Enrich Your Teaching Through Social Media

hashtag!In the wake of the 2011 MLA conference, there has been a great deal of discussion about the role of social media in higher education.  This conversation has circulated through blogs, Twitter, and in the comment fields of both the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed.  We even featured a post about it here on ProfHacker.  While I’ve found these discussion enlightening, I’ve also observed that they tend to be centered on the role of social media as it can enhance the research component of the professoriate, and the pedagogical element tends to be absent from much of the discussion.  When we do talk about social media in the classroom, we talk about ways to engage students with various forms of social media: Mark Sample’s posts on teaching with Twitter both in theoretical terms and more practical ones are great examples of these discussions.  But as fellow ProfHackers Brian Croxall and Ryan Cordell have both noted (for example, here and here respectively), social media also enables us to talk to each other about how we might become more effective in the classroom. To that end, I want to share with you one new resource for those of you who teach first-year writing: hashtag chat* #FYCchat.

#FYCchat is a weekly conversation about teaching first-year composition (FYC) that takes place on Twitter.  It was founded in January of this year by Lee Skallerup (Twitter handle: @ReadyWriting) and Nicole P. (@comPOSITIONblog), both First-Year Writing faculty who “wanted a place to share idea, discuss best practices, compare notes, and vent about the challenges and rewards of teaching First Year Composition/Freshman Writing/ENG 101.”   There have been two chats so far (1/12 and 1/19) where participants have discussed different strategies of planning a first-year writing course and favorite assignments.  These conversations have been opportunities to learn things that might seem obvious to other instructors but that I had not have considered.  They are also useful because they can facilitate conversations between people who might not otherwise have met. I’ve been teaching first-year writing for several years now, but I’m always looking for different ideas to keep things interesting, and in participating in just part of one of these discussions, I have gotten some really good ideas for assignments and exercises.  Anyone with a Twitter account can participate in the discussion (or just lurk and learn), and if you have missed the first two chats, they are archived on a companion website, First Year Composition Chat.

But more than simply a resource for composition instructors, #FYCchat is a great example of ways that social media can help us to not only broaden our research networks but also enrich our teaching.  Certainly the use of Twitter as a collective brainstorming tool should be familiar to anyone who has participated on the site, but hashtag chats can be a way of centralizing and focusing the conversation into a specific and productive channel.  Hashtag chats such as #FYCchat can be a way to share ideas, strategies, and challenges that we face both inside and outside of the classroom.  They can create new proximities and connections, and they can be effective in helping us to build contacts outside of our regular circle, whether literal or virtual.

Have you participated in a hashtag chat yet?  Share your favorites (or brainstorm new ones) in the comments section below.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user celesteh]

*A hashtag chat, in brief, is a discussion on Twitter in which relevant tweets are usually tagged with a pre-assigned designation signaled by the number sign or hashtag (#).

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