As hashtags and status updates continue their onslaught in the world of communication, teachers have found it increasingly difficult to stop students from using social media in the classroom.
A student would be hard pressed to sit through a day of classes in college and not hear the request to turn off their cellphones. However, social media's somewhat rise to prominence in a world where speed of communication is paramount has inevitably begun to enter the classroom. More and more professors are embracing it despite the backlash from traditionalists.
Vera Haller is no newcomer to the field of both new and old social media. After all, she spearheaded Newsday's initial foray into the social media realm back in the early 2000s. Yet the journalist who now works full-time as a professor at Baruch sees both sides of the argument.
"You only have students for a short period of time and it can be frustrating," said Haller. "However, I believe it is a reality and there can be a place for [it] if a professor can integrate it into the curriculum."
The use of social media solely for personal purposes cannot only be a distraction but also an integration that can alleviate many pressing issues. Integration allows students to use social media solely for class related activities, thus eradicating personal use. If students are tweeting about class, they aren't tweeting about Twilight.
However social media is not entirely new to colleges. Without even realizing it, schools have already begun adapting. Most college students are familiar with the "Blackboard" platform that has been utilized by a litany of schools nationwide.
Created in 1997, the company has become the leading provider or learning software and related services allowing professors to streamline the already laborious teaching process.
There is of course a mammoth chasm to be bridged between the Blackboard platform that is mainly used outside of the classroom and an in-class social networking environment. Randy Hensley, head of instruction, at Baruch's Newman Library is attempting to close that gap.
"I have used Twitter to create a course dialogue about topics and to assist students in staying connected to one another about topics in the course," said Hensley. "It helps the more quiet ones to have a voice."
This is probably one of the most important ways social media can aid the learning process. As opposed to being a distraction like most reports insist, it can facilitate discussion by giving a voice to those who would not usually speak up, a common issue in classrooms.
With Twitter and other micro-blogging platforms, professors can allow students to comment, pose questions and shed inhibitions about voicing opinions. In the twenty-first century rapid response world of instant communication, there is value in teaching how to quickly compose and send coherent and concise messages.
Many pundits argue that an over reliance on social media in the classroom inhibits students and hinders their progress, thus keeping them in the false comfort of a digitalized bubble. However there is a room to meet in the middle, as both ends of the spectrum may be too disparate to implement.
Haller, who teaches "Feature Article Writing and Multimedia Journalism" is a proponent not only of social media in general but has found a way to tailor it to her classes.
"I talk about social media in my journalism courses," explained Haller. "Students need to know how it is being used at news organizations, and that it's not just for personal use.
When conversing of journalism's role in the new age of technology, it is not an odd occurrence to hear Haller explain the popularity of using social networking in today's media.
"[In my class] I talk about how journalists use Facebook and Twitter to find sources, to look for story ideas and to promote their articles once they're published."
In the same way the initial backlash of using the Internet in the classroom was eventually transformed into an active resource, even convincing the most old-fashioned of professors, social media may be on the same path.
Pundits agree that social media can be used as an adjunct to traditional teaching methods, and not a replacement. Discarding social networking technology on the basis that technology is distracting can be seen as shortsighted. In this technology-based world, college students are the digital natives. The incumbency is on the shoulders of the digital immigrant professors to learn to use the technology appropriately.
Schools and professors that fail to adapt may put themselves at risk of being stuck in the thralls of out-of-date curriculums and inevitably falling behind.