“Why aren’t they teaching social media?” This is a question I get asked a lot by business professionals in a variety of industries from new media technology, IT, marketing professionals, event planning, and public administration, as well as by other educators. Since I answer this question often, I thought it might be useful to write a bit about how I handle talking with others about the challenges of teaching (with and about ) social media
Teaching Social Media vs Using Social Media to Teach
Social media and web communication strategists are wondering why college faculty are not teaching social media. I actually do not know the rate at which university educators are teaching with/about social media, but I do know it’s happening, and I am interested in learning from those that are engaging in this work. An important point to consider is that academics typically are well-versed in narrow slice of a larger discipline. This “speciality area” is complimented by knowledge about the history, theory, and relevant scholars of that larger research area. Although it may not sound like a lot –it is. This means that academics aren’t teaching social media because social media is probably not their speciality area or may not even be closely related to the larger discipline. This gap between speciality area and social media means many are left wondering what it is and how to go about including it in an existing teaching approach.
I’m sure some where like Harvard, NYU, or USC they are teaching social media, but for the rest of us the bigger and more relevant question is: “Why aren’t faculty using social media to teach? The growing percentage of folks using social media to teach,is still small. I think there are some real barriers that prevent interested and even eager faculty from incorporating social media in their existing curriculum in meaningful ways.
1. Lack of institutional resources: If you’re campus does not have a strong curriculum, teaching, and technology support program already in existence, than interested and eager faculty do not stand a chance. Some people may be really excited about learning to use social media, but if people that know social media are not available, accessible, and ready to help you see your class with a social media part, you are dead in the water. At this point, their are’nt a huge number of universities investing in the “social media educational consultant.”
2. Lack of institutional support: In addition to a lack of institutional resources, faculty may be reluctant to incorporate social media because the university has not given an official “thumbs up,” and more often than not, new media technologies are given a “thumbs down.” Often decision makers are not familiar with social media and think of it as a distraction rather than a potential teaching tool. Also, for those of us that are greener in our careers, if social media and teaching does not clearly move you closer to tenure promotion, then you may feel pressure to set it aside until you have more job security.
3. Lack of knowledge about social media: The lack of knowledge about social media is also linked back to points 1 and 2. An educational institution can help its faculty feel more comfortable and confident to use social media in their classroom by offering training, workshops, and other educational opportunities; however, those efforts do not guarantee that everyone will come to love it. Rest assured there are “late adopters” and “never adopters,” and for some they simply do not see the value of any social media platform and will never pull it into their educational arsenal.
And then there are the Erika Pryor’s of the world. Greener in their career, steeped in the social media technology, and excited to find innovative and creative ways to engage students in the classroom. Don’t fret, eventually, there will be more faculty using social media to teach. In the meantime, when you think about asking this question, consider what you can do to help this person bring social communication technologies into their teaching… you may be just the answer they were looking for. Good Luck!