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Professors: Put a Hashtag on Education

We’ve all heard the phrase “you learn something new everyday,” but I am convinced that Twitter users learn something new every time they hit refresh. So why, then, does the concept of Twitter remain largely ignored when it comes to academia?

According to a study done by Edudemic, only 18 percent of professors have a Twitter account. Of that, just 2 percent use Twitter to communicate with their students. This number is astoundingly low given the worldwide explosion of Twitter during the past few years and the prevalence it has in the everyday lives of many students.

Senior lecturer and Penn State legend Sam Richards (@iunlearn) is one of just a handful of Penn State professors who actively use Twitter, and looking at the way Twitter use is encouraged in his SOC 119 class is a perfect example of how I feel many classes could benefit from it.

Sam encourages his students to tweet during class using the hashtag “#Soc119,” which keeps all comments about the class readily available to view for both professor and student.

“The SOC 119 hashtag gives people a way to comment during class,” Richards said. “It’s for fun and it encourages debate. I respond sometimes to people, I’ve challenged a few people on a couple things.”

Richards also enjoys when his sometimes off-the-wall comments are tweeted by his students.

“It’s always fun when somebody responds like ‘Bro, what’s going on in your class? Did you really say that?’ ” he said proudly.

It is this type of instant communication and feedback that is present in almost every other aspect of our lives, yet it remains largely untapped when it comes to classes. Richards explained how he believes a reason for this could be that “a lot of professors feel like there is a wall between students and professors, and professors like to keep that wall in place, but it also exists from the part of students.”

While the Edudemic study found that 61 percent of educators have a Facebook account, 12 percent of whom use it to communicate with their students, Facebook seems to be a little too personal when it comes to professor-student interaction.

As a student, I think that professors are missing a fantastic opportunity to establish a connection with their students similar to the one that Sam has created through Twitter. While most professors make themselves very accessible through e-mail and office hours, the free-flowing, quick-hitting nature of Twitter is perfect for communicating important information and facilitating a simple question-answer conversation. And it is less personal than Facebook, so students don’t feel like their professors are creeping on their social lives, too.

Listen up, Penn State faculty. Your students are all on Twitter. This is how we communicate, debate, share information, and learn. Come teach (or tweet) us!

What do you think? Do any of your professors encourage Twitter, and does it enhance the class for you? Why aren’t more professors using Twitter to engage with and inform their students? Which of your professors are on Twitter? Comment below!

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About the Author

John Tecce

John is a senior in the Smeal College of Business majoring in Marketing. He currently serves as the President of the Paternoville Coordination Committee and as a THON Chair for Nittany Nation. He tweets a lot.

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