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Meadows Professors Bring Tweeting to the Classroom

Jake Batsell and Derek Kompare, Among Others, Have Begun Using Twitter Academically and Professionally

by Randall Kenworthy (@randillion) (B.A. Creative Advertising, B.B.A. Business Management '10)

Follow Meadows on Twitter at @smumeadows.

Twitter has become a phenomenon among media and marketing professionals as well as countless others who enjoy broadcasting their lives to the world, or at least to whomever is willing to follow them. Those in the media Tweet about current events and breaking news, while companies use Twitter to reach out to their consumers, but what about those in the education field? What do they Tweet about, and is it worth it for students to find and follow their professors on Twitter?

Within the Meadows School of the Arts, most professors have not entered the world of Twitter yet, but there are a few professors in almost every division who Tweet regularly and utilize Twitter as an educational tool.

Jake Batsell (@jbatsell), assistant professor of journalism and faculty advisor to The Daily Mustang, is one of these avid Tweeters. Batsell requires students in his Digital Journalism course to create Twitter accounts, if they don’t already have one. His students then “push” stories they have written by Tweeting a link to the story. “Some students get hooked and embrace Twitter way beyond my class requirements,” said Batsell.

Batsell places a great deal of importance on Twitter. He has nearly 800 Tweets and over 500 followers, and his Twitter name is listed directly after his email address in his email signature. He uses Twitter to share both personal information and course-related material. As a professor, he believes he has some responsibility to Tweet about academic topics. “Twitter is a much more public forum than Facebook, so being on Twitter allows you to cultivate a personal learning network that keeps you on the cutting edge of your field every day,” he said. “Contributing to that ongoing discussion also can help raise your own visibility among like-minded colleagues around the country and the world.”

Another reason Twitter is much better suited for learning and sharing new information is that it is not necessary to be someone’s “friend” to read his or her Tweets. As a result, anyone who has a Twitter account can follow a list of people ranging from the President of the United States to the author of this article. As Batsell says, “The Twitter ethic puts a high value on transparency.”

While Batsell Tweets about a range of topics, from his current location to articles on digital journalism, Jose Bowen (@josebowen), dean of the Meadows School of the Arts and a professor of music, concentrates his Tweets on Meadows and local jazz performances. Derek Kompare, assistant professor of cinema-television, has two Twitter accounts: one professional and one personal. He uses @d_kompare as his primary account and @profkompare to Tweet about his teachings.

Kompare uses Twitter to “point to resources on-the-fly, and to try to maintain discussion between class sessions.” He has also experimented with using Twitter as a “real-time backchannel” during class screenings. This allows him to talk to students about a screening or answer any questions without having to hit pause. Kompare believes “academics should try to keep up a steady proportion of Tweets related to their fields.” However, he said, “The only people that stay completely focused on their primary purpose in their Tweets are trying to sell you something. So there’s room for banality, rants, and off-topic discussions.”

Kompare said his main objective for having a Twitter account is “to stay attuned to the world at large, and maintain and build social contacts.” He often exchanges ideas with colleagues in the cinema-television field from all over the world as well as with students at SMU.

Batsell has a similar outlook on Twitter and said, “At the moment, I consume way more than I contribute on Twitter. Every hour or so, I log on and scan Tweets to learn from the most innovative thinkers in journalism, as well as from some of the most forward-thinking young journalists who are just beginning their careers (or even are still in school).” In fact, one of his favorite Tweets of late was from an excited former student of his who said that the blogging skills she learned in his class helped her write a better blog post for D Magazine. You can find the status and a link to the blog post here.

Glenn Griffin (@wgriffin), assistant professor of advertising and director of the Method Creative program, uses Twitter in many ways including giving advice to his students, reaching out to other professionals in the field, and pushing his upcoming book release. His book, Pure Process, which focuses on how advertising’s big ideas are born, even has a Twitter of its own (@pureprocess).

Griffin is an advocate of using Twitter to communicate and establish an online presence. He encourages his students to have a Twitter account, but has not yet implemented Twitter into his courses. He also encourages students to follow his Tweets, but says it’s optional. Griffin said, “Professors bring the content of a course to students however they determine is most effective . . . that’s the beauty of academic freedom.”

Griffin likes to see what his students are thinking about or find interesting. This outlook could also help other professors tailor their class discussions to what students are talking about outside of class and to topics they find interesting.

Batsell and Kompare also encourage their students to follow them on Twitter. “If students really love the subject, following their professor on Twitter is a window into the professor’s mind and into the field they are studying,” said Batsell. Similarly, Kompare said that following their professors on Twitter can help students “discover more of their professors’ personality, and, hopefully, learn more about the world.”

Even if students don’t follow their professors, there are plenty of other reasons to have a Twitter account. As Batsell said, “The most innovative thinkers in any field are on Twitter.”

As far as professors are concerned, younger generations generally acclimate to new technologies faster than older ones, so more professors will most likely join the Twitter community once they learn what a beneficial tool it can be for connecting to students and staying current in their fields. Batsell commented that professors who don’t use Twitter “probably just don’t realize Twitter’s massive potential as a learning tool.” He said, “Because Tweets are limited to 140 characters, it’s easy to dismiss Twitter as a superficial medium. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Professors can use Twitter as an alert system to stay connected to the most substantive conversations going on in their field. A 140-character tweet can contain a link to a 2,000-page medical study or a gripping New Yorker article. Professors can take part in @-reply debates about the most topical issues in their field.”

For those students looking for more information about the Meadows School of the Arts, upcoming events, or their professors on Twitter, @smumeadows can be a very helpful resource.

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