It’ll Be Cool to Text + Tweet in Class Soon

This post is a series of blogs contributed by SMW NYC media partner Differences Magazine. To learn more about Differences Magazine and to see the original post by Jessica Bender, please click here. You can watch the original SMW12 presentation on livestream

Teens are craving new ways of learning. With the average student sending 50 texts and watching five hours of YouTube per day, along with spending 31 hours a week on the Internet, more likely than not they’re going to get absorbed into what’s on a screen rather than what’s in a book.

Fortunately teachers and professors on most education levels are listening for new teaching methods and switching up their curriculum to cater to their kids’ new needs. Education experts at the dual panel/discussion The Future of Higher Education: Will Colleges Survive? and The Classroom of the Future: How Social Media Can Better Our Education System at Thomson Reuters dove head first into innovative new ways to engage students from middle school to graduate programs.

Eighth grade teacher/blogger Melissa Seideman is the model example of a socially savvy and tech friendly teacher pushing to make social media classroom-friendly. While most educators would have a problem with texting, Seideman encourages it; she says that it’s a perfect way to send out announcements and homework, and allows students to ask questions if they’re mute in class. Blogging is also a major part of her class structure, as it allows students to take ownership of their learning. The most surprising method of teaching she uses in the classroom, though, is Tweeting. With software like My Big Campus, her classes can have a dialogue while chatting about content in the classroom in 140 characters or less.


By the time you get started on your undergrad and graduate degrees, 2tor co-founders John Katzman and Jeremy Johnson think it’s vital for universities to focus on strengthening their online programs. With a huge majority of students interested in taking a semester online to accomplish other goals like studying abroad or interning, Katzman says that the goal of undergrad programs is to “make education more efficient”. It’s not effective if you throw in an online program just to have one, though. Katzman adds, “If you don’t think you can give a program as good online as in the classroom, why do it? If you can’t do it well, you shouldn’t.”

More than anything, though, all the panelists agreed that social media is essential for the education system because it builds a sense of community and collaboration. “In order to get a higher quality education, you need to interact and engage in conversation,” Johnson said. “It’s important to build a network of peers to help you after the education is done, so the college experience [is about] integrating yourself in society.”

Seideman stresses that “classrooms can be a media-rich environment.” If you give students the tools they need to be 21st century learners while having them connect with material using videos, music and social media, “students [will] be excited about going to class.”

At the Crossroads of (Higher) Education, Social, and Standards

Conventional thinking dictates that technology—including social media— and education are at odds with each other. Between the amount time student spend of Facebook, and the rise of pay-for-papers sites, many administrators and teachers have permanently blacklisted all of these programs in their schools. However, social media cannot be valued in such a constricted prism. There are many unorthodox uses for social media, which would engage the nation’s children.

One teacher who is experimenting with such social media tools in her classroom is Melissa Seideman, a history teacher from White Plains who was a part of the Social Media Interview: John Katzman and Jeremy Johnson on The Future of Higher Education: Will Colleges Survive? followed by Panel: The Classroom of The Future: How Social Media Can Better Our Education System.

Ms. Seideman goes beyond the traditional use of a Blackboard/WebCt component for her classes; during one occasion, she asked her students to take out their cell phones and reach their parents to answer a question about the Vietnam war , within minutes there were texts from parents and relatives offering many views on this war. During the panel, she explained that she wanted to bring the ‘world into her classroom.’ Moreover, I asked her what fueled her passion about social and bringing into the classroom, she stated, “I created my blog as an outlet for me to actually share my ideas about a year ago, and now I have 11 thousand people who have been to it, which I think is pretty amazing. I was sharing ideas with friends but I was never getting the responses I wanted back. And by going on twitter and other social media sites, I was able to expand my teaching and improve it. I think that is what inspired me, I wanted to meet teachers like myself.” 

In addition, the use of social media hasn’t only had a positive affect for Ms. Seideman’s teaching, she sees the transformative effect it has on one of her students: “I have one student who will use My Big Campus or edmodo and post articles and things he has from class, and I think that is the epitome of what you want education to be, where they are going outside of a classroom and online to find resources and things to add to the online community. And he will actually find things that add to our discussions and post them on to our virtual class.” Furthermore, for all of those teachers— who like Melissa—want to include social media in the curriculum for their classes, she kindly shared with me a few of her favorite sites: “I get a lot of ideas from Free technology for teachers. Technology Tidbits. Teaching paperless is a wonderful site, their whole blog is about teaching a paperless classroom. Polls Everywhere is a cell phone service to use in the classroom. And Teaching Generation Text is all about texting.

Yet, the learning experience does not end with a high school diploma. In the beginning of the session, 2tor Co-Founder Jeremy  Johnson —whose online learning system partners with universities to create  online course programs for their students—- stressed the importance of social interactions of the university setting, and how he implemented that into his online business model: “In order to get the  benefit of a high quality of education, you need to interact with other smart students, you need to only let in students who get into [the university] and you needed to actually interact with them the way we are talking right now, and to see them in real time and to actually engage in conversation.”  Like Ms. Seideman, 2tor saw the potential and value that Social Media added to their online business, “What we set out to do was to essentially build a learning management system that actually looked far more like Facebook than Blackboard…in order to let people recreate those hyper campus conversations. Because inherently, what social media is doing is allowing you to connect online more deeply with other people. We felt we needed to bring that into academia,” said Johnson.

In the same vein that high school is changing because of social media, college will adapt and reform as well. 2tor CEO John Katzman stated in his panel that perhaps colleges will never be completely done online, however, that taking a semester online to either travel, do philanthropic work, or even having job would be a quite attractive alternative to student—especially since the price of college is incredibly expensive. Perhaps, a complete and robust online high education experience is not that far off from reality.