Alexis DeBrunner, Staff Writer

According to the Huffington Post, social media use in the classroom has increased 7.2 percent nationally within the past year.

Miami professors are not far behind on this trend as many of them use social media in their classrooms. Media professor Anthony Gonzalez said he uses the microblogging website Tumblr in his COM 146 class because it provides a convenient way for students to organize their media journals for his class.

“Number one reason I started using Tumblr was the ease of use,” Gonzalez said. “If Niihka had a convenient way of managing media like Tumblr, I would use it, but Tumblr is just a great atmosphere for media students.”

Part of the reason it is such a compatible social media form for Gonzalez’s students is that it offers a platform for multiple media texts in an easy and simple-to-use format. While Gonzalez said that he doesn’t require any design layout of students’ blogs, he does see students playing around with Tumblr and creating their own themes and decorated pages.

Assistant Dean in University Libraries and IMS 201 teacher Lisa Santucci said one of the biggest hurdles with her use of social media in the classroom has been getting students excited about using sites like Twitter for academic purposes.

“In the past, I used Twitter and would have students tweet about things that related to class materials, but many students didn’t like the forced component of using their personal Twitter accounts,” Santucci said. “Many of them created separate accounts just for the class, I think some of it has to do with that Twitter is the last frontier they feel they can be themselves.”

Santucci said she has now changed how she uses Twitter in the classroom so that students respond better, and do not feel forced to publically mix their personal accounts with their academic work. She decided to ask students to picture where they see themselves in a few years and then follow famous people in those careers. Since she made this change, she said she feels students have a more passive engagement on their personal accounts.

“The students were to go out and find these people and see what they communicate on their Twitters,” Santucci said. “I think it’s more rewarding for students to follow something that speaks to them personally, than to feel that they are being forced into social interaction.”

Something that Gonzalez said he noticed among his students was that while their blogs were private, the accountability for doing their work was not there. So this semester, he decided to try something new by releasing the links to students’ blogs to the rest of the class.

“Before, students could just blow off assignments or not worry about them because they didn’t have the fear of being criticized or evaluated by others, but now they are being held accountable,” Gonzalez said. “However, the blogs are still password-protected so their projects are just available to their peers for criticism within the classroom setting, which I think is where it should be. The public can be very mean, especially over the internet.”

Another issue Gonzalez said he experienced was people blaming the technology for late or missing assignments.

“You can’t just tell a student, no it was working fine,” Gonzalez said. “Because you can never know for sure if it actually wasn’t working for them.”

Gonzalez’s student Gina Messari said she thought the use of social media in the classroom was something that worked well with only some classes. The use of Tumblr makes sense in a media class because it’s a media website, but Messari said social media in a zoology class doesn’t fit as well.

The only drawback Messari said she saw was the gap between the online platform and the classroom setting.

“I think that sometimes there can be a disconnect between the social media and the class itself,” Messari said. “They almost act as two separate parts of class and don’t always connect, it can be confusing at times.”

The system may currently have flaws, but Santucci made the point that teachers are still tracking the best way to use social media in the classroom. She said it is all about finding the right instrument for their specific learning environment.

“We always have to make sure to use the right tool,” Santucci said. “A chalkboard, or white board and marker could be the right tool, it all depends on what works with what’s being taught and how it’s being taught.”

Santucci said she likes the instantaneous connections that social media provide. If she wants to communicate something to her students, all she has to do is add the hashtag “#IMS201” and she can share with them content that relates to class material.

“I like social media because, from a librarian standpoint, I think it has incredible potential,” Santucci said. “We essentially are watching a live archive, we can watch events unfold in front of us and how media is taken and manipulated into new forms, like satire. It’s all happening right there instantaneously.”