Students in Psyc 370: Physiological Psychology spent the semester using Twitter and creating digital media resources, including an infographic and a podcast. Assignments are outlined on our course blog.
What went well
Students were required to use Twitter to participate in this course. They were asked to tweet or retweet course related content once per week throughout the semester using the hashtag #letSNCyourBrain. Requiring participation on Twitter helped ensure students actually completed the assignment. —-If others choose to incorporate Twitter into their courses, I strongly recommend they require participation (rather than recommend) with a specific objective (i.e., “Tweet once per week.”).—-
Students were also required to participate in a live tweet at the end of the semester (using the hashtag #pp2db). The live tweet went extremely well considering it was the first time I had facilitated a live tweet. It helped that the students had already been using Twitter all semester. In this way, they were familiar with Twitter and were able to engage more readily in the live chat. I briefly demonstrated TweetDeck to the students on the day of the live chat. I also displayed my screen on the projector so the students could see how I set up my TweetDeck. I had scheduled all the questions for the live chat so that I could more readily participate in the chat, respond to as many students as possible, and answer questions during the chat. All of these helped the live tweet go smoothly. We also set up the actual physical space in a casual manner – with snacks and music. This helped the students relax and feel free to use humor during the live chat, while maintaining a largely professional/academic presence.
Along with the Twitter assignment, the students were required to create an infographic for this course. This assignment was well received by the students. The students felt this assignment helped them grow professionally. This assignment also helped them break down complex material into a message that the general public could understand. Students needed to consider many factors for this assignment – such as what are the most important pieces of information? Who is the audience? I will likely incorporate infographics into many of my future courses based on my observations of quality and students positive reactions to this assignment. —-In future iterations, I will likely require students to use piktochart and share their infographics via the piktochart share feature rather than creating pdfs or jpegs to enhance visual appeal.—-
Where to improve
Physiological Psychology is already a demanding course for most psychology students. Although in many ways, the digital and social media assignments helped students engage when they may not have otherwise, it added commitments to an already challenging course. This also meant there was less time for tailored reflection on the digital and social media projects they created. —-In the future, I would like to embed Twitter and other media projects into a course with more flexibility for this important reflection and metacognitive piece. Similarly, I would have liked to do more in person demonstrations and modeling for the students early in the semester.—-
I should have set up a hashtag tracker earlier in the semester. I attempted to create a tracker and ran into some trouble shooting problems that I failed to solve. Eventually Sundi created one for me, which helped especially during the live tweet. In general, I would like to incorporate more systematic analytics throughout the semester to better gauge student engagement. I think students would have also benefited from more specific instruction on what the analytics mean and how their engagement changed across the semester.
Although the student’s podcast assignment generally turned out well, this was the least well organized assignment. If I were to include this assignment again, I would want to do so in a less challenging course where the students had more time to put together professional podcasts. In addition, I’d provide more specific guidelines to creating the podcast. For example, I would ask students to upload their podcast on soundcloud or a similar audio streaming service so that they were ready to share via social media. I would also require students to complete their own production and interviews, rather than giving them the option to record with me.
Overall, I these social and digital media assignments helped improve the classroom climate. There were a few students who did not engage fully in the Twitter assignment. I would like to find a way to engage these students without turning the Twitter assignment into a high stakes assignment.
In future iterations of similar assignments, I will include more systematic analytics and time reflecting on the use of digital and social media. I will also continue to collect data on student perceptions (see Figure below for a snapshot of the data I collected). Unfortunately, only about ⅗ of the class filled out the beginning and end of semester surveys since they were not required, but I was happy to see that students opinions of digital/social media were generally more positive at the end of the semester.
*questions generally started with “Digital and Social media allow me to/provide opportunities for… “