Social media supplements academics
The face of social media is changing as more teachers choose to incorporate it into the classroom.
“Social media is an outgrowth of distance education, of the college experience,” said Lee Warnick, a communication instructor at BYU-Idaho. “All of that has been grafted into what takes place in the classroom.”
Warnick, who teaches classes on mass media, said he has wholly embraced social media as a teaching tool. He no longer teaches the Comm 150, Mass Media with a textbook, and said he prefers the flexibility that social media offers.
“You get into the classroom and you say, ‘Here’s what’s happening, let’s talk about this.’ It’s really changed the tenor of the classroom conversation. All of this is pretty spontaneous,” Warnick said.
Before beginning his teaching career at BYU-Idaho, Warnick was a print journalist. He said social media and the Internet have changed the face of mainstream media today. He had one of the first email addresses at Ricks College and earned his doctorate degree online.
“In my doctoral program, I had more access to different people with more varied backgrounds from around the world through my online program than I ever would have had attending in Lincoln, Neb,” Warnick said. “Yet the dynamic of a great classroom discussion, the unpredictabilities, you didn’t have that in an online course.”
It’s this fact that has some people concerned about the use of social media in the classroom.
“Overall, I would say that technology is more of a distraction in the classroom setting,” said Mary Johnatakis, a sophomore from Meridian, Idaho studying early childhood development.
Johnatakis said that Facebook and the Internet are used more in class to keep her awake than to contribute to the discussion in class.
“Some of you are going to be on Facebook in class, but some of that is on me,” Warnick said. “If I’m not keeping your interest, then I’m going to lose you, and I deserve to.”
Warnick said students are used to having their attention divided.
“I have to accept that and figure out how to use it in the discussion,” he said.
Warnick said many teachers are uncomfortable with this way of thinking because the changes to social media have come so quickly. He said the viewpoint of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an example of this.
“Ten years ago, the Internet was the devil of the earth, and yet here we are today seeing hashtags in General Conference. The Church has seen the value in social media and the Internet, and are taking advantage of it,” he said.
Warnick said understanding social media is an imperative skill to students today and said he insists on incorporating its use in his classes.
“Many of our graduates are finding jobs that didn’t exist until they created them. Social media is key to all of that,” he said. “We have to understand what it does, but we have to understand how it does it as well.”