The following is a rebuttal to a guest post that was published on 9/13.
I am a professor in the very program that Kris Allen refers to in this post, and I take issue with many of his accusations. I would like to respond from my own perspective because as a supporter and teacher of social media I feel his commentary is indeed a “bashing” whether or not it is qualified as such.
Our program was created –and continues—with the goal of teaching students to be creative, engaged and ethical professional communicators. Kris’ post suggests that we are falling short and I want to set the record straight. His attitudes are potentially damaging to a program with a good reputation built on the backs of many of my innovative and dedicated colleagues.
First, I must point out that Kris has never taken any of my courses. He was not in my Employee Relations class when for the first time in Canada, part of the course was taught in Second Life. That was in the Winter term of 2007. (Interested readers can find a report of that endeavour in Partnerships.) I’ve been on Twitter since its inception, but don’t want to be on Foursquare. The relative newness of these tools might be the reason Kris’s professors didn’t use them; then again, maybe he just didn’t know they were using them because they didn’t want him to know.
Second, I do not know which writing courses Kris took, but I do know that two of the most accomplished of my colleagues who teach writing do so using blogs. Not only do they teach effective writing and storytelling via this medium, they encourage discussion about the necessity (or not) of blog communication as a tool in public communication. Importantly, they also ask students to consider the ethical debates around the public nature of learning on the virtual platform.
If Kris did not utilize social media in his management courses or in his research class, that might have been a reflection of his own inability to communicate well with his teacher and his clients. I know that when I have taught these courses, students get to choose the tools most appropriate for their client. Sometimes, but not always, different social media tools are implemented or used for evaluative purposes. I have no reason to believe I am unique in my teaching methods.
Third, I am not certain which classrooms Kris took classes in because every room is connected to the Internet. If he was wishing for wi-fi access, that might be another issue. Several years ago, the wi-fi access was removed from the classrooms because faculty members were finding that students were updating their Facebook statuses and looking at photos when they really should have been listening to the discussion that was taking place in the physical space. If students would have been searching the Internet to augment the discussions, perhaps my colleagues and I would have been more inclined to keep the access.
Finally, I really must defend my Social Media senior seminar course. Not only because I believe in it but also because I’ve received positive feedback on the evaluations from students who might not be Kris’s “very close friends”. It isn’t a 13-week course but rather, an intensive six week course. Yes, some of it is “introductory in nature.” That is because both years that I’ve taught the course, less than 10% of the students are familiar with social media beyond Facebook and MySpace. I know this because I take an inventory on the first day of class. And yes, we do create and evaluate wikis. We create them for not-for-profit clients, along with YouTube videos, blog pages, mash-up plans, photo sharing, social bookmarking, etc. We also critically evaluate the use of social media. We learn the basics. In fact, had Kris taken my class, he would have never written this sentence: “We know they are vital to deliver our messages, but how do we use them to our advantage?”
I teach my students to use social media as communication tools. Each of the different social media have their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them should be used to “deliver messages… to our advantage.” This is an old school way of thinking about new technologies. The way I teach it, social media is not another promotional opportunity, but a way to really attempt to engage with our various publics through dialogue.
I’m sorry that Kris and I didn’t get the opportunity to learn from one another. Maybe he’ll consider coming back to our graduate program where students have investigated the potential of the Internet to keep Aboriginal elders’ stories alive, using social media as a communication tool for the provincial and national government, and community building through corporate forums, among many other projects. Perhaps not so much on the “cutting edge of technology and leading the way on social media instruction” but important none the less.
DeNel Rehberg Sedo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and is a lecturer within the Cultural Studies program at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She was one of the first professors in Canada to offer course delivery through the virtual world of Second Life, and has published on the experience in an academic journal. She is also the first scholar to publish research about online reading communities. You can reach her via Twitter at @Dr_Rehberg_Sedo on Twitter or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.