digital technology and social media potentially pose, but the other side of the coin.

      What I mean by role modelling is that if faculty are creating and developing social media as part of their professional identity, then they should consider being open to being connected to students through social media as a way to help illustrate what professional social media identities look like. From profiles to posts to dialogue, students seeing faculty act, interact, and represent themselves in the digital environment is likely to help the student better understand how to go about it--just like instructors present their own professionalism within the classroom and on campus.

      In the Les Miserables example that you bring up though--the assumption is it is the technology's presence that is at fault and not the individuals who might have been just as irrevelantly chatting at the theater regardless of whether phones were present or not.

      Thank you again for these thoughts though, I do appreciate the ways they are helping me to think more broadly about the project.


    3. I will leave you with this one idea Lance. In my 35 years of teaching, with the last 15 being online, here is what will make the next billionaire:

      Digital technology has reinforced the notion of visual learning as a preference among the majority of students. Therefore, a collection of video games that provide a sense of entertainment similar to one- and two-shooter games, but teach discipline specific content, rather than just tactile skills, will elevate the value of social media.

      These games should be K - higher education relevant. Certified performance data maintained on a hack-free Cloud server could be used, at least in part, to gain entry and perhaps scholarships, to top-tier universities and colleges. IMHO, these performance data would be more accurate than performance on standardized tests such as the SAT and Regents exams.

      The goal should be to force students to develop and apply critical thinking skills to resolve challenges, as opposed to earning points for number of kills or buildings blown up.

      Showing students how I keep my web sites, e-mails and documents filed in carefully named Folders according to topic category is not much different from showing/directing/illustrating to them how to use the Purdue OWL site to guide them in proper citation use and presentation. The bottom line is that, in many cases, the individuality function of human behavior impedes learning, whether f2f or online.

      That is, some students will heed the advice, but the greater proportion will just keep doing it as they have in the past. Why? I say "effort" is the intervening variable. If not that, perhaps it is the text message they happen to get, just about when they were going to create those Folders.

      Information overload inhibits learning and greater value is applied to lesser important events. I believe that Social media exacerbates this interaction and we end up with many disorganized individuals that suffer from a lack of time management skills and tend to procrastinate more important tasks.

      Just as we use only a portion of our brains for cognitive processing, Windows users typically use only a fraction of the overall functionality of the program. Why? Effort.



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