How to use social media in a global communications class

socialmediaI'm meeting with a Cal Poly journalism professor Monday to talk about ways he can use social media as a supplement to his global communications class.

I don't know much about the class or the professor, but I've embedded the syllabus from 2007 below. I don't imagine it's changed much, if at all. (Disclosure: I'm enrolled in this course for fall quarter, which starts in two weeks. )

A few ideas I have for how he can use social media in his class:

Social bookmarking

From the syllabus:

Students will choose a particular country whose media/news they will monitor at least twice a week. Students are expected to bring to each class session an article they have downloaded from the media of the country they have chosen.

That system is antiquated.

Instead, students should be bookmarking those articles along with their personal commentary using Publish2 or Delicious. Not only does it save us paper in bad financial times, but it makes more sense as a way of organizing and keeping track of content (tags, anyone?).

Instead of going around and reading off our printed-out articles, the professor could open our Publish2 group on the projector at the start of each class and pull up each student's article as it comes up in discussion.

Twitter/blogs to gauge hot topics

From the syllabus:

The article should be recent and not older than 2-4 days. It is up to the students to choose the articles they feel are the most the important for the people of that country.

Just because we're in the United States doesn't mean we should have to make guesses about hot topics in foreign countries. Twitter, blogs, Digg -- and now, even searchable Facebook updates -- can give us a very realistic idea of topics people care about in certain places at given times.

By using search.twitter.com, you can filter results by city using filters like near:Kabul to see tweets from Afghanistan's capitol. Sites like GeoFollow have a similar feature with a translation option.

RSS and Google Alerts

If we're expected to follow world news for ten weeks from specific countries, we need to become deeply consumed in their affairs. On the first day, every student should be required to sign up for Google Alerts and subscribe to RSS feeds in Google Reader for media from their assigned countries.

According to student critiques of Professor Havandjian on PolyRatings (and stories I've heard from classmates), he spends the first 15 minutes of class writing notes up on the board. Students should use that time to catch up on their RSS feeds (assuming the class is held in one of the journalism labs) instead of sitting around waiting for class to start.

Reaching out to individuals over social media

From the syllabus:

There will be a number of written assignments based on those handouts where students will deploy critical analysis to dissect material they have researched to supplement the handouts.

In any other journalism class, an analysis would mean talking to people who are directly impacted by widespread news issues. In a global communications class, the same thing is possible thanks to Twitter direct messages and Facebook messages. I'm sure people are willing to Skype or IM about issues in their country. Although this doesn't have to be a requirement for the class (because of privacy/security/safety issues), for anyone who really wants to leverage their resources to have a true, accurate analysis of global issues, why not? (I know I will!)

Do you have better ideas for how social media can be used in a class like this? If so, share 'em in the comments.

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