Public Relations Tactics

The Problem with Teaching Social Media: "It moves faster than a syllabus"

Publication Date: 10/2009

Source: SO01 Public Relations Tactics
Product Code: 6C-100922
Organization/Author/Firm: Amy Jacques
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Some students, like Alana Taylor, a senior journalism major at New York University, don’t think that many schools are taking social media very seriously — yet. She mentions several professors who have taught students the basics of using social media for news gathering or Twitter for out-of-class discussion — but says that the platforms continue to evolve and the teachers keep trying to incorporate different things into their lesson plans, making it hard to effectively relate the tools to the classroom environment.

“Unfortunately, many of these tools were never meant to be used in such a structured, formulaic manner and many times it becomes difficult to relate social networks to the classroom,” says Taylor, who is also the manager of strategic marketing at OneTXT and has written for Mashable and MediaShift. “Most of the time I find it very cliché. If I had been exposed to it two years ago, I would have been fascinated. Now, since I’ve taught myself how to use all of these tools on my own, I sigh when a professor introduces it in class.”

The 21-year-old San Diego native is a self-proclaimed “early-adopter” of social media who appeared in various news outlets in September 2008 when she was suppressed by a professor for posting a critical analysis of her new media course, “Reporting Gen Y,” as part of an embed report for PBS’s Mediashift blog.

After teacher Mary Quigley read the post, she told Taylor not to blog, write or Twitter about her class again. In the original post, Taylor stated that she did not think that her professor was very knowledgeable about social media despite the fact that this was the premise of the course.

“The problem with technology, especially in 2009 more than ever, is that it moves faster than a syllabus,” Taylor says. “Social media is not something that can be taught over the course of a semester because what’s hot in August will not necessarily be in December.”

Taylor, who maintains her own blog and Twitter account and interacts on various social media outlets, adds advice for job seekers: “as long as you are showcasing your work online through the main vehicles of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), you will be taken seriously by recruiters — and develop a personal brand online promoting creative work.”